A boutique pub with rooms serving delicious food set just outside the beautiful Dorset town of Shaftesbury, there’s even a stream running right through the pub!
The Fontmell is located in the pretty village of Fontmell Magna which is just outside Shaftesbury in north Dorset, it’s on the main road through the village and you can’t miss it (look for the large, white pub basically!). There’s a large car park right across the lane. Shaftesbury is a picturesque town, perfect for a browse around the independent boutiques and interesting shops, it’s also the site of Gold Hill made iconic by Ridley Scott after the classic 1970s Hovis advert! As well as being iconic, it’s a beautiful location; we ate lunch at The Salt Cellar which lies at the very top of the hill with great views looking down.
Style & Character
The Fontmell is a beautiful country pub with a rustic charm and a contemporary finish. The bar area is reasonably small but with lovely nooks and crannies and a huge squashy (and very comfortable!) sofa. The pub is owned by two local families and it’s been passionately adopted by the local community. The most memorable, standout detail of this place has to be that a stream runs right through the middle! The bar is on one side and you cross over the stream and you are in the dining room. Our table at dinner had a perfect view looking down on the stream, it’s lit at night and it was quite something to see the natural light fade as we ate, with the sounds of the babbling brook providing a wonderfully unusual mealtime accompaniment. Outside there is a garden which also includes a pizza oven which they make use of on Fridays if the weather so dictates. Benches line the outside of the pub which were a real sun-trap in the evening.
Service & Facilities
We were shown to our room and handed a thermos of cold milk; tea and coffee making facilities are provided alongside a jar of yummy homemade shortbread. The tea is Dorset Tea and the milk was still perfectly cold the next morning, though they made it clear that you could always ask for more if required! We were shown how to use the air conditioning and heating controls too and told to call if we needed anything at all. The service in the restaurant where we dined that night was great too; very efficient but friendly and helpful.
The rooms are beautiful, the décor perfectly fits the historic building but with amusing accessories too. We were in room 3 which has a fabulous, full-sized ensuite bathroom with a huge bath and separate shower. There were lots of fluffy towels, hair and body wash, hand wash and body lotion, a small television, goose down duvets and pillows and crisp cotton sheets, a welcome pack and information about the local area.
Food & Drink
Our meal was delicious; we chose starters of Filo Wrapped Crottin Goats Cheese, Sun Blushed Tomato, Olives, Pine Nuts and Balsamic and Leek & Potato Soup and both were delicious. For our main courses, we went for the Red Thai Chicken Curry with Fragrant Rice and the Homemade Hereford Burger, Bacon, Smoked Cheddar with Fries which were also both exceptional. A Cheeseboard and Sticky Toffee Pudding completed our meal and we were very satisfied; I would definitely say that this is a foodie-pub, the dining space is great with just a small dose of the English-eccentric to make it memorable – and of course, that stream! It’s great to stay over if you can, but a visit just to experience their fine dining would also be recommended. I do rather prefer things just as I like them where food is concerned and always swap things out when I order, they were very happy to accommodate this at both dinner and the next morning at breakfast! Which brings me to breakfast; it really was one of the best that we’ve had in a long time, cooked to perfection exactly as requested with quality ingredients used which I do think makes a huge difference with a cooked breakfast. You order the hot food but can help yourself to cereals with a fruit compote served alongside and a choice of fresh juices.
Drinks are important here too and the wine list is excellent. The bar is well stocked, they have 28 gins (a passionate gin-loving owner I hear!) and the very helpful bartender was happy to give me some chat on a few before recommending one to try. We ended our evening in the bar where I finally tried an Espresso Martini – while I feel slightly late to this party, I am now a firm-convert; it was delicious!