The Queens Arms, Corton Denham
Night out or weekend away at a cracking Somerset village pub with cosy rooms and great atmos, Michelin-listed nosh – or just a handmade pork pie from the bar.
Snuggled peacefully near the Somerset/Dorset border in the village of Corton Denham, in a very pretty hilly bit just a couple of miles south of the A303 (though you’d never know the road was there, it’s bucolic bliss) and about four miles north of the historic Abbey town of Sherborne.
Cracking village pub, formerly a Georgian coaching inn, attracting a mixed crowd (locals, from further afield, Londoners, occasional celebs and even – shock, horror – young people), with its cosy bar/lounge – flagstones, fur throws, leather sofas, green velvet tub chairs and a whopper of a fireplace – convivial atmosphere and Michelin-listed food (though you can just nosh on one of their famous homemade pork pies from the bar).
Unusual touches: Bertie the Bull (the horny hunk on the chimney breast) came straight from the set of Carry on Cowboy (ooh er missus).
Cheese envy: a giant Christmas truckle – the very local (North Cadbury) Montgomery cheddar – on the bar, a Queens Arms’ tradition. And there are those handmade pork pies …
You can eat in front of the fire in the bar/lounge or more formal but still relaxed – this place is laid back, man – in the separate dining room…
.. or in a smaller room, sometimes used for private parties or when it’s busy, and where breakfast is served.
No need to feel guilty about clocking up food air miles here, most of the cheese, meats, eggs and vegs are super local, including from their own smallholding. Check out where it all comes from on the map.
Behind the bar, an impressive selection of gins, whiskies (one of the owners, Gordon, is Scottish) and other spirits; and an ever changing range of speciality beers from around the UK, as well as the local brews.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Pub classics and more adventurous dishes on superbly seasonal menu which included a pumpkin cocktail, pheasant and Autumn hedgerow fruits. Loving the colour of these thick slices of gloriously pink, beetroot cured or was it gin-cured smoked salmon – either way, a tasty plate of food.
A chunky terrine with radishes, beetroots – and look at the size of those blackberries.
To follow, honey-glazed duck, with duck leg spring roll (which seems to have disappeared), winter julienned veg stir fry, sitting on a black cherry and star anise puree. Very Masterchef Professional.
Super tall and juicy Moroccan marinated lamb burger with feta, baby gem, red onion, tzatziki and skinny fries (though you could have hand cut chunky).
Delicious dessert: chocolate cremeux with a perfect little maccaron and crumb. It looks a little melted here but that’s because we were gassing.
All washed down with a very smooth and fruity Merlot (glug, glug, glug) from a list of around 60 wines. It was an incredibly busy night so service was a little slow but very friendly, and with such a great atmosphere (and that Merlot) we didn’t really mind.
Eight very cosy en suite rooms in the main house and coach house and two semi-detached Piggery Barns, sleeping up to 8. This is room 1, in the main house, which can be set up as a double or as a twin as here (you don’t always want to head to tail when you’re weekending with a mate).
Crisp Egyptian cotton sheets, plump goose down duvets and comfortable beds ensure a decent night’s sleep.
But if you’re still wide awake, pick a mag, any mag…
Have a cup of Teapig tea, hot choc or a coffee and peruse their extensive list of DVDs to watch on the flat screen TV.
Prettily displayed croissants and pastries, homemade granola, cereal, cheese, ham, milk fresh from a local cow, plus a clever gadget and little timers for getting your boiled egg just how you like it, in the smaller dining room (though you can eat by the fireside in the lounge).
The Queens Arms’ classic English cooked breakfast – with added Scottish haggis – and the Eggs Benedict were both superb.
After all that, and several cups of tea and coffee poured from proper pots, you’re set up for the day….
OUT & ABOUT
The surrounding countryside is lush, I mean, this is the view you wake up to from room 1 (all the rooms have views).
Grab the running/jogging/walking/slow stroll routes thoughtfully hanging on the back of the bedroom door and head out.
Or just exclaim ‘what a brilliant idea!’, put it back on the hook and have another cup of tea.
Bronze Age hill fort Cadbury Castle is just down the road. Slope over to Sherborne for a mooch around the 8th century Abbey, two Sherborne Castles (with a connection to Sir Walter Raleigh) and independent shops – it’s only four miles away. Also nearby: international art gallery Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Haynes Motor Museum at Sparkford, Fleet Air Arm Museum, a clutch of National Trust properties and, at about 45 mins drive, the Jurasssic Coast.
Don’t worry about muddy footwear (or a muddy dog), because…
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone seeking cut above food in a convivial atmos. Cosy for lunch or dinner. Come for breakfast after walking the dogs. Weekenders from London seeking a rural idyll. Stopover to or from Cornwall. Holiday makers – holiday cottages the Piggery Barns sleep up to 8. People with Teslas – you can charge up here.
Not for: Can’t think of a reason not to come here.
The damage: Not bad. Dinner: starters £6.50–£8.50; mains £15.50–£25; desserts £4.50–£8. Rooms: special offer in January, from £95 for two people. Continental breakfast included in the room price; £7.95 non residents. Cooked to order breakfast, as a guide, the classic English £12.95.
The Queens Arms, Corton Denham, nr Sherborne, Somerset DT9 4LR. Tel 01963 220317.thequeensarms.com