The Cock and Bottle

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Once a stable, now a destination dining pub, Alison Smith admires the curious and the convivial at The Cock and Bottle.

From the moment we step inside, we are intrigued by this fascinating rabbit warren of a building. Confronted at first by an imposing oak panelled bar, heavy beams and aged exposed brickwork, we are led to a conservatory style area, flooded with light and with a series of bi-fold doors opening onto a paved area outside. On a sweltering evening, a row of trees offer much-welcomed shade and the open doors a pleasant breeze. Decorative touches, including a converted paraffin lamp, with ornately detailed brass bracket, allow this crisp modern space, to blend seamlessly into the adjoining area – itself a very sympathetically managed modern extension, we are later enlightened.

The majority of the building is some 400 years old; yet is spotlessly clean and fresh throughout, there’s an open fireplace, long roadside bar and 2 tiny snugs, each seating no more than 6 or so individuals, divided from the main bar by ornate latticed panelling; then a final surprise, a grand saloon, walls half panelled and painted in mints and creams, with an elaborate moulded fire surround and mirror.

Despite a promising wine list, the drinker in our couplet delves into the selection of Badger Ales, from local brewery Hall and Woodhouse, for whom this is a tenanted pub. Tanglefoot, a light and hoppy yet well-rounded ale, proves the perfect pour for such a fine summer’s evening.

From the concise selection of starters, a trio of fish and scallops with black pudding are selected. The fish plate is simple but daintily presented; smoked salmon, prawns and crab mayonnaise, dressed with micro coriander and red amaranth. A bundle of cured cucumber ribbons offers a sweet crunch and slight acidity. A classic dish by nature, the scallop dish proves an excellent example of its kind. Four rounds of scallops, golden caramelised exteriors and inners still just translucent, sit atop generous slices of black pudding. A pool of pea puree is fresh and vibrant, while a balsamic reduction offers a hint of acidity, enhancing the scallops’ inherent sweetness. A web of crisp pea shoots finishes the whole.

Not unmoved by the appeal of a well-reputed steak and kidney suet pudding, a rabbit pie and a venison wellington- another house speciality, we opt instead for lighter offerings, in keeping with the climate of the day – a gourmet burger and sea bass with chilli and lime butter. The burger is a thick, coarsely textured hunk, topped with tomato; crisp beer battered onion rings and chilli cheese, all within a lightly toasted floured bap. The accompanying tomato relish is smoky, spicy and pungent.

Like the burger dish, the sea bass is amply proportioned; 2 good fillets atop a new potato and pepper salsa. Once again, the seasoning is well-judged, the cooking finely executed. A grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of red chilli give a kick on the back of the palate, while a good squeeze of lime provides tartness to counter-balance the sweet peppers.

The dessert board offers a selection of home-cooked comforts; sticky toffee pudding, vanilla and coffee crème brûlée and Purbeck Ice creams and sorbets. A slab of St. Clements cheesecake has a set mousse-like body, flecked with citrus zest and topped with a slick of sharp lemon jelly, all atop a thick crumbly digestive base. A mound of profiteroles are just as they should be; soft, well-filled with Chantilly cream and slathered in rich chocolate sauce.

As we leave, we admire the assorted jeeps and motorbikes of the military enthusiasts club, goggle over a classic AC Cobra and note the appeal of the yurt and bbq area for private dining. An eclectic eccentric collection, which seems oddly at home in this unique and amiable setting.

Bookings: The Cock & Bottle Inn, East Morden, Near Wareham BH20 7DL

www.cockandbottlemorden.co.uk 01929 459238//

Kitchen open: Monday to Saturday: 12:00 pm – 1:45pm & 6.00pm to 8:45pm. Sunday 12:00pm- 1:45pm, Sunday Evening Closed

Starters: £4 – £8.95, Mains: £9.95 – £18.95, Desserts: £5.75

-The reasonably priced “Junior’s Choice” menu includes homemade pizza, egg and soldiers and chipolatas with creamy mashed potato.

-A decked area with umbrella, garden and paved terrace provide ample outside dining options.

-Wiltshire game provide wild game for the Venison Wellington, a year-round menu staple.

-The “Cock” in the pub’s name refers to the “Cock” horse from the buildings’ days as a stable. 

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