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Muddy eats: The New Inn, Cerne Abbas

Eat and drink very well every day of the week, or enjoy a weekend away with wonderful walks in the Dorset countryside – with or without your dog

THE LOCATION

The New Inn is the centre of picture postcard Cerne Abbas – think thatched cottages,  historic stone houses, undulating countryside – in the Cerne valley in the Dorset Downs, about 6 miles north of Dorchester.  The village grew up around a Benedictine Abbey (Abbas means ‘abbot’) which was mostly destroyed in the 16th century; later became prosperous through brewing and other industries due to its underground water (which you can still hear gurgling under your feet right outside the New Inn) and became a backwater again when the Victorians decided not to send the railway there. The most famous resident is the 180 feet tall, very well endowed Cerne Abbas Giant, carved on a chalk hillside above the village.

THE VIBE

Former 16th century coaching house (the original entrance through which the horses and carriages would pass is the way you enter the pub today), with plenty of space to eat, drink and be merry all around the ground floor, with the bar out in the front.

Take a seat for two, four or more; there’s lots of space all around.

We love this cosy area at the back, with Farrow and Ball walls, gigantic antler chandelier and original artworks on the walls  – and door onto the terrace – which is more private dining room than a pub dine out.

Out back there’s a large sun-trap terrace, luxury rooms in converted stables and a large and pretty walled garden with views of the village church. Spot the thatched roof!


SCOFF & QUAFF

Landlords Annette and Julian come from Davy’s of London wine merchants, so the wine and local Palmers cask ales are very good – and so is the food (Taste of the West Gold 2018/19) and the service. It’s a modern British menu, with a la carte and sandwiches at lunch and a (different) la carte only in the evening, plus a long list of specials at both, seasonal and local where poss.

This is their signature starter, the Wookey Hole cheddar cheese soufflé . Nicely risen, light, fluffy and ever so cheddar cheesy,  complimented with a crunchy hazelnut cantucci (a biscotti type biscuit) and sweetly sharp (is that a thing?) cranberries and a tiny poached pear.

Loving the colours of my main course of pan fried hake with crispy skin and softly flaking flesh sitting on buttery spinach, spring onion pakora sprinkled with toasted almonds, curried parsnip puree and fondant sweet potatoes. Those little ball are pickled giant mustard seeds.

Creme brûlée lovers take note: this super delicious – and a little bit naughty – version is made from caramel chocolate with a soft tonka bean and praline macaroon, praline ice cream, sprinkled with hazelnut brittle. Crrrrrrunch!

PILLOW TALK

There are 12 comfy bedrooms with en suites (some with rain showers and roll top baths) in the main building (beamed ceilings, mullion windows and period fireplaces and currently all being re-furbed), and in a converted stable block in the courtyard at the back.  We didn’t stay this time but when we do, this two-storey suite (one of two), complete with sleigh bed and free-standing bath has Muddy written all over it.

No arguments over who gets to lie on the Chesterfield – you can each have your own.

OUT AND ABOUT

Stretch your legs with a stroll around the village, with names like Piddle Lane, Duck Street and Kettle Bridge, or put on your walking boots for a walk in the hills (the pub will point you in the right direction). Beautiful Minterne Gardens are a 5-min drive away in the next village of Minterne Magna. And on the edge of the village, there’s always that naked man. Ooh er missus.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for:  Eat very well every day of the week; a weekend away with wonderful walks, with or without your dog. Wine tasting and foodie events throughout the year.

Not for: Bring the kids for lunch but it’s probably more suited to adults only for weekends and nights away as all the rooms are doubles.

The damage: Good value, with starters £6–£8.50; mains £14.50–£18; desserts £8.50. Double room from £100/night. PS Two nights for the price of one Mon–Thurs until the end of March.

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The New Inn, 14 Long St, Cerne Abbas, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 7JF. Tel 01300 341274.  thenewinncerneabbas.co.uk

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