Geoff & Cathy Harrison (owners, managers whilst also full time renovators/ gardeners!), along with their son Tom (General Manager/ front of house) and daughter Sarah (online content and marketing) opened last Easter as a new family venture. Before opening they completely renovated the ground floor and are slowly working their way through updating the bedrooms. The aim is to create a welcoming, rustic but stimulating environment, serving great home cooked & locally sourced food.
We drove in through the narrow archway of the Hotel into the large carpark at the back. Once in we could see the result of the family’s hard work, plus an eclectic mix of comfy chairs and decor, which has really brightened up the bar area. The bar is really well stocked with plenty of ales & ciders to choose from and good to see a few locals chatting about fishing around the bar.
We were very warmly welcomed and sank into a couple of their leather chairs. The menu is short and changes regularly through the year. It is bristling with local goodies, ranging from Dorset lamb, locally caught mackerel & plaice. All prepared by local Chef Dan Brown, who started his career with Matt Follas at the Wild Garlic.
The seared scallops looked tempting, but in the end I chose asparagus for my starter and the fillet of brill for my main. Vicky went for the Cheddar croquettes and the slow cooked confit duck legs. You can also have olives & or breads for pre-meal nibbles, but with three courses ahead of us we skipped these.
We were shown into the conservatory which is the main dining area and the first thing I noticed was that every table had a reserved sign on them! Again there is a wonderful mix of tables & chairs, plus plenty of props/hints from Geoff’s past as a TV cameraman!
Starters arrived and they both looked mighty impressive. Vicky’s wild garlic & Wookey Hole Cheddar croquettes, apple and celery was delicious and the mild cheddar oozed out of the croquettes as she cut into them. The sliced apple & the celery micro herbs added sharpness to the dish.
My chargrilled asparagus, Serrano Ham, red watercress and pickled rhubarb was light and packed with spring fresh flavours, the pickled rhubarb gave a real zing to the dish balancing the salty ham.
Next to arrive was a very refreshing amuse bouche of cucumber, apple & mint. We are still trying to work out how to get the cucumber swirl inside the glass!!
Vicky’s main of confit Devon Duck leg, sauté potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, blackberry & juniper jus, was a picture of hearty food perfect for this wet spring evening. The duck leg was succulent and the jus cut through the richness of the duck.
My main of pan roasted brill fillet, chargrilled fennel, wilted sea kale, burnt butter & caper butter sauce was just what I was hoping for. Good portion of fish (it must have been a BIG brill!) perfectly cooked with wonderful crispy skin and I just loved the wilted sea kale
I was close to full but when I saw that there was raspberry & almond tart, raspberry jam ice cream I just couldn’t resist. It was gorgeously warm, sweet and sumptuous, with the wonderful sharpness of the raspberry – heaven!
Vicky’s went for a truly unusual and quirky dessert of Coca-Cola jelly, vanilla ice cream, pistachio praline. It was exactly as it said, great cola jelly with crunchy pistachio and a velvety ice cream.
We really enjoyed our meal at The Ilchester and can see why there were some many reserved tables. Service wasn’t rushed and everyone was cheerful, plus very patient with us because we haven’t got the best of hearing in the world – pardon!!
Sarah also tells me they are keen to create community events, and have already held farmers markets, a cider festival with live music and hog roast, Easter family activities, specialist evenings with themed food and matching wines and also wedding receptions. They also have regular live music along with offering food discounts for OAPs, children etc.
So get along and combine a walk around the picturesque village of Abbotsbury, with a visit to The Ilchester for a spot of lunch or dinner, you won’t be disappointed.
The Ilchester Arms Hotel
9 Market Street
Dorset DT3 4JR
|Invited by PR company?||No|
|Guest of chef/restaurant/owner?||Yes|
|Restaurant/outlet knew ahead we were bloggers?||Yes|
|Was the meal complimentary from the restaurant?||Yes|
|Any complimentary items provided by restaurant/outlet?||No|