Nestled in the country’s chilled out south-west, this humble corner of England is arguably the nation’s finest foodie capital. Combine this with breath-taking coastal scenery, a wealth of outdoor attractions and interesting things to see and do, it’s no surprise that Dorset is experiencing a renaissance in tourism with ever-increasing numbers of visitors, especially in the summertime.
From seafood and sourdough to gin and gelato, it would be easy to spend months indulging in the vast variety of gastronomic delights the area has to offer. But if you’ve only got a couple of days spare to enjoy munching your way around, read on to get the insider’s tips on all the must-visit spots not to be missed in this weekend guide.
Check into The Bull Hotel. This chic guesthouse on Bridport’s East Street has luxurious rooms, deeply comfortable beds, a good restaurant, and the achingly cool Venner Bar hidden behind a secret door at the back of this rambling hotel. This is a place to spend a long night getting into trouble with superb cocktails. Many places try to achieve the Venner Bar’s atmosphere, but few succeed.
After an elegant aperitif (or two!), head down to The Station Kitchen in West Bay. This is an exotically refurbished railway carriage on the site of the old West Bay railway station offering excellent food. Booking is essential so be sure to call ahead.
After dinner, make your way back to the hotel for a cocktail or three in the wonderful Venner Bar in your hotel.
A wonderful way to brush away the cobwebs of Friday night is by hitting Bridport market on Saturday morning. An ideal insight into bohemian Bridport’s quirky nature, with stalls selling everything from antique brass door handles and local pottery, to cacti and copious amounts of great food, it really is a feast for the senses.
If you want to continue with the retail therapy vibe, pay a visit to St Michael’s Estate where you can go junk shopping. This is the old centre of Bridport’s rope making industry now home to antique and every sort of collectable.
Next, make your way down to West Bay to rent a rowboat from John behind the kiosks. Paddle gently up the River Brit from West Bay and let the cares of the world disappear.
Now it’s definitely time for lunch. Rachel’s offers famously good chowders and seafood from their harbourside kiosk in West Bay. All the local foodies love this place.
Head back to the rowboat hire and treat yourself to an ice cream from the Baboo Gelato kiosk. Made using local organic milk and the finest ingredients sourced locally where possible, Baboo’s award-winning range of gelato and sorbets are handmade in small batches and you’ll be encouraged to try as many flavours as you like.
You can work off lunch with a walk up Colmers Hill in nearby Symondsbury village for a view of the gorgeous surrounding countryside.
Then you might like to mooch back to the hotel for a rest before getting ready for dinner.
Be sure to book in advance for your evening meal at Brassica in Beaminster, which is a ten-minute drive away and serves up outstandingly good local food cooked by top chef Cass Titcombe. Eighty-five per cent of the restaurant’s produce is sourced from a 15-mile radius, so it’s really a fabulous way to taste the best the area has to offer. Of course fish and seafood feature heavily on the menu yet there are some fabulous organic meat dishes and vegetarians are well catered for too.
Hit the beaches for a lazy morning, or if you’re feeling more energetic, why not climb Golden Cap? It’s the best way to enjoy the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site. Park in nearby Seaton and follow the clearly marked coastal path (carry on and you’ll end up at Lands End eventually). Golden Cap is the highest point on the path and you can see all the way along Chesil Beach to Portland Bill.
Enjoy a well-earned lunch at The Anchor Inn, Seaton – this is a superbly located eatery serving excellent pub food. You can take your dessert to go and round off your meal with another Baboo Gelato flavour from the pub’s ice cream kiosk. And then walk off some of that wonderful pub grub by having a wander around the junk shops in West Bay’s Customs House.
Wine and spirit lovers should not miss a visit to one of the fabulous drinks producers in the area. Depending on your tipple of choice, you could look up the Furleigh Estate Wine – an internationally-acclaimed vineyard set just outside Bridport; the scrumptious Dorset Nectar Cider; and Black Cow Vodka, a deliciously smooth vodka distilled from milk whey.
For dinner, Dorshi in Bridport is not to be missed. This is exactly how fusion food should be – properly grown-up Asian food using fine local ingredients. A fabulous way to round off your weekend.
Words by: Annie Hanbury
Annie Hanbury is a Bologna-trained gelatiere and founder of Baboo Gelato, which has kiosks in West Bay, Lyme Regis and Morcombelake in Dorset – visit www.baboogelato.com for more details.
Image credits: Baboo Gelato