review by Janine Pulford
Nestled in the Dorset countryside with splendid views of the famous Horton Tower, privately owned Drusilla’s Inn is not only a traditional pub, but offers contemporary dining.
No one could deny that Drusilla’s is a visual treat with its iconic oast-house-shaped thatched roof. This unique landmark houses a tasteful restaurant extension that blends with the traditional thatch of the original olde worlde pub. At the back of the Wessex Freehouse is a large, modern function room.
When we arrived, it was the sheer uniqueness of the round restaurant with its splendid centrepiece chandelier that drew us to dine in this unusual setting rather than in the bar with its cosy wood burning stoves.
A Peroni and glass of Zinfadel rosé were enjoyed whilst we studied the menu.
Ingredients are sourced locally where possible and the new chef changes the dishes monthly to provide the best seasonal flavours. There is also is a daily specials board.
My delightful starter was squash and goats cheese arancini – gorgeous soft and fluffy risotto balls with a crunchy breadcrumb coating and delicious notes of sage butter. Nick chose salt and pepper squid, which paired beautifully with the garlic and lemon mayo.
We stayed fishy for the mains. Nick with a Thai style king prawn green curry with jasmine rice. A superb bowl of prawns, mushrooms, carrots, mange tout and aubergines in a “no messing about” hot curry sauce that kicked with authentic Thai flavours and paired well with the rice.
My whole Poole Bay plaice was from the specials board. The fish was perfectly cooked. The textures and flavours of every ingredient on the plate complemented each other, from the tiny squares of tomato, tender kale leaves, and new potatoes to the crunchy mange tout and fabulous pops of capers. The whole was brought together with a delicate buttery sauce.
Ellie Clifford who owns Drusilla’s with her business partner Philip make a good team, possibly because they are father and daughter. Ellie has been in the pub industry since leaving school and though she’s only 32, she has been at Drusilla’s for 10 years. She managed it from 2007 and in 2014, when she was expecting her first baby, she took the brave step to buy it.
Since then, the traditions at the pub have continued. There is live music once a month, and the Steam Up, a charity fundraiser, is held every August with up to 50 steam engines in the large car park.
For those wanting to stay in the grounds with breakfast at the pub included, there are two shepherd’s huts with en suites, which are let throughout the year.
The function room is well-used for birthdays, weddings, wakes, conferences and live music.
Themed nights are popular. Recent ones include seafood, game and an evening with medium Dan Clarke. Ellie says, “He visits regularly and is so popular, tickets have to be booked.” Advance notice is given on Drusilla’s Facebook page.
And so to desserts: my classic crème brulee had a real snap to the crunchy caramel topping and paired delightfully with sweet fresh fruit. Alongside was a home made white and milk chocolate cookie that melted in the mouth. Nick chose from the specials board and lavished himself with a Champagne, elderflower and raspberry jelly flute.
Had it been a spring afternoon, we may have taken one of the three walks that start from Drusilla’s to work off a few calories.
There’s a children’s menu for the under 12s, a lunchtime-only menu that offers sandwiches, scampi, ham egg and chips and other pub dishes and 2- or 3-course set special offer Monday to Thursday.
Christmas bookings are now being taken. The party menu is £18.50 (two courses), £22.50 (three courses). There is also a six-course Christmas Day menu and Boxing Day feast, so check out the website or call 01258 840297 for more details and to book your space.