review by Carol Waterkeyn
There’s nothing like a good lunch to cheer you up when the weather outside is cold and dull. My husband Paul and I ventured into the Inn at Cranborne one Friday lunchtime in February and our spirits were lifted by the roaring log fire, vases of tulips and the delicious smells wafting from the Inn’s kitchen.
After a glass of Dorset’s Conker gin and tonic for me, and a glass of Pinot for my husband, things were definitely looking up as we perused the daytime menu. This is essentially the same as the evening, although at lunchtime there’s a choice of tempting sandwiches and in the evening, a slightly enlarged menu.
Most of the main ingredients of the dishes on the menu are sourced from within 30 miles, something the Inn prides itself on.
Our own chosen first course dishes soon arrived. Paul had opted for the terrine of confit duck, artichokes and Madeira jelly and I had been tempted by Dorset Blue Vinny cheese and spiced pear, filo crisp, red onion marmalade and peashoot and endive salad. The presentation of these dishes was outstanding, and the flavour intensely satisfying. This augured well for the rest of the meal.
Out came our main courses. Paul had selected the hand-crafted smoked haddock and salmon fishcake served with skinny fries (there was an alternative of thrice-cooked chunky chips). The generous fishcake, which was full of large chunks of fish came with a poached egg on top and homemade tartar sauce with chive butter. It was declared ‘really really good’. As a contrast, I had selected roast pork belly, bubble and squeak and apple sauce. The bubble and squeak was deconstructed and came with kale. The little fried potato pieces were delicious, as was the tender pork, which had superb crackling, probably through the plentiful addition of salt. The apple sauce was subtly flavoured with vanilla. The portion was generous and I couldn’t quite manage it all, as I wanted to try a dessert.
We ended up being complete piggies and went for a chocolate and orange croissant bread and butter pudding for his lordship, and a lemon posset with raspberry sorbet served in a delicate cup and saucer for me. These were both exquisite and a beautiful end to our meal.
Afterwards, we went for a look around the accommodation upstairs. We hadn’t realised there are nine smart bedrooms at the Inn, all tastefully decorated and would be delightful to stay in after a special dinner. If you get in quick there is a special offer until the end of March for £50 per room including bed and breakfast. (Normal price £100 plus.)
On a Sunday, there’s a delicious roast lunch available but you will need to book. You could tie it in with a walk around Cranborne or a visit to the nearby garden centre. You will also need to book for special days like Mother’s Day and Easter Weekend coming up later this month and in April.
On the day we visited, our meal was created by Daniel Stride, the second chef, and we were ably looked after by Charlotte. The freehouse itself is owned by Jane Gould who has handed over day-to-day management to Zoe Askin, and her partner and head chef Michael Smith (who was formerly with Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Marcus Waring). This offers a clue to the sophisticated standard of cooking.
Jane Gould took on the historic pub five years ago, after it had been empty for two years. No expense has been spared to create the lovely interior, which is a blend of modern taste and olde worlde charm. Some of the pub dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. I imagine the patrons of those old days didn’t have a meal as good as ours was.