Summer Lodge – a perfect country house hotel

foodmenu-summerlodgecottageSUMMER Lodge at Evershot is the epitome of the country house hotel – a beautiful old house, set in gorgeous gardens, overflowing with flowers, vegetables and fruit, with a mouthwatering menu of mainly locally sourced food, an internationally famous wine list and stunning West Dorset scenery for walks and drives.

What Summer Lodge is NOT is minimalist! This is country house charm taken to the limit – you sink into the sofas, lie back and dream in the garden loungers, sigh over the sumptuous food and simply enjoy!

Part of the Red Carnation group of international luxury hotels, and a member of the exclusive Relais et Chateaux association, Summer Lodge is a hidden gem which can unhesitatingly claim to be Dorset’s best country house hotel. Indeed, it has just been voted “No1 Hotel in the UK & Ireland” in Conde Nast Reader’s Choice Awards 2014 (and fourth in the whole of Europe).foodmenu-summerlodgeclassic

Luxury comes at a price – and you can spend a great deal of money sampling the best wines that sommelier Eric Zwiebel can advise to match the finest food that executive head chef Steve Titman can create, and then retire to a choice of rooms that range from superior to classic, or even to your own private cottage in the grounds. But in December you can also enjoy Summer Lodge festive style and taste without breaking the bank – a three-course Christmas lunch for just £26.

The December programme offers a range of events, beginning with a black tie dinner with Champagne Drappier, on Tuesday 2nd December. There are champagne Christmas lunches on 12th, 19th and 22nd, a special Christmas Eve dinner and a spectacular festive lunch on Christmas Day. You could also see the New Year in with a black tie gala champagne dinner with live music.foodmenu-summerlodgesteve

Summer Lodge’s many awards include winning Best Restaurant in Dorset in the Sunday Times Top 200 (and 2nd in the whole of the West Country), twice winning the Taste of Dorset Best Restaurant, and accolades for the cheeseboard, wine, service, sommeliers, and three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

The hotel is a fine Georgian listed house set in four acres, with croquet lawn, heated indoor pool, all-weather tennis court, spa facilities and the award-winning restaurant. It is close to a 600 acre deer park offering excellent walking and an abundance of wildlife and flowers throughout the year.

It was built in 1798 as a dower house by the 2nd Earl of Ilchester and enlarged in 1893 with a second floor added by the 6th Earl who commissioned his friend, novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, (who was an architect by profession) to draw up the plans.foodmenu-summerlodgedinner

The house was further modernised in 1932 by the last Earl to live in Dorset, when as Lord Stavordale, he brought his bride to live at Summer Lodge.

When Margaret and Nigel Corbett purchased the property in 1979, they became only the second owners in nearly two centuries. At that time, the 12 bedroomed property with dilapidated outbuildings, had been empty for three years. Within seven weeks, they had converted Summer Lodge into a hotel and their private home – with eight bedrooms. The first guests paid £10.50 for dinner, bed and breakfast (it is a little more expensive these days!)

foodmenu-summerlodgedinner2In 1988, the stables and coach house were converted into bedrooms and an all-weather tennis court and heated pool were added. In 1991, the dining room was enlarged and remodelled to compliment the Thomas Hardy designed drawing room with its full length sash windows, and the hotel became a member of Relais & Chateaux.

A meal at Summer Lodge is always a treat, from the subtle and appetising amuse-bouche selection served as you enjoy a drink by the big fire in the drawing room through to the seriously wonderful cheeseboard. The food is beautiful, with flavours that sing freshness. The menu gives details of the provenance of all the local and regional ingredients with distances – often not so much food miles as food yards, with many coming from the hotel’s own gardens.foodmenu-summerlodgejohn

Sales manager Kevin Reid says: “We pride ourselves in sourcing absolutely as much as we possibly can from as local as possible and of course head gardener John Eke and his team in the garden grow a huge amount of our fruit, veg, flowers and herbs on-site too. He reckons they’ll propagate about 40,000 plants in the polytunnels each year.”

Lunch and dinner menus change with the seasons so in the winter expect to find local game, meat, seafood and locally sourced vegetables and fruit. The roast loin of Dorset lamb and braised shoulder ‘Shepherds Pie’ with savoy cabbage and rosemary jus is one of Steve Titman’s signature dishes, and always a favourite! If you can’t decide on a pudding, opt for the Taste of Summer Lodge sharing selection, with 11 miniature desserts each.

The cheeseboard is justly famous with all but one of the 27 cheeses always from the West Country. On a previous visit we were amused to explain some of the cheeses to a sceptical French fellow diner, who rather gingerly tried several – and was soon an English cheese convert!foodmenu-summerlodgecheese

Pictured are executive chef Steve Titman, head gardener John Eke, one of the classic bedrooms, Ivy Cottage courtyard at night, the award-winning cheeseboard, a tea-time display and some examples of food.

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