Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in Dorset
Hardens guides have spent 29 years compiling reviews of the best Dorset restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 122 restaurants in Dorset and our unique survey based approach to rating and reviewing Dorset restaurants gives you the best insight into the top restaurants in every area and of every type of cuisine.
Featured Dorset Restaurants
1. Crab House Cafe Fish & seafood restaurant in Weymouth Ferrymans Way, Portland Road - DT4
“The freshest fish right beside Chesil Beach” (of Ian McEwan fame) is all part of the “exceptional experience” and “incredible range of dishes” on offer at this “quirky” beach shack, “just off Portland”, owned by local oyster farmers (and where the “yummy” crab etc. comes “without costing a fortune”, too).
2. The Jetty British, Modern restaurant in Christchurch 95 Mudeford - BH23
“On the edge of delightful Christchurch, with lovely views over Mudeford” – Alex Aitken’s well-known venture is “a great spot in the grounds of the Christchurch Harbour Hotel” (“especially on a sunny day when you can also sit outside”); and being “here as the sun sets, gazing through the sky-high windows across the gently lapping waters, brings a feeling of calm, even after the toughest of weeks at work”. “London prices make it a special occasion destination”, with predominantly fish dishes that are generally “first class” (“if a little patchy at times”). Top Tip – “parking is woefully insufficient, so allow time to sort that out”.
3. Chez Fred Fish & chips restaurant in Bournemouth 10 Seamoor Rd - BH4
“Traditionally good” chips and catch “with mushy peas and a cuppa” (and a side of “unadorned British seaside memories”) do the trick at Fred Capel’s local luminary – “better than any London chippy”, say out-of-towners. Top Tip – “if you don’t fancy the wait they also do daily specials in the takeaway which can be really good value”.
4. Arbor Restaurant, The Green House Hotel British, Modern restaurant in Bournemouth 4 Grove Rd - BH1
This all-day and affordable hotel restaurant was nominated by numerous reporters this year as a favourite destination in the area. In particular, it’s a champion of sustainability, with an emphasis on local, organic, fairtrade and farm assured produce.
5. Guildhall Tavern Fish & seafood restaurant in Poole 15 Market Street - BH15
“Very good fresh fish and seafood” – “landed in the harbour 50 feet away” – is the USP at this French family-run operation, where staff “keep the entente as cordiale as possible”. It’s been “a favourite for more than 10 years”, and “early booking is recommended”.
6. Shell Bay Fish & seafood restaurant in Studland Ferry Road - BH19
A “stunning location – especially as the sun sets over Poole Harbour” (“you could be in the South of France”) – is the main asset of this “casual” operation (shack-like without, rustic within), but it’s no one-trick pony: the seafood is also “superb”.
7. Dorshi Pan-Asian restaurant in Bridport 6 Chancery Lane - DT6
Mix ‘DOR’set with su‘SHI’, and you end up with this well-known, hipster-ish destination down a narrow alley, where “local ingredients are given an Asian twist” – “always a great meal” with “delightful” service.
8. Summer Lodge, Summer Lodge Country House British, Modern restaurant in Evershot
Under the Relais & Châteaux banner, and partly designed by Thomas Hardy no less (an architect before he was an author), this “gem” of a country hotel is “a little out of the way but well worth the effort”. When it comes to its “comfortable fine dining” offer, “no doubt the price reflects the amazing surroundings” but, given that “everything is beautifully done”, only the odd reporter raises any complaint.
9. Yalbury Cottage French restaurant in Lower Bockhampton
“A real treat for foodies” – this thatched cottage in Thomas Hardy’s home village of Bockhampton serves “the best food in the area”. “You’ll pay London prices, but it’s great value for cooking of this standard”.
10. Rick Stein Fish & seafood restaurant in Sandbanks 10-14 Banks Rd - BH13
A “stunning location” by Poole Harbour (“if you can bag a table by the window upstairs, the view over the bay is superb”) is an undisputed plus of this three-year-old outpost of the Stein empire. but the consensus over its other attractions became weaker this year. Most reporters feel that “the food is a match for the setting” and say “this is one of the better, non-Cornwall Ricks”. The size of the bill, though, is a sore point for a fair few dissenters who feel it’s becoming “overpriced, chainified and no longer of particularly good quality”.
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