The Restorative Powers of The Queens Arms in Corton Denham, Dorset
Our bodies and pockets were full of Sudafed, Lemsip, Paracetemol, catahr and reams of tissues. So we decided to shun our bikes and drive the 18 miles to The Queens Arms in Corton Denham, near Sherborne.
Fans of Malcom Gladwell will know what I mean when I say that when we first saw the pub we had a real “blink” moment. Our first impression of this stunning, golden stone pub with enchantingly friendly signs outside wasn’t something we just felt in our heads. I felt my tummy turn, looked at Cowie and felt a thrilling surge of emotion knock my cold clean out of my blocked up head. It seems good pubs have a medicinal quality, that the likes of Glaxo should bottle. We immediately knew we were in the presence of a special country pub.
But this isn’t just a country pub. It’s a lot more too. Their attention to detail is charming. I loved the way they laid their pork pies out on the bar along with a whole Montgomery Cheddar. I was inspired by their array of local ciders and apple juice. I craved their range of bottled Moor Beers. I greedily guzzled their local ales. And we adored their fire, friendly service and attitude towards dogs.
We wolfed down a pork pie whilst deciding what to have for lunch. The pastry was beautifully crumbly, but we would have liked more jelly and a touch more salt. It turns out that they make excellent thinking food.
So with our brains enriched by pork pie we decided to share a bowl of mussels smothered in merguez sausage and tomato sauce. It was a very wise choice. Like everyone else, I’m a sucker for a good bowl of moules mariniere. But a good bowl is a rarity. Often they tend to miss the mark. So I’m often more interested in trying something a bit different in the hope of discovering something new and exciting. It turns out that spicy lamb sausage with a tomatoey sauce works brilliantly with mussels. It works with chorizo, so why not.
Still buzzing after our mussels, I was sent out to fetch the dogs from the car – I returned to the pub and the dogs immediately made themselves comfortable in front of the raging fire. They quickly became the stars of the pub and were befriended by numerous children and other dogs who wanted their front row seats.
For main course Cowie enjoyed a very memorable aubergine parcel with a spicy three bean stew. Whilst quite metropolitan for a very rural pub, it was full of flavour, beautifully textured and looked exquisite. If you can find a finer vegetarian main course in a country pub in the West Country please let us know.
Sausages and mash looked good. But I didn’t get a look in. So let’s just assume they hit the mark.
My oxtail hot pot was very delicately composed but suffered,as hot pots often do, from being a bit thin. That said, it looked charming and warmed my sniveling body to the very core. It was almost as if it had been created as a medicinal restorative.
We left with a small bill and a huge feeling of satisfaction and warmth. And then roamed off for a sensational walk across the ridge that overlooks the village and beforepopping into a cracking tea room called Bramble and Sage for a slice of cake and a cup of tea.
It was such a thrill to discover The Queens Arms. It’s now in my top 3 favourite pubs in the country and I can’t wait to go back. And I swear that since paying them a visit my awful cold has completely disappeared. If Glaxo are looking for new business ideas for 2010, they might want to consider opening a range of “medicinal watering holes” inspired by the Queens Arms.
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: