BY the time you get to our age, you are supposed to forget birthdays, but on the other hand, they are a good excuse to go out with friends and have a meal, so we headed off to West Stafford to meet a friend at the pub she had recommended.
West Stafford, just a few minutes east of Dorchester, is almost ridiculously pretty – babbling streams with ancient stone bridges, a lovely old church, strings of enchanting thatched cottages along leafy lanes, a handsome manor house, the home of Julian Fellowes and his wife Emma, and a beautiful thatched pub, The Wise Man.
It is always a joy to find a new pub and one that is as welcoming and attractive as The Wise Man and that serves such delicious food is a great addition to our list of favourite destinations!
The Wise Man suffered a catastrophic fire nine years ago and had to be almost completely rebuilt, but the restoration was so well done that you wouldn’t necessarily spot that everything from the thatch to the fireplace is only a few years old.
The building dates back more than 400 years old. It was a cottage belonging to the Floyer estate and became a pub in 1938. Most of the original building was destroyed by the 2006 fire but after a two year restoration and rebuilding, it re-opened in 2008 and has been a popular venue for great food and a friendly atmosphere ever since.
Landlord Philip Postlethwaite, who leads a team including head chef Leigh Picton, describes the food as rustic-gastro, “a collision of world flavours with rural Dorset and great British classics.” He says: “All of our dishes are made in house using the freshest ingredients and where possible we always buy local and in season.”
It’s a good description. The food is an appealing and attractive mixture of pub grub with an emphasis on local sourcing – including beer-battered catch of the day and chips, Dorset long horn steak or ground steak burgers – with modern British and European favourites. The menu changes regularly, and the excellent puddings are all made in the pub’s kitchen.
Our friend is a vegetarian and opted for the home made cheddar gnocchi with mushrooms, asparagus and mascarpone, while G had a home-made chicken pie with fresh vegetables, and I chose the delicious leek, potato and Dorset red tart. The portions are generous and all the food tasted absolutely freshly cooked.
It was a cold wet day and the other two went for an autumnal creamed rice pudding with baked plums, but I couldn’t resist the pecan cookies with muscovado ice cream and chocolate sauce and caramelised bananas (which I justified as my birthday cake – why did I need to justify it? It was gorgeous and I finished every last crumb and drop of chocolate sauce!)
The prices are reasonable, the staff are friendly, helpful and efficient, the bar has good local beers and the food really is excellent. We will definitely be going back to The Wise Man – soon. FC
For more information, to see current menus or to book, visit www.the-wiseman.co.uk