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The Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham

Foodies will love village retreat The Queen’s Arms in Corton Denham which has classic pub appeal with added lustre, writes Rosanna Rothery

What’s the draw?

Candles flicker on tables, logs crackle in the hearth, flagstone floors are characterful beneath the feet and dried‑flower chandeliers create a lacework of preserved beauty on high. A stunning portrait called The Forgotten Lady appears to survey this rustic scene with a serene smile. No doubt the romantic woman in flowing robes thoroughly approves – and not just of the tasteful country decor but of each splendid dish winging its way out of the kitchen.

Who’s cooking?

The Queen’s Arms has been at the heart of Corton Denham village life since Georgian times but, thanks to a takeover by an enterprising local family with foodie credentials, discerning diners congregate in droves at this pub on the Dorset‑Somerset border.

Owner Doune Mackenzie‑Francis studied at the Ballymaloe Cookery School before working as a private cook and then as a marketing manager at Leiths School of Food and Wine. During her eight years at Leiths she garnered tips and tricks from the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Kerridge and Lorraine Pascale.

Heading up her kitchen is head chef Rich Townsend whose immaculate dishes turn heads for their knockout flavour combos. Strong links with local farmers and producers ensure the majority of the ingredients hail from nearby fields.

What to order?

It’s easy to choose elevated pub classics (fried‑chicken burger or fish and chips) but the artistry shown in Rich’s showstoppers is too good to miss.

Our lobster ravioli starter tasted of the sea and was accompanied by a fennel and blood‑orange salad in a rich briny bisque. Exmoor venison to follow was exceptionally tender and lent piquancy by its pickled walnut sauce, sweetness from grilled pear and crispy texture from cavolo nero.

A salt‑baked celeriac veggie dish was as hearty, tender and satisfying as any carnivore’s contender and included confit shallot, kale, king oyster mushrooms and a green peppercorn sauce.

A croissant bread and butter pudding provided a taste of childhood with the grown‑up twists of cinnamon apples, gelato, and amaretto crème anglaise.

Need to know

This smart dining pub has it all for a rural retreat: summer terrace, seasonal cocktail menu, homemade ginger beers and lemonades, ten attractively designed bedrooms (five above the pub, three in a coach house and two in a private cottage), colourful textiles, 100 Acres toiletries and a spoilt‑for‑choice breakfast menu.

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