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Muddy review: The Acorn Inn, Evershot

A traditional village pub with award-winning food, lovely rooms and super warm welcome in one of Dorset's prettiest villages.

THE LOCATION

Slap bang in the middle of Thomas Hardy country in the tiny village of Evershot, halfway between Yeovil and Dorchester, on the Ilchester Estate in Dorset. The village appears as ‘Evershed’ and The Acorn Inn as ‘The Sow and Acorn’ in Tess of the d’Urbervilles and other novels. With stone and thatched cottages and a raised pavement along its one and only main road, it’s a pretty place; no wonder the village was used as a film location in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma.

THE VIBE

Part of the family-owned Red Carnation Hotel Collection (sister hotel Summer Lodge is the same village), the 16th century former coaching inn is country pub through and through: full of character and charm; warm and welcoming. Jazz playing gently in the background adds to the laidback vibe whilst not interrupting conversation.

The village bar is cosy, with exposed stone, oak beams, flagstones, woodburner, photos of yesteryear, treats for your pooch (dogs are allowed everywhere) and a blackboard showing who can drink a yard of ale in the quickest time (FYI, it’s Jack in 20 seconds, eek).

Leather banquettes and old prints give this area a clubby feel.

There’s more of a country style atmos elsewhere.

A lounge with leather chesterfields and club chairs, newspapers and mags and a roaring fire makes for a relaxing place for a drink before dinner and a traditional West Country skittle alley can be hired for private parties.

It was too chilly to eat in the pub garden on our visit, but on a warm day it would be nice to be sitting Under The Greenwood Tree.

SCOFF & QUAFF

They don’t stray too far from the classics but it’s head chef Robert Ndungu’s unique take on those classics and the top notch seasonal produce from the nearby Jurassic coast and Dorset countryside that they use, that results in the classy, cut above menu. You don’t get to win multiple accolades, including The Good Pub Guide‘s Best Country Dining Pub 2020 & 2021, for nothing.

Plump marinated olives and freshly baked bread and butter arrived to keep us going during menu perusal. Not your ordinary bread and butter but a Portuguese bread and a granary loaf with three types of butter: a subtly sweet red pepper butter, a creamy traditional butter and a seaweed butter. My fave? The red pepper. Could have eaten it up with a spoon.

There was a choice of around five starters, including an open lasagne of rabbit (rabbit is almost always on the menu in some form and very popular), a soup and a broccoli dish. The twice-baked Cornish Yarg souffle was beautifully risen; deliciously crisp and cheesey on the outside, creamily cheesey inside, and served with a light cheddar velouté.

The torched – super-fresh – West Bay mackerel fillet came with beetroot prepared three ways: pickled, salt baked and pureed. Delicious.

Onto the mains, with a choice of three meat dishes (including a chargrilled Jurassic coast steak and slow-roasted pork), one fish (freshly caught in Brixham that day, so changes daily) and a veggie spinach & ricotta tortellini, alongside pub classics like burgers, fish & chips, ham & eggs and baked Camembert and charcuterie boards to share. Everything comes as a complete dish, there are no sides to deliberate over or add onto the bill.

This is the generously portioned and perfectly cooked curried monkfish, with a tower of steamed rice topped with crispy shallots, a tomato & lime salsa, cavolo nero and a piquant pina colada sauce (yes, really, with tiny chunks of pineapple) – an unusual combo that worked.

The richness of the pulled confit of duck, topped with crispy straw potatoes; was complimented perfectly with pickled red cabbage on winter greens & pistachio pesto and a sweet/sour cranberry agrodolce.

You could come to the Acorn just for the puddings, all made in-house by pastry chef Ana Martins. I mean, take a look at this Instagrammable apple encased in white chocolate with a cinnamon and oat crumb.

It seemed a shame to crack open the white chocolate shell but well worth the destruction to reveal – and greedily devour – the fluffy apple mouse and spiced apple within.

Do you like your fruit tarts with vanilla custard or clotted cream? No need to decide – the moreish apple and pear tart comes with both.

Also on the menu, Dorset’s Baboo Gelato and sorbets; the Acorn cheese board (all West Country cheeses, served with Dorset pickled cucumber crackers and grapes), homemade petit fours and dessert cocktails.

We didn’t have booze this time (driving) but on another occasion, we’ll be trying out their signature gins (they’ve a vast list of gins and other spirits), local and international beers and ciders and working our way through the long wine list, some of which comes from the group’s Bouchard Finlayson wine estate in Cape Town, from elsewhere in the world – and just round the corner in Dorset’s Bride Valley.

We must mentioned the service. The staff, led by Nathalie and Richard Legg, are lovely: friendly but not obsequious, efficient yet unobtrusive – thank you!

PILLOW TALK

Only there for lunch today but with 10 lovely comfy en suite rooms upstairs – doubles, twins and one with a four-poster – plus a family suite in the eaves, we’ll be back.

OUT AND ABOUT

Explore the village and surrounding area with a local expert. Gorgeous walks all around, including in the deer park of the Melbury estate. Sister hotel, the elegant Summer Lodge, is just the other side of the road, with a three AA rosette dining room and a spa with pool open to non-residents. Want more Thomas Hardy? You can visit his birthplace (now owned by the National Trust) in nearby Higher Bockhampton. You’re just 25 mins from the glorious Jurassic Coast.

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Scoffing award-winning food whilst feeling as relaxed as a local. Walk and pub lunch combos: the surrounding countryside is glorious and dogs are very welcome.

Not for: Not brilliant for vegans though if you call ahead, I’m sure they’d prepare something wonderful for you.

The damage: Good value. Starters £7–10; Mains £14–29; Desserts £2.50–9; Cheese board £7–13. Double room with breakfast from around £140.

The Acorn Inn, 28 Fore Street, Evershot, Dorset, DT2 0JW. 01935 83228. stay@acorn-inn.co.uk

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1 comment on “Muddy review: The Acorn Inn, Evershot”

  • Karen March 16, 2022

    A great review! Definitely the best restaurant I’ve eaten at in the last few years. Can’t wait to go again.

    Reply

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