Robin Goodlad admires the new culinary jewel in Cerne Abbas’s crown…
Tucked between the rolling chalk hills just north of Dorchester lies the beautiful village of Cerne Abbas, famous for its chalk giant, and its Benedictine abbey. It’s the perfect spot to explore West Dorset.
At the centre is the 16th century New Inn, the history ever present as you enter the bar, amongst ancient exposed timber posts and beams, and old fireplaces, elegantly preserved by the brewery, Palmers of Bridport. This is an exciting new era for the New Inn; the new pride of Julian Dove and Annette Beardsmore, bringing their award winning reputation from the George Inn in Bridport. There is a genuine desire to build upon the already impressive list of New Inn accolades, including the Good Pub Guide Inn of the Year 2015, and Dorset Dining Pub of the Year for four of the last five years.
There is also a new head chef in Jason Porter, a man who clearly has great passion for the food he creates. Dig a little deeper, and you realise why; Jason spent many years in London under the tutelage of Angela Hartnett at the Connaught, Jamie Oliver at Fifteen, and Shane Osborn at Pied de Terre.
Now he is carving a name for himself in rural Dorset, and those who come to find out more are in for a real treat. At the heart of every dish are classic flavour combinations, crafted to skilfully balance presentation, flavour and texture.
The New Inn also caters for those in search of pub classics, but with Jason involved, these are elevated to the next level.
We started off with a Comte cheese soufflé with poached pear, walnut and a beetroot purée, which was sublime, a homage to the humble cheeseboard as a starter. The crisp pork belly with crackling, braised skate wing, carrot and cumin puree, and a lemon caper butter was equally stunning, in looks and on the palette. I spent some time appreciating the beautiful creation, before diving in with the knife. The assiette of three cuts of lamb was divine, with olive oil mash, baby fennel, and a pine nut and lemon sauce. The poussin was succulent, perfectly dressed with a sage and onion Gnocchi, and white onion foam.
The wine list is well considered; the Gorganega Pinot went perfectly with the pork, and excellent value at £16.95 a bottle. There is also a fine selection of Palmer’s own hand pulled ales.
Finish on a high
We finished our meal with an impressive take on Turkish delight, and the simple yet elegant carrot cake with orange ice cream. The perfect end to an exceptional lunch. Once in a while, you have a dining experience that you still think of days later, with positive recollections of the carefully planned elements belonging together, and the craftsmanship that is involved. Dining at the New Inn was one of those experiences that will stay with me for a long time. There is another giant emerging in Cerne Abbas, one looking to carve his culinary reputation into the chalk landscape.
What’s on the menu
Prices: Starters from £6.50 for soup of the day. Main dishes from £14.95 for slow roast pork belly, braised red cabbage and champ. Desserts £5.50 for Lovington’s Ice cream. Sunday lunch from £14.95.
The New Inn
14 Long Street, Cerne Abbas, Dorset DT2 7JF 01300 34127
Lunch served 12-2.15pm, dinner served 7-9.30pm