Are these Dorset’s 20 Cosiest Pubs?
Dorset is good at cosy inns and at this time of year few things are better than settling down in a pub with a warm welcome, a toasty fire and a dish of something comforting. At Menu we’re campaigning to support our local inns. Tell us about your favourite cosy inn and what makes it so special – here Emma Caulton suggests a few to visit.
The Kings Arms, Portesham
2 Front Street, Portesham DT3 4ET
01305 871342 www.kingsarmsportesham.co.uk
Best for: Log fire cosy
Located where coast meets countryside, in the historic village of Portesham, this traditional pub always offers a warm welcome. Not surprising as its three open log fires create a cosy glow throughout the refurbished interior. There are comfy sofas to relax on and local art with driftwood frames in a friendly pub that manages to both be at the heart of the community and attract vistors to its live music and special occasion meals, not forgetting the weekly sausage club.
Ales include: Otter Amber & Cornish Coaster
Comfort food: Always local, seasonal produce where possible with a great selection of a la carte, pub classics and daily specials all cooked to order.
The Fox & Hounds
Duck Street, Cattistock DT2 0JH
01300 320444 www.foxandhoundsinn.com
Best for: Community cosiness
Expect a bar full of locals, dogs and occasional chickens (rescued battery hens) at this popular 17th century country inn. The licensees have considerately loaned ground at the back to establish allotments for the local community. No wonder it has been winner of Dorset’s Best Local Pub three times and that they’ve been featured on TV with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall invited into the kitchen. There is a warm welcome, heavy exposed beams, fires in huge inglenooks, one with original bread oven, and monthly folk music nights.
Ales include: Palmers.
Comfort food: The menu changes daily and features local produce, including some vegetables from the allotments. Home-cooked dishes include oxtail, faggots and mash, fresh fish and steaks.
The Anchor Inn
Seatown, Bridport DT6 6JU
01297 489215 www.theanchorinnseatown.co.uk
Best for: Coastal cosy
It’s all about the location at this welcoming and lively pub. Its fabulous setting, on the coastal path below Golden Cap and with terrace and gardens overlooking the pebbly beach, is reflected in both its interiors and menu. The style is woodburning stoves, boat lanterns and old photographs while the outstanding food focuses on fresh fish and shellfish direct from the beach and foraged foods such as sea kale and pickled seaweed.
Ales include: Palmers. Plus exciting selection of cocktails and Black Cow Vodka martinis.
Comfort food: Award-winning menu features winter warmers such as Jurassic Coast bouillabaisse, lamb shoulder shepherd’s pie with crushed potato and swede and root vegetables, ale cooked pork belly ham with casserole vegetables and black pudding hash brown.
The Stapleton Arms
Church Hill, Buckhorn Weston SP8 5HS
01963 370396, www.thestapletonarms.com
Best for: Glam cosy
The Stapleton Arms is an elegant old coaching inn updated in a hip style and decorated in rich colours with deep sofas by an open fire. At its heart is a pub with a piano in the bar where you can perch on a beer barrel with a pint and pork pie. It is recommended for its warm welcome and family friendliness.
Ales include: Otter.
Comfort food: Decadent menus feature locally sourced ingredients including fresh fish from Bridport. Sunday lunch is particularly tempting with the likes of slow roast pork belly with homemade apple sauce and crackling, and pan-fried lemon sole with dauphinoise, saffron spring onion, haricot vests and tarragon cream sauce. Good veggie options include stuffed aubergine gratin with courgette and sweet potato, lentil concasse, curly kale and herb crush.
The New Inn
14 Long Street, Cerne Abbas DT2 7JF
01300 341274, www.thenewinncerneabbas.co.uk
Best for: Cosy for foodies
Award-winning, attractive 16th century former coaching inn with stone mullions and appealing patchwork of stone and brick. Interiors are characterful with nooks and crannies, heavy oak beams and a hotch potch of old dining tables and chairs, antlers and woodburner in the stone fireplace.
Ales include: Palmers. Good wine list.
Comfort food: Posh pub grub. Bar specials include Portland crab and scallop chowder with sweetcorn and pancetta. The main menu features sirloin of mature Angus beef with field mushroom, Café de Paris butter and triple cooked chips, and desserts such as crepes Suzette soufflé with orange blossom ice cream – all conjured up as pretty platefuls.
The Inn at Cranborne
Cranborne, Wimborne BH21 5PP
01725 551249 www.theinnatcranborne.co.uk
Best for: Village cosy
Inviting village inn with friendly staff. There is a snug with dark beams, woodburner and old settles, dining area with shabby chic painted chairs and tartan upholstery, while the main bar has scrubbed wood sharing tables, parquet flooring, panelled walls and big old inglenook topped by stuffed pheasant and dried hops, plus woodburning stove and piles of logs. The inn is thought to be 17th century although it’s mentioned in the Domesday Book; visitors have included Thomas Hardy and Rupert Brooke.
Ales include: Badger.
Comfort food: Award-winning menu draws on produce from within 30 miles. Winter warmers include ox casserole with thyme suet dumplings, and truffle scented nut roast with New Forest wild mushrooms, Dorset Blue Vinney and port and red wine reduction.
The Bankes Arms
23 East Street, Corfe Castle BH20 5ED
01929 288188 www.bankesarmshotel.co.uk
Best for: Restored cosy
Originally a 16th century stone manor house, a great new team have recently refurbished and revived the fortunes of this attractive pub overlooking the village square. They’ve restored its charm, installed two new woodburning stoves in the north and south bars and are already receiving plaudits and accolades for the warm welcome and good food. Great treat for visitors to Corfe Castle, those travelling on the local steam railway, or walking to and from Swanage.
Ales include: Ringwood.
Comfort food: The new chef is from Rome – so expect a menu with warm sunshine flavours, such as penne carbonara with pancetta bacon, eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese. Their flavoursome traditional cottage pie features local beef in a mirepoix and tomato sauce.
The Acorn Inn
28 Fore Street, Evershot DT2 0JW
01935 83228 www.acorn-inn.co.uk
Best for: Hardy’s Dorset cosy
This 400 year old coaching inn of honey-coloured local stone starred as the Sow & Acorn in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Today it is still full of period charm and character. One bar has a log fire, heavy beams and flagstones. Another has wood paneling, leather buttoned banquettes and a colourful rug on quarry tiled floor. There’s a dining room with open fire and oak boards and a comfy lounge with armchairs, books and board games.
Ales include: Cheddar Ales.
Comfort food: Awarded Taste of the West Gold for Best Dining Pub 2015 and Best Pub in Dorset from South West Tourism 2014/15. Bar snacks include great burgers while the main menu features dishes such as chargrilled 28 day-aged rib eye steak with sticky leeks, fondant potato, wild mushroom ravioli and tarragon hollandaise.
Farnham, Blandford Forum DT11 8DE
01725 516261 www.museuminn.co.uk
Best for: Cosy vibe
You can hear the warmth of the welcome before you open the door – it’s like there’s a party going on inside. This inn with rooms comprises many parts and styles: Edwardian country house, corrugated iron shed and 17th century thatch cottage. The décor is modern country with distressed tables, flagstone floor, natural oak beams and window seats. Enjoy the pleasing buzz of conversation from locals propping up the bar and the friendly staff. There’s an open fire and lots of corners to find a table (one commemorates being damaged by Ian Botham after one too many sambucas), plus a barn-like room with exposed rafters and that ‘shed’ which is furnished like a library.
Ales include: Sixpenny.
Comfort food: Smart pub menu includes salmon and smoked haddock fishcake with buttered spinach, sauce hollandaise and perfectly runny egg.
The Ship Inn
West Stour SP8 5RL
01747 838640 www.shipinn-dorset.com
Best for: Casual cosy
This informal country pub, close to the Stour Valley Way, welcomes muddy boats and dogs. It mixes traditional features with modern touches, including chunky farmhouse furniture, flagstones, low ceilings, stone walls, public bar with a log fire.
Ales include: Sixpenny, but changes weekly. They also hold an annual beer and cider festival.
Comfort food: Locally sourced produce (with their own fresh veg grown on their mother-in-law’s farm down the road) and imaginative flavour combinations create a wide ranging menu including: twice-baked gruyere and smoked haddock soufflé with Smoked Applewood cheese sauce; pheasant, bacon and cider stroganoff with garlic and rosemary parmentier; Venison steak with sloe gin, juniper berry and thyme jus, and dauphinoise potatoes. There’s also a great value French-style plat du jour menu
The Half Moon
Melplash, Bridport DT6 3 UD
01308 488321 www.halfmoonmelplash.co.uk
Best for: Simple cosy
This thatched and shuttered roadside inn welcomes families, foodies and walkers with its open fire, attractive mismatch of tables and chairs, patterned carpets and low ceilings.
Ales include: Palmers.
Comfort food: A creative, tasty menu is inspired by British traditional pub food. Dishes include West Bay crab on toast, Venison Scotch quail egg with rarebit, pheasant, rabbit and ham hock pie with clotted cream mash (yes, really), and bread and butter pudding.
Calfclose lane, Fiddleford DT10 2BX
01258 472886 www.thefiddlefordinn.co.uk
Best for: Modern country cosy
Described as a hidden gem in the Dorset hills, this country inn has been updated in a style that is a confident update of a traditional country pub. There are log burners, dark beams, strong colours, a deep armchair or two, and games at the bar. There are also regular music and ale tasting events.
Ales include: Otter.
Comfort food: The menu focuses on artisanal producers with the likes of Ansty wild boar sausages with cheesy mash and creamed leeks.
The Blue Boar
Market Close, Poole BH15 1NE
01202 682247 www.blueboarpoole.co.uk
Best for: Town cosy
In Poole’s old town, this friendly hang-out includes ground floor bar with two roaring log fires and cosy cellar bar – all atmospheric arching brickwork and downlighters. Bags of quirky character and charm is introduced with the curious array of military and diving artifacts such as propeller blades and boat lanterns.
Ales include: Fuller’s. Blue Boar are also holders of Fuller’s Master Cellarman status.
Comfort food: Generous portions of traditional pub fare including a very good ham, egg and chips.
The Marquis of Lorne
Nettlecombe DT6 3SY
01308 485236 www.the marquisoflorne.co.uk
Best for: Rustic cosy
Former farmhouse set in lovely countryside. There’s a comfortable bustling main bar with panelling, log burner, old prints and photographs, and two dining areas, one with another log burner. A snug, favoured by locals, has board games and table skittles. This community-orientated inn also gets involved in community fundraising efforts – including the Boxing Day Pram Race.
Ales include: Palmers
Comfort food: Robust-flavoured dishes include roast Dorset scallops and black pudding with garlic and parsley cream, sautéed soft herring roes with capers and parsley on fired house-made sourdough bread, Dorset pork wrapped in Serrano ham and served on flageolet bean and spinach ragout with blue cheese mousse, followed by brioche bread and butter pudding.
14 High Street, Piddlehinton DT2 7TD
01300 348720 www.thimbleinn.co.uk
Best for: Cosy for walkers
This thatched village inn has it all: idyllic location, good looks, bar with fire, rustic tables, club chairs and walls of exposed brick, beams and panelling, plus comfortable clutter of books and lanterns. There are also enjoy regular live music events and a monthly curry night (booking advised). Picturesque Piddle Valley is popular with walkers who often use the car park as a base, returning to the inn for lunch or dinner. Children and dogs welcome.
Ales include: Palmers.
Comfort food: Food has been described as ‘stand out’. Try curried parsnip soup, roast rump of local lamb served with crispy aubergines, roast sweet potato and jus, and warm Dorset apple cake with vanilla custard.
The Brace of Pheasants
Plush DT2 7RQ
Best for: Rural cosy
Far from the madding crowd, this thatched 16th century country inn is well placed for country walks and known for its friendly ambience, with beamed bar, huge inglenook fireplace at one end and log burner at the other plus patterned carpet, solid tables and Windsor chairs.
Ales include: Flack Manor.
Comfort food: Hearty dishes include pan-fried lambs’ kidneys with a mustard cream sauce, trio of Dorset wild boar and apple sausages with creamy mash and onion gravy, and garlic and herb marinated local venison steak with a red wine and Madeira reduction and bubble and squeak.
New Inn Portland
35 Easton Street, Portland DT5 1BS
01305 821232, www.newinnportland.co.uk
Best for: Gastro cosy
This is a welcoming family-run pub, restaurant and boutique hotel refurbished with a contemporary country style décor including dark wood tables and chairs, richly coloured checked carpet, beams and snug with squashy sofas and wood burning stove.
Ales include: Dorset Brewery.
Comfort food: Recommended for its food. Sunday lunch is locally sourced within a 30 mile radius. The bistro menu specialises in Portland shellfish, direct from fishmongers located on Chesil beach, and includes New Inn bouillabaisse with locally smoked cod, Cornish hake and Lyme Bay clams and mussels, and Dorset line caught fish and chips with pea purée. Good veggie options include Winterbourne Abbas pumpkin, sweet potato, aubergine and courgette Moroccan tagine.
The Langton Arms
Tarrant Monkton DT11 8RX
01258 830053 Thelangtonarms.co.uk
Best for: Country cosy
Award-winning thatched country pub on the edge of this picturesque village with open views across fields and a warm welcome. The Langton Arms is owned and run by a local farming family and the menu features their own meat (also available at the family-run butchery in Tarrant Rawston) for some of the shortest food miles around. There’s a skittles alley and a restaurant in a converted barn, but you can eat at tables in the bar with window seats, inglenook fireplace and woodburning stove, scrubbed tables and flagstone floor.
Ales include: Flack Manor.
Comfort food: Meals may start (unexpectedly for a rustic bar) with a delicious amuse bouche. The food is tasty with a focus on the inn’s own farmed meat including homemade faggots with a mild horseradish mash and red wine and onion gravy.
The King’s Arms
41 North Street, Wareham BH20 4AD
01929 552503 www.kingsarmswareham.co.uk
Best for: Tavern cosy
Proper traditional old stone and thatch local in the heart of town and full of character and atmosphere. There are two bars: the front bar is old fashioned with an open fire in an inglenook fireplace adorned with brass kettles and pans. There are heavy dark beams, horses brasses, stools and settles and flagstone floor – a comfy pub that chic 21st century refurbishing forgot. Look out for regular live music events.
Ales include: Ringwood. Plus it’s CAMRA East Dorset Pub of the Year.
Comfort food: Good value pub grub includes homemade macaroni cheese, homemade chilli con carne, and ham, egg and chips with the ham cooked on the premises, all finished off with homemadeDorset apple cake.
The Red Lion
Hope Square, Weymouth DT4 8TR
Best for: Nautical cosy
Described as the lifeboatman’s local, this little pub, close by Weymouth’s lifeboat station, has fed and watered lifeboat crews for over a hundred years. It’s cosy with plenty of colour and quirky character: a wall panelled with old rum barrels, ropes, Morse Code flags and other seafaring and lifeboat memorabilia, exposed brickwork, a charming assortment of dark wood tables and chairs, buttoned wing armchair and log fire.
Ales include: Lifeboat Ale brewed by Otter. Also specialises in rums with over 80 kept behind the bar.
Comfort food: Homemade hearty pub food includes fish pie with haddock, smoked mackerel, salmon and smoked trout, and steak and Lifeboat Ale pie with chips and minted ‘not so mushy’ peas. Small plates include seafood chowder or Rarebit Smokey – naturally smoked haddock topped with Cheddar and blonde ale rarebit.
Wigbeth, Horton BH21 7JH
01258 840297 www.drusillasinn.co.uk
Best for: Old-fashioned cosy
This is a proper country inn with woodburning stoves in inglenook fireplaces, plus low ceilings, oak beams hung with horse brasses, dark wood tables and patterned carpet. Good for walkers exploring Hardy country and those cosying it up in one of the inn’s traditional Dorset shepherds’ huts overnight. A particular feature of this inn is the uninterrupted views of the 17th century Horton Folly Tower.
Ales include: Ringwood.
Comfort food: The menu focuses on traditional comfort food such as slow-braised oxtail with savoy and potato mash, but mixes it up with unexpected influences appearing on the specials board, for example Jamaican chicken curry. There’s also a good breakfast menu including the impressive ‘Full Dorset’ for £6.