How an Old-Fashioned Corner of England Became a Modern Gastronomic Capital

West Dorset // Photo by Sterling750/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

by Benjamin Parker, The Telegraph, September 21, 2017

The thriving food scene in West Dorset was first established when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall began his River Cottage empire in Netherbury in the 1990s. HFW’s effect has been co-opted by Mark Hix, the Dorset native, with his popular Oyster and Fish House overlooking the ancient harbour in Lyme Regis.

Subsequently a spotlight shone on this region – even more brightly after the smash hit Broadchurch was filmed beneath honeyed West Bay cliffs – which has encouraged innovation and growth among the throng of local producers.

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Farm shops now abound in the winding lanes of the county. Perhaps the best is found just outside Bridport, easily West Dorset’s foodie capital. Washingpool Farm – over 80 acres of working farmland – sells potatoes and carrots plucked from their sandy soil, joints of ‘red ruby’ North Devon beef, cakes, coffee, and pantry fillers (take home the piquant Dorsetshire Sauce, from artisan preserve makers From Dorset With Love).

If you’re hankering for something even more earthy, Steeptonbill Farm (12 miles outside county town Dorchester, in the chocolate-box village of Milton Abbas) is little more than an open-sided shed. Fresh fruit and vegetables spill out, and you’ll hear the herd of Portland sheep bleating nearby. TV chef James Martin is a fan.

But if Dorset has a deep-rooted agricultural tradition, it’s the more refined dining options that highlight the community’s modern reinvention.

Dorshi, a trendy hangout that specialises in East Asian small plates, opened in 2016 down an alley in Bridport; it dismisses any thought of parochial Dorset, and would easily win plaudits if it popped up in Shoreditch.

Beaminster, near Bridport, is home to Brassica. Opened in 2014 by Cass Titcombe (who founded Canteen in London) and Louise Chidgey, it replaced Masterchef winner Mat Follas’ Wild Garlic. The contemporary European offerings bring a city sophistication to this slice of the West Country.

Further inland, with the Dorset-Somerset border running through the heart, The White Post at Rimpton, near Sherborne, is continuing to position itself as an essential foodie pitstop. Chef-proprietor Brett Sutton is a local legend for his hearty Sunday roasts (book early for the meat boards) but the 10-course tasting menu best demonstrates his kitchen prowess.

On the coast, the Hive Beach Café in Burton Bradstock still pulls in beachgoers but it now has competition with two sister ventures: the less pretentious Watch House Café in West Bay, where pizzas and fresh fish come flying from the wood-fired oven, and the newly opened Club House in West Bexington, which describes itself as “no frills, just loved up cooking” in a “legendary bungalow”.

Given unreliable British weather, sometimes a cosy pitstop is needed, especially if you’re wandering the South West Coast Path. The Anchor Inn, Seatown, combines elevated pub grub (and stupendously fresh seafood) with the charm of an old-fashioned watering hole and sea views.

And to wash it all down? Copper Ale from the 200-years-old Palmers Brewery - and following the trail blazed by Black Cow Vodka, the world’s only pure milk vodka, choices range from Liberty Field’s Apple Aperitif to Fordington Gin.  

More from our Foodie Britain series:

Forget the Michelin-starred nonsense and head to Ludlow

The 10 dishes you cannot leave Britain without eating

25 things to eat before you die – the ultimate foodie bucket list 

This article was written by Benjamin Parker from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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