review by Janine Pulford
Having recently changed hands, as well as its name, The Inn at Cranborne woos diners with a variety of dishes, some with a distinctly French accent.
Owned by Matt and Emily, who run successful cookery courses in France with celebrity chefs, you can expect fine food to be served at this attractive 16th century inn, with a few pub favourites. The couple, who have four children, have not only developed three ‘Big In France’ properties, but have been featured on Channel 4’s Escape to the Chateau. They also cater for weddings and private functions.
A carpenter by trade, Matt has more recently turned his talent to cooking and enthuses about his plans for the Dorset inn, which has 60 covers with another 80 seats outside.
“I will be installing a braai in the inglenook fireplace and we will cook large cuts of meat over a wood fire,” he said.
This South African method of barbecuing is sure to create a talking point and will no doubt attract foodies from far and wide.
On the night of our Viewpoint review, we chose:
- Three-cheese double baked soufflé with cheese and chive sauce
- Chicken liver pate on toast served with chutney
- Boeuf Bourguignon with mustard mash
- King prawn linguine
- Chocolate torte with chocolate crumb and vanilla ice cream
- Lemon posset with raspberry coulis and shortbread
My soufflé was well risen, light, fluffy, and brown on the top. It stood cheerfully in a moat of creamy cheese and chive sauce. With a flavour beyond words, the crispy crust gave an extra cheesy burst.
Ben, my eldest son and MD of mags4dorset, found the generous portion of paté loaded onto a slice of rustic toast equally delicious. “The salad and dressing and rich, sticky chutney pair with it beautifully,” he added.
Battle of the bulge
It was time to face-off with our mains. Okay, Ben’s portion of Boeuf Bourguignon filled the plate with two thirds beef and one third creamy mash, but my linguine surely had the edge when it came to good looks. It was piled into an artistic peak surrounded by sumptuous prawns.
And so the flavour fight began
While Ben enthused about the tender beef, which arrived with carrots, onions, sweet potato and parsley, I was overdosing on linguine heavily laced with garlic, which assailed the nostrils before announcing itself to the taste buds. There were smoky tones too, elevating the dish, and diced courgette provided texture, so I naturally thought mine was best.
Ben argued that the hit of mustard mash and undertones of rosemary brought a new element to the flavour game, making his dish far more balanced. I countered saying that I expected to see something other than parsley as a green item on his plate, but he dismissed the comment.
By now I was finding my prawns succulent and juicy. Ben’s eyes lit up and to my surprise, he plundered a few, which put my linguine in the lead.
What’s more, I couldn’t fault the flavours of the silky pasta, which basked in a creamy sauce. It had a fiery, peppery hit and a lemony tang. But no matter how refined the dish, my Brummy upbringing took over and I asked for sauce – what sacrilege. Ben’s dish was a stand-alone and to prove it, he almost licked the plate clean, but admitted to being over full. The food was clearly neck and neck and we drew a truce. I also had to leave part of mine to allow room for dessert. It really had been a battle of the bulge.
Posset past the post!
Ben’s torte, though rich and delicious, was a rather large portion and defeated him. And so it was that my lemon posset became the clear dessert winner. Its citrusy burst hit the taste buds with every spoonful. The mint leaf was a genius contrast of flavour, the finger of shortbread offered a crunch before melting in the mouth, and the fresh strawberry and coulis added fruity variation.
Rooms with a view
We thoroughly enjoyed our night at the inn, and had we not lived ‘down the road’, we might have sipped a few more drinks from the famous gin collection, booked a room each, and stayed overnight. As it was, Ben’s Indian pale ale, Wicked Wyvern by Badger Beers, and my small glass of Chardonnay and lemonade were sufficient.
The inn has nine luxurious rooms with views around Cranborne and is dog-friendly. Your ‘best friend’ will even get a treat bag on arrival and a sausage breakfast! And there is plenty of countryside around this pretty Dorset village where you can walk off a good meal.
The Inn at Cranborne is set to see some interesting culinary developments and local people could be in for a few surprises. “The braai is one, but pop up restaurants and celebrity chef courses will be featuring too,” says Matt, so watch this space. Or even better, pay a visit and find out for yourself. Parties welcome.
Seasonal fresh food features highly, and the Christmas 2019 menu is available now.