Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in Dorset
Hardens guides have spent 32 years compiling reviews of the best Dorset restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 32 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
. The Thimble Inn
British, Modern restaurant in Piddlehinton
14 High Street - DT2
This thatched eighteenth-century Piddle Valley pub with an “enchanting garden” wins solid ratings across the board for its “great service and good food, whether you prefer pub grub or something more ambitious”. Its popularity was sealed by a rave review from The FT’s Tim Hayward a couple of years ago, and you need to book early to secure a table at busy times, especially Sunday lunch.
. Yalbury Cottage
French restaurant in Lower Bockhampton
This “lovely cottage” in the heart of Thomas Hardy country serves “very good British food with interesting twists” from owner Jamie Jones, a former exec chef with Four Seasons hotels who settled here with his wife Ariane in 2007. The novelist would have known the 300-year-old thatched shepherd’s cottage well – he was born a mile away and grew up in the village. The Joneses also run the Yalbury Café in nearby Dorchester.
Italian restaurant in Dorchester
1 Dray Horse Yard, Brewery Square - DT1
2022 Review: With no social media presence as yet, and a hard-to-find name (lots of search results for Carluccio's – not helped by the fact that this location used to be one, and even repurposes the sign), we are presuming that Luciano Pierre White is relying on word of mouth – and his famous name – to get punters into his first solo restaurant. He's worked with Pierre Koffmann and the Adria brothers according to press quotes, and his father credits him with a great work ethic. An early-doors visit from a reporter noted it to be ‘very promising’ and another thought ‘the food’s great and the service will only improve’.
. Summer Lodge, Summer Lodge Country House
British, Modern restaurant in Evershot
This “very traditional and comfortable country hotel” from the Red Carnation group is one of the few left that still practise “silver service – the plates are placed in front of guests in synchronisation, and the staff are fabulous”, while “the food is absolutely delicious (dinner is definitely better than afternoon tea in my opinion)”. Deep in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, the village of Evershot appears disguised as the fictional Evershead, and the novelist even designed part of what is now the hotel in his days as an architect.
. The Acorn Inn
British, Modern restaurant in Evershot
28 Fore St - DT2
This “quaint pub in the tiny village of Evershot” – immortalised as the ‘Sow and Acorn’ in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ – offers “beautifully presented, consistently good and interesting” food from Kenyan-born chef Robert Ndungu. It is the more informal sibling of Summer Lodge on the other side of the village, from the Red Carnation hotel group.
. The Museum Inn
British, Modern restaurant in Farnham
This “brilliant thatched country pub” has “lots of game dishes” on its menu – appropriately enough for a traditional establishment in the historical hunting landscape of Cranborne Chase. “Vegetarians and vegans are well provided for” too, while there’s also a “well-stocked bar with local ales and a reasonably priced wine list”.
. The Green
British, Modern restaurant in Sherborne
3 The Green - DT9
“Excellent food at very reasonable prices” is the proposition at this townhouse with a focus on local West Country produce. Chef-patron Sasha Matkevich, who has lived in England for almost 30 years, was inspired to cook by the food he ate as a child at his grandmother’s house in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia.
. Al Molo
Italian restaurant in Weymouth
Pier Bandstand, The Esplanade - DT4
Chef Giuseppe Vannucci offers “lovely fresh seafood” at this smart outfit in the “interesting location” of an Art Deco bandstand on the pier overlooking Weymouth Bay, but there’s also a full menu of classic Italian dishes. With seven years of success behind them, Giuseppe and co-founder Tim Newton opened a second branch in Dorchester last summer.
. The Guildhall Tavern
Fish & seafood restaurant in Poole
15 Market Street - BH15
This gorgeous old tavern on a corner site near the harbour – newly spiffed-up last autumn and with the recent addition of a conservatory – specialises in “excellent-quality” local seafood, served in a warm atmosphere that is “like being in France”.
. Catch at The Old Fish Market
Fish & seafood restaurant in Weymouth
The Old Fish Market, Custom House Quay - DT4
This “interesting” yearling serves “fantastic seafood” in the “authentic surroundings” of the 1855 fish market, refurbished in minimalist style to host a restaurant serving fish landed directly from day boats based in the harbour. There’s a heavy emphasis on sustainability, with the dishes complemented by English wines from the region. Top Tip – “wear a scarf – it’s a tad chilly inside”.
. The Forester Inn
British, Modern restaurant in Donhead St Andrew
Lower Street - SP7
2022 Review: “A friendly and welcoming atmosphere” marks out this thatched fifteenth-century gastroboozer, where the “high-quality fresh local produce” (but also more adventurous sourcing, including from Paris’s famous Rungis market) leads to some “interesting variations on the traditional style”.
. Shell Bay
Fish & seafood restaurant in Studland
Ferry Road - BH19
“Fresh, fresh fish”, “roasted in their wood oven” is the straightforward but irresistible offer at this “perfect seafood restaurant right on Poole Harbour”, with views from every table across to Brownsea Island. “What’s not to like? There were no negatives”.
. Rick Stein
Fish & seafood restaurant in Sandbanks
10-14 Banks Rd - BH13
An “absolutely fantastic location by Poole Harbour” and “a large selection of fish dishes” keep the tills ringing at the TV chef’s Dorset outpost. “The food is standard Stein fare” – which pleases most reporters (“gorgeous seafood”), if not quite all – and “prices are really going up”. Top Tip – “get a table upstairs for lunch in the summer”.
. Branksome Beach
British, Modern restaurant in Poole
Pinecliff Rd - BH13
2022 Review: A “beautifully situated restaurant” in an Art Deco solarium overlooking Poole Harbour, and where “drinks on the upper deck are an extra delight”. One or two off reports on the food front this year, but also plenty of plaudits for its “really good breakfasts and lunches”, and “service has improved” of late too.
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