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Summer Lodge, Evershot

Indulge yourself at the sumptuous Summer Lodge in Dorset – fine food and wine, luxury rooms, gardens, spa – and where the service and level of comfort are second to none

LOCATION

The five-star Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Restaurant (and Spa, let’s not forget the Spa), is in the quintessentially Dorset village of Evershot, about 13 miles north of Dorchester. Thomas Hardy included the village, which he called Evershead, in his series of novels about the fictional county of Wessex. They filmed Emma, the 1996 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow here, too.

THE VIBE

The Grade II-listed Georgian building, originally built in 1798 as a dower house by the 2nd Earl of Ilchester, has a lovely traditional feel. Gentlemen are required to wear jackets for dinner, mobile phones are frowned upon in the restaurant and guests are encouraged to take pre-prandial drinks before dining.

Thomas Hardy himself (an architect by profession) designed the elegant drawing room, with its floor-to-ceiling sash windows, chandeliers and sofas around a central fireplace, oil paintings and a huge old map of Dorsetshire.

Along from the drawing room is a cosy, dog-friendly, whisky bar with a huge range of whiskies (around 300 in total, from blends and single malts to cask strength rarities and unusual finds from Japan and beyond), fine Armagnacs and unusual tipples from local brews to alcohol-free kombuchas.

Part of the Red Carnation Luxury Hotel Group (hotels in London, Ireland, South Africa, Botswana, Florida and Switzerland), the hotel’s South African owners have extensive experience of running boutique hotels and the service and high levels of comfort are second to none. From the moment you arrive, you’re made to feel very welcome by managers Alex and Jack Mackenzie and their friendly team of well-trained, courteous and attentive staff.

SCOFF & QUAFF

This is fine dining at its best, using a plethora of locally sourced ingredients, many of which are grown in their own kitchen garden. First, up to amuse the bouche: beetroot and horse horseradish velouté with apple foam.

Followed by starters of fresh Portland crab with English apple, natural yoghurt and sourdough crisp and the lightly smoked hake fillet with clam and saffron chowder, poached lobster and corn. Both were delicious. Wine: Albarino, Abadia San Campo 2017 (Rias Biaxas, Spain), Torrontes, Susana Balbo, 2015 (Argentina).

Our mains, the loin of Dorset lamb with wild mushroom puree, glazed sweetbreads and wild garlic and Creedy Carver duck breast with coffee and Sherborne honey glaze with butternut squash were cooked to perfection. Wine: Zinfandel, Decoy 2016 (Sonoma County, California), Cabernet Franc, Chinon Breton, 2018 (Loire, France).

To cleanse the palate, blood orange granita with panacotta.

And to finish? For chocolate lovers: white chocolate aero, and a light-as-a-feather hot banana soufflé with caramel ice cream, Dorset sea salt and fudge.

More of a cheese than choc person? You’ll be spoiled for choice: there are around 27 on the cheese trolley.

PILLOW TALK

There are 18 bedrooms and seven luxury suites, each individually decorated, in the main house and dotted around – with a terrace, a walled garden, in picturesque cottages. Our room (No 2), overlooked the stunning gardens with far reaching views. Linen wall coverings give the beautifully decorated bedrooms a continental feel (the hotel is a member of Relais and Chateaux) they’ve thought of every last comfort: they’ll pop a hot water bottle in to warm up the bed; they’ll come and turn your bed down for you.

Slip into crisp Belgian bedlinen.

Beulah, peel me a grape…

The adjoining shower/bath has handmade – all natural-no nasties – Stone Street Soaphouse products.

The fresh flowers, fruit, homemade shortbread and morning newspaper delivered to the rooms are a nice touch.

Breakfast is served in the conservatory and on warm mornings, outside, if you wish.

Alongside the array of cereals, granola, fresh juices and pastries, they serve up the best ever eggs Benedict, and smoked salmon with poached egg on sourdough with smashed avocado. Yum yum.

THE SPA

Indulge yourself in their rather nice Spa, with a full range of head-to-toe treatments – we can highly recommend the Hot Stone Massage, Elemis Superfood Pro Radiance Facial (which uses entirely vegan products) and the Swedish Full Body and Head Massage – or just some time in the jacuzzi, sauna and heated pool.

The pool stays open in the evenings for guests.

Want something a little more strenuous? Just slope over to the fully equipped gym.

The Spa is currently open for hotel guests and non-residents by appointment.

OUT AND ABOUT

Take a stroll around the immaculately maintained grounds, with little corners to relax and unwind.

Have a mosey around the tiny village of Evershot (the sundial garden at the back of the hotel leads directly onto the High Street), go for a walk in the surrounding deer park (the hotel has info on all the good walks) – or maybe challenge someone to a game of tennis?

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Those who relish fine dining and first class service; spa lovers (non-residents by appointment); couples wanting some luxury us time; perfect for a special occasion; Sunday lunch or afternoon tea. Children are welcome (there are highchairs) but beware, there’s no lifeguard in the pool area. Conference facilities.

Not for: Anyone rocking up in shorts, t-shirts or other casual attire – this is formal fine dining and jackets must be worn. Currently, it’s not for open for dinner to non-residents (but watch this space) but do come for Sunday lunch and afternoon tea – but book ahead.

The damage: Not cheap but well worth it. We had the 3-course dinner menu £75 per person. Tasting menu £175 per person. Double room from £235. See the Summer Lodge’s latest offers for overnight stays and minbreaks.

Summer Lodge, 9 Fore St, Evershot, Dorchester, Dorset DT2 0JR. Tel 01935 482000. summerlodgehotel.co.uk

Photos: Rick Foulsham.

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