With a name like that, this recently refurbished historic inn could only be striking to look at. Alison Smith pays it a visit…
From the very first glance, The Anvil Inn strikes quite the pose. A traditional thatched 17th-century inn, all salmon pink, lattice windows and period detail; on a Summer’s evening the garden throngs with drinkers and diners. Fully refurbished by local brewery Hall and Woodhouse in 2016, locals and visitors alike are enjoying the generous hospitality of Landlord and Landlady Karl and Susie Bashford, who’ve introduced all day Sunday roasts, takeaway pizzas, burgers and fish and chips and a menu to suit both serious diners and casual passers-by.
This is no typical themed brewery overhaul; nothing feels too contrived. Each space has its character; from the main bar- a great expanse of oak, fronted with attractive brick work, to the beautiful floor beneath our table, a montage of tiles, flagstone and slate.
The Drinks and Starters
We receive the wine list, which reads like poetry; who could resist a Zinfandel with “strawberry ice cream on the nose” or a Rioja with “smoky nuances” and an impressive gin menu but opt on this occasion for a locally brewed badger ale.
The menu is a roll-call of crowd pleasing fare. From pigs in blankets with beer chutney to a sharing plate of ribs, wings and buttermilk fried chicken, this is food that screams “Eat me!” There’s a pizza menu and burger menu and a selection of pub classics.
We begin with the Dorset fritto misto; lightly crumbed squid, whitebait and scampi with homemade garlic mayonnaise and tiger prawns with garlic, chilli and tomatoes. Served on a thick hunk of sourdough, in a pool of garlic butter, the three fat prawns are juicy and tender, the pan roasted tomatoes yielding gently under the knife. A hint of chilli leaves just enough zing on the palate, while fresh herbs and spring onions enliven the whole. It’s classic modern pub fare, but the quality of the ingredients shines through.
From past experience of chef Karl’s food, I know the truffled macaroni cheese- with foraged wild mushrooms from fine foods supplier Le Chasse- to be quite the most delicious and indulgent plate ever to have graced a Dorset dining table. On this occasion, however, it’s the whole plaice special that catches my eye. Served on the bone with head and skin removed, the locally caught plaice from Bridport’s Samways is the centrepiece of an exceptionally pretty plate. Its white flesh is topped with vibrant green tender stem broccoli, little curls of pink shrimp and creamy pillows of gnocchi, all cooked with precision and deftness of touch.
My dining companion opts for a dish at the other end of the spectrum of indulgence, the Dirty Dog – a bratwurst sausage with bbq pulled pork, cheese and caramelised onions – filthy food done properly. The sausage itself is fully flavoured with herbs and spices, the bbq sauce luscious and sticky, the wafer thin slices of gherkin sharp and sweet in equal measure. Once again, the calibre of ingredients is king – this is not trashy fast food but a menu carefully contrived by a skilled chef pandering not to his own cheffy whims but to our innermost dining desires.
We finish with a slice of New York cheesecake and crème brûlée with cinnamon churros; the brûlées’ thick caramelised topping offering the perfect crack through which to dip the piping hot crisp churros.
From beginning to end, the service can only be described as exemplary. Front of House manager Mark greets us with exuberance and enthusiasm, while waitress Kirsty ensures every guest is made to feel like family, with natural warmth and affability. We wish, having indulged so completely, that we could roll upstairs into one of the 9 excellent guest bed rooms. They will have to wait for another day.
Bookings: The Anvil Inn, Salisbury Road, Pimperne, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 8UQ
www.anvilpimperne.co.uk: 01258 451999