28 Fore Street, EVERSHOT, Dorchester, DT2 0JW
In Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Wessex novelist and poet Thomas Hardy called this pretty, 16th-century inn the 'Sow and Acorn'; he also featured it in two other novels. He'd still recognise it, especially its unusual porch, old beams, low ceilings, oak panelling, flagstone floors and carved Hamstone fireplaces. And he'd appreciate the bedroom names that are taken from locations in his books. Run impressively by Jack and Alex Mackenzie, the inn is a big draw locally, with two lively bars stocking real ales from Devon and Dorset breweries and brewpubs, Thatchers Somerset Haze cider, 39 wines by the glass and an impressive stock of malt whiskies. And that's not all, because there are quiz nights and occasional yard-of-ale-drinking challenges too. In the softly lit AA Rosette restaurant you'll find smartly laid tables, terracotta tiles and an elegant stone fireplace carved with oak leaves and, no great surprise, acorns. Sustainability, localness and seasonality govern a modern British menu of Cornish crab with lime, coriander and chilli bruschetta, and balsamic dressing; chargrilled 10oz rump steak with smoked bacon, artichoke gratin, buttered tenderstem broccoli, triple-cooked chips and béarnaise sauce; and parsnip and carrot rösti with roasted sweet potato, spinach, leek and mushroom ragout, and spiced tomato sauce. A fish specials board changes daily, while lunch and bar menus offer sandwiches, a charcuterie sharing platter, roasted pork and leek sausages, burgers and ploughman's. The pub also features a lovely old skittle alley and a beer garden. Good walks radiate from the village, so make sure you put those wellies in the car.