review by Marilyn Barber
On a cold winter’s evening a warm roaring log fire beckoned us into The Coventry Arms from the A31.
This traditional country pub in Corfe Mullen with rustic décor, exposed beams and flagstone floors dates back to the 15th century – and it even has a 500-year-old mummified cat in a glass case on one of the walls.
Offering gastro pub dining, it has lots of cosy alcoves giving you the ambience of a pub of yesteryear, when it was at the centre of the village of Corfe Mullen.
The greeting was also warm from Sadie Kerslake-Smith, who owns The Coventry Arms together with her husband Richard Kerslake Smith and brother in-law Rob Kerslake-Smith.
My husband was offered the chance to taste several of their beers produced by Timothy Taylors Landlord, and people will be pleased to hear that they do have vegan beer on offer too.
We were shown to our table, which was adjacent to an open fire that links two rooms, and then we had the difficult job of choosing from the impressive menu.
Homemade soup, jumbo chicken wings and chilli and garlic prawns all sounded attractive as starters, but my husband went for the Caprese salad – creamy mozzarella layered with fresh ripe tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze.
I chose toasted ciabatta bread with freshly made garlic butter and because the two starters went rather well together, we ended up sharing them. The salad was a lovely fresh taste and the bread was light and fluffy, and not so overloaded with the garlic as to be anti-social.
The Coventry Arms specialises is ‘Low and Slow’ 12-hour cooked brisket, half smoked chicken and slow-cooked ribs at 110°, but don’t leave your appetite behind if you choose these as the portions are very generous and looked amazing.
Also on the menu is a variety of steaks served with sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato and thick, steak cut chips, plus grilled salmon and a choice of salads.
However, my husband does enjoy burgers, and he chose the classic beef one from the list which included chicken, pulled pork, smoked beef, and smoky bacon and cheese, plus a veggie stack.
Served in a toasted brioche bun with seasoned skinny fries and a crunchy house salad, he declared the burger was succulent, and went so well with the accompaniments.
Knowing that I would like to save room for a pudding, I was pleased to see that the menu included a section called Mini Munchies for those with a smaller appetite.
There was a trio of speciality meats in a min brioche bun, chicken and mini ribs or red pepper quiche, but I plumped for mozzarella pasta with the addition of chargrilled chicken – which was very lean. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the cheesy tomato sauce wasn’t over-salted.
My husband went for a traditional dessert – Belgian Apple Pie with custard, which he enjoyed, whilst I selected Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake with ice cream, which made a splendid end to the meal.
Sadie explained that they took over the pub in May, after it had been shut for nine months.
“The lead had been stolen from the roof and so we had to re-plaster the ceilings and re-decorate,” she said.
There is a marquee extension leading to a very spacious seating area outside, which is beside the River Stour – a delight in summer.
Sadie said, “We are working with various agencies to get a bridge to the island, which will extend the beauty of the restaurant setting and allow for larger events overlooking the gorgeous River Stour at the end of the beer garden.”
She added that the summer presented a flurry of canoers and paddle boarders coming up from Eye Bridge in Wimborne for a fuel top up of food and drink.
The Coventry Arms has a separate lunch menu, containing such favourites as baguettes, ‘low and slow’ meats in a brioche bun and jacket potatoes.
The Coventry Arms can offer delicious meals for vegetarians and vegans, as well as those with allergies, making modifications to suit those groups. They can also cater for private dining in one of the larger alcoves.