Dorset is lucky enough to be blessed with growers, fishermen and farmers all at arm’s reach and this bountiful natural larder not only contributes to a rich foodie scene but also seems to attract it (that and the untouched countryside). Home to English vineyards, seafood festivals and craft distilleries, the region has a community of food innovators that seems to be growing, with a new generation of artisan makers producing unique, high quality ingredients. Alongside traditional Dorset knob biscuits and Blue Vinny cheese are now culinary delights like membrillo, craft gin and Dorset wasabi, which in turn make the dishes of some of the best and most exciting restaurants in the country.
An exciting new addition to the Westcountry foodie scene, Harriet Mansell’s Robin Wylde restaurant has finally opened its doors. Inside it feels stylish, but also botanical and wild, with hanging sprigs of woodland plants and delicate flowers adorning the tables. The tasting menu sings of the surrounding fields and coastline and captures the season’s changing flavours, pairing foraged ingredients or Lyme Bay seafood with a glass of Furleigh Estate wine.
The Oyster and Fish House
This bright and airy restaurant from Mark Hix looks out over the golden Jurassic coast, flooding the restaurant with ceiling to floor views of the sea. Its menu is informed by the freshest daily catch sourced by Lyme Bay Reserve fishermen. Start off by nibbling on cockle popcorn with a splash of vinegar or some scrumpy fried rock oysters. Hix knows how to use a handful of ingredients well, so for main we recommend grilled Westcountry fish or some meaty crab claws.
Black Cow Distillery
Hailing from the lolloping hills of West Dorset, Black Cow makes the world’s only vodka derived from milk. It’s run by a rebellious pair of dairy farmers who moved out of the family business (cheesemaking) deciding instead to create an innovative and unique creamy vodka using whey. Find Black Cow down the wild country lanes in Beaminster and enjoy the full 3-hour experience of cocktail making, a distillery tour and a relaxed 3-course lunch designed to show off their different spirits.
Rise Café is a twinkly waterside haven near the harbour in West Bay, serving strictly fresh, vibrant food in tasty larger portions. Their mood-lifting menu includes sandwiches with hand-picked crab, towering cheesy burgers and vegan nachos loaded with avocado. Its location is perfectly situated to capture the honeyed sunny glow off the river from their outdoor terrace. Soak up the good vibes and share a couple cold ones as the sun goes down.
Quaint enough to sit on the corner of Beaminster’s town square but popping with bright upbeat designs, Brassica feels like a creative contemporary restaurant, but stays true to its rural village roots. Their menu is focused on local ingredients, most of which come from a 15-mile radius of the town, with a nod to simple Mediterranean cooking. Their antipasti and fish are highlights. Dishes served contain all the punchy colours of their sister interior design shop and punchy flavours to boot.
Ollerod was opened by Michelin-starred chef Chris Staines and his partner Silvana Bandini, former managerial staff of The Pig near Bath. The pair bring this expertise to their new venture, a characteristic former clergy house in Beaminster, now turned restaurant and hotel. They offer outstanding dining that uses the produce available on their doorstep (and from their garden) well. Stop by for a nightcap at their well-stocked bar or get a relaxed lunch in their dining room, terrace or garden.