TWINKLING lights around the ancient farmyard, glittering Christmas trees and a menu packed with festive favourites – it would be hard to imagine a more magical setting for a pre-Christmas dinner than Symondsbury Kitchen.
On the evening we went, it was cold, properly frosty cold, so you wanted to be inside, looking out at the fairy lights, and eager for winter comfort food that will keep you warm when you head back into the chilly night air..
The Kitchen’s Christmas menu is fairly short – four choices for main course – but it manages to offer something for all tastes, traditional, vegetarian or modern British with barely a nod to the calendar.
The starters include spicy curried parsnip soup and spinach and ricotta roulade with sun-dried tomatoes. Our choices were the vividly flavoured and colourful smoked salmon with horseradish creme fraiche and roasted beetroot, and the rich and smooth chicken parfait with red onion marmalade.
For the main course, we both opted for traditional seasonal dishes – the locally sourced roast turkey with thyme roasted potatoes, and a melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked venison casserole with dauphinoise potatoes.
The vegetarian choice is an elegant and mouth-watering Wellington of butternut squash with chestnuts and thyme roasted potatoes. And for those who want to keep Christmas food for Christmas Day, there is pan-fried sea bass, with roasted fennel and vine tomatoes.
We always take our reviewing duties seriously so we duly had pudding. (Well, to be fair, we both love pudding, so it’s not that much of a duty!) We didn’t have the traditional Christmas pudding, because we like our own, based on my great-grandmother’s recipe, but the Clementine and Cranberry Pudding with ginger stem cream was a satisfyingly light seasonal delight, and the rich chocolate torte with chantilly cream was gorgeously silky.
For non-pudding people there is also a selection of local cheese with homemade oatcakes and Symondsbury Kitchen’s own chutney.
The setting is simple with plain white tables, big windows looking out on the Manor Yard, interesting paintings and cartoons on the walls and soft lighting at just the right level so that you can read the menu.
There was no background music (hooray!) just the buzz of conversation and a gently increasing volume of chatter and giggles from a large party in the lower dining area – the Kitchen’s first Christmas party of the season.
The overall style is rustic, just right for the location, rather than pretentious or urban- aspirational. The portions are generous – and the meal is very good value for money, with two courses for £20 or three for £25.
The Kitchen restaurant, part of the beautifully refurbished Symondsbury Manor Yard near Bridport, is open daily for breakfast, coffee, lunch and tea, and for dinner on Thursday to Saturday, with a special seasonal menu in December.
The village of Symondsbury is tucked away to the west of Bridport beneath the distinctive landmark of Colmers Hill. It includes the Manor Yard, with Symondsbury Kitchen, Symondsbury Store, the tithe barn, primary school, pub and residential and holiday cottages. The 1500 acre Symondsbury estate, which has been owned by the Colfox family for more than 100 years, also includes arable and pasture farmland and ancient woodland.
For more information visit www.symondsburyestate.co.uk or telephone 01308 538309.