review by Carol Waterkeyn
The pub in Longham is one you can drive past without really noticing, but it’s wellworth stopping for. It has a lovely, comfortable interior and a pleasing ambience. There’s a loyal clientele who return again and again and the pub has been voted Best Dining Pub in the Taste of Dorset awards and has a Certificate of Excellence from Tripadvisor.
The food is traditional British with a capital T. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are sourced locally wherever possible, and dishes are cooked to order.
Paul, my husband and I visited early on a pleasant Friday evening in August. Some people were sitting out on the newly refurbished patio garden to the rear but we went inside.
After settling down with a glass of house Sauvignon Blanc for Paul and a gin and tonic for me, we pored over the menus.
As starters to our meal, we went for a Cheese soufflé with watercress, pear and walnut salad for Paul and I chose Heritage tomato and mozzarella carpaccio with asparagus.
Steaks and beef are specialities of the house, but Paul finally decided on the Trio of Dorset lamb from the specials menu. I had a fancy for the Poached salmon fillet with crispy skin, (more!) asparagus, and lemon potato croquette.
The cheese soufflé was sizzling straight from the oven with a rich cheese sauce and was declared ‘really, really good’. My tomato and mozzarella salad was so pretty. I enjoyed the different coloured and full-tasting tomatoes, the mild cheese and oh so fresh asparagus drizzled in lemon oil. My poached salmon was a really good size, and perfectly and delicately cooked with clams. I’m not a fan of the crispy skin it was served with but the rest, including the lemon croquette potato and asparagus were delicious. Paul’s lamb was like something you would see on the Masterchef TV programme – there was a lamb wellington, a pesto-encrusted cutlet, and a pulled lamb shank beignet (like a mini fishcake but with meat) with a very rich red-wine reduction, purple carrots and rosemary and garlic parmentier potatoes. I looked at it jealously. Why is it you always want what someone else has ordered? And yes, the lamb was absolutely superb although, I really enjoyed my own meal.
We definitely needed a break before proceeding to dessert, so took the opportunity to talk to Mark Miller, the manager and former chef, who also oversees the kitchen and menus but nowadays leaves most of the cooking to the main chef Nick Brook.
Mark and his wife Claire took on the Kings Arms eight years ago. Mark had worked in several AA-rosette restaurants previously. Claire tends to work behind the scenes and helps out front when needed. This is one of four great Dorset pubs owned by Rod and Janette Lamont, and prior to the Kings Arms, Mark and Claire were at another in the group, the Saxon Arms near Dorchester.
For our dessert, Mark suggested trying the sharing platter between us that has a smaller portion of each of the main desserts, normally £5.95 each. The sharing version for two is £10.95. So we had citrus tart, Bakewell tart, Eton mess, salted chocolate tart with pistachios, créme brûlee, shortbread, strawberries, raspberries and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Somehow we almost managed to demolish it all. The citrus tart was sharp, which contrasted well with the sweetness of the others and the Eton mess was the best we’ve tasted, although we’ve had it often. Paul doesn’t usually like Bakewell tart and enjoyed that too, and my personal favourite was the rich chocolate one. As an alternative instead of dessert you can choose a cheeseboard. We missed out coffee, although I was very tempted by the Bailey’s latte! I’ll save that for another time.
In conclusion this was a really great meal served by attentive staff members and good value for money. There are some tempting offers available for weekday lunches between 12pm and 2.30pm, Monday to Saturday, as well as an early bird offer, which is available from 4.30pm-7pm, Monday to Thursday. With an excellent choice of roasts on Sundays from £11.95 with a vegetarian option, this is a good pub for meat or fish-lovers with vegetarian options available.
There’s an extensive wine list, with certain wines picked out to complement their main dishes. The Kings Arms also specialises in gins and malt whiskies, and have three real ales on tap, although I would say this is definitely an eating, rather than drinking venue.
Dare I say Mark at the Kings Arms was already putting together the menu for Christmas and bookings are being taken in September. As the regular customers are very keen to re-book for this year, you will need to reserve your table early if you want Christmas Day.
For more visit the Kings Arms website www.thekingsarms-longham.co.uk