The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham
Popped in for lunch with some friends last week to the The Queen’s Arms in Corton Denham, a gastropub with eight en suite rooms, nestled in the hills on the Somerset/Dorset border, just three miles from Sherborne. It’s won loads of awards for its food, drink and accommodation: 5 star AA inn, 2 AA rosettes, Cider Pub of the Year 2012, Taste of the West Gold 2016 (the list goes on and on). It also wins the Muddy Somerset prize for the beer with the best name: Legless Liz, newly created in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday. But best of all it’s a really friendly local pub, serving fab food in a gorgeous setting, where you can walk in with muddy boots and an even muddier dog.
You order at the bar and find a seat at a table…
…hunker down in an armchair by the fire (there are games if you get bored)…
… or a table in the traditional dining room or more contemporary library room.
The menu changes regularly but at lunchtime there are always a selection of sandwiches (like roast beef and haggis mouse with bearnaise butter; Dartmouth crab, chilli, lime and coriander) and a three-course a la carte. When we visited, starters included foraged mushrooms and fried hens egg on toast, and beetroot and gin cured salmon; mains: hake with brown shrimps, mussels and leeks; mussels in cider and chorizo; ham, egg and chips; and desserts: orange and cardamom panna cotta and chocolate cremeaux with hazelnut praline, roasted plum and popcorn. Much of the food comes from their own smallholding and kitchen garden, and local gamekeepers keep them stocked with partridges, pheasants and deer from October to the end of January.
Spurning these delights, we selected a couple of the pub’s famous hand-raised pork pies made from their own Gloucester Old Spot/Saddleback cross pigs, which are always ready and waiting on the bar, plus a hefty ploughman’s (local cheese, ham, homemade chutney, etc) and some chunky chips. Went down a treat with a bottle of Legless Liz, although they stock over 60 wines, have an extensive list of spirits and have earned a Cask Marque for their ales.
I mentioned earlier that the pub’s in a picture-skew setting and there are some good walks in the area. You could work up an appetite or work off your lunch with this walk of around 7 miles that can be started outside the pub and takes in Cadbury Castle (the hillfort reputed to be King Arthur’s Camelot), Corton Ridge and Parrock Hill. A shorter option is the 45-minute walk from the signposted path opposite the pub up along Corton Ridge and down through some woodland back into the village – and a return to the pub for dessert or a coffee if the mood takes you.
As well as lunch, they serve afternoon teas (including ‘G&Tea’, gin and Fevertree tonic with your sarnies and cakes) and they’re open for dinner – with a separate menu – from 6-10pm ( the 10-course tasting caught my eye). There are film nights too.
Good for: families (there’s a children’s menu if you want it – meat balls, fish goujons, etc), walkers, dog lovers and foodies (the pub’s got an inventive menu with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients)
Not for: difficult to think of anyone who wouldn’t like it here…
£££: Reasonable: sandwiches around £7; starters £6.50-£8.25; mains £9.95 (the ploughman’s) to £22.95 (28 day aged rib eye steak); desserts/cheese £6.95-£9.95.
The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham, DT9 4LR. Tel. 01963 220317. thequeensarms.com