Sunday, 27 February 2011

Lunch at The Bull

I have blogged before about this dining pub in Dorset, a real gem, hidden away in the countryside. A return visit confirmed what I felt about the place before: that it is an excellent pub with food....

The day did not begin well: intent on an early morning walk on the beach to work up an appetite for lunch, I left the house and went to the car, only to be confronted by a huge, freshly-laid dog turd. Making a mental note to instruct father-in-law to clear it up ASAP, I got in the car, turned the key  - and nothing. Nada. Niente. The alarm chirrupped, the lights came on and off, but the engine: dead. This is the peril of having a very sophisticated all-singing all-dancing car with a multitude of electronic gizmos and gadgets. It has happened to me once before, and not that long ago, at the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais on my way back from France at Christmas. It was embarrassing to be stranded, not least because I was queueing in the priority boarding lane. A Basil Fawlty-ish scenario ensued, before a French AA man appeared and sorted it all out. Once again, the AA had to be summoned, and it turned out to be a flat battery, caused by one of the interior lights being left on. Simples!

The beach walk was abandoned, owing to lack of time, so I spent the morning reading the paper, something I rarely do. Then, at 12.30, we went off to the pub. Wimborne St Giles is a tiny village in the depths of Dorset countryside. There are fords to be forded the twisting muddy lanes were awash with Rangerovers and hunt followers. The pub was not busy, a few families out for Saturday lunch. We were welcomed by two smiling girls at the bar who were quick to fulfill our drinks order and see us to our table by the window with freshly-printed menus.

For a starter, I selected the Lymington crab which came with a piquant fresh chilli dressing and some pleasantly bitter salad leaves, offset by sweet-sharp pieces of pink grapefruit. The crab was delicious, redolent of the sea from which it had so recently emerged. Other starters were pearl barley, cabbage and ricotta soup (a little too healthy for my liking!) and San Danielle ham with rocket, romesco sauce and a soft-boiled egg. All the food was pronounced "delicious".

Lymington crab
My main course was Hanger steak (presumably from a local farm). I am as fussy about steak as I am about Beethoven's Opus 110 Piano Sonata: it has to be right. I rarely select steak off a menu at home, though I am happy to have it in France because the French know how to cook it (i.e. wave it at a flame) The Hanger steak was served medium rare, with a handful of peppery rocket and a generous serving of upmarket chips, topped off with a fried egg, whose bright yellow yolk was just cooked. The creamed horseradish was the perfect accompaniment, and the whole ensemble was very tasty. Nothing fancy, just good honest food.

Hanger steak & chips
I should pause here to discuss portion size: too often when one eats at a gastro or dining pub, the main course (usually something like saddle of lamb or pork belly with crispy crackling) is so huge that one does not have enough room for a pudding, but one still valiantly forces down the chocolate fondant or sticky toffee pudding, only to emerge from the establishment reeling with over-indulgence. At The Bull, the portions are just right: thus, when offered the pudding menu, we were more than happy to add another course. Two of the party had the moist chocolate brownie with chocolate ice-cream and a brandy snap (which included an explanation to my son that, sadly for him, it did not contain any brandy!). Another had the light and spongey Greek yoghurt cake, and I had the meringues with coffee mascarpone cream and chocolate sauce, a really delicious combination of crunchy meringues and a smooth, creamy filling.

Meringues with coffee mascarpone cream and chocolate sauce
Afterwards, we wended our way back along the muddy lanes, pulling over intermittently to give way to sweaty horses returning from a morning's hunting, and road-hogging Rangerovers full of smug-looking people in "country-wear".

The Bull is definitely worth a visit if you are in that neck of the woods. It has rooms too, so you can stay the night and enjoy more than one delicious, beautifully presented meal! The atmosphere in the pub is improved by the pleasant Farrow & Ball/India Jane decor, and the welcome lack of background music. The sister pub, The Anchor at Shapwick (near to Kingston Lacey House) is also worth a visit: the fish and chips were particularly memorable.

The Bull Inn

1 comment:

  1. Yum, yum Fran. I would definitely have chosen the same dishes..and the meringues look divine! I must try those at home...

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