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Inn with Freddie — The Fiddleford Inn

The Fiddleford Inn, Fiddleford, Nr Sturminster Newton DT10 2BX, 01258 472489

The Fiddleford Inn

Liz Neilson was a teacher for
twenty-seven years, latterly as Head of the Sixth Form at Blandford School.
When she decided to leave the profession she discovered that, as she puts it,
‘I wasn’t very good at doing nothing.’ A whole second career blossomed for her
and with her husband, Jon, she has run the Old Coach House restaurant and Crown
Inn in Fontmell Magna and the successful Beresford & Neilson fashion shops
in Blandford. Now they have taken on the Fiddleford Inn, which stands a couple
of miles on the Blandford side of Sturminster Newton on the A357.

The
front part of the pub is obviously not that old, but the long, low building
which forms the back part was originally a malthouse and is much older. In the
1860s, the then maltster married a farmer’s daughter and it was he who added on
the Victorian bit at the front, to emphasise his improved status. He put in
rather an impressive archway, clearly visible in the side of the building (and
in the photograph above) to lead to the buildings at the rear.

In
the 1960s the building briefly became the Archway Hotel, but then the feature
from which it took its name was bricked up and since then it has been the
Fiddleford Inn.

One
of the pleasures that Mrs Freddie and I have enjoyed in extending our role to
include pubs is the discovery of good food which far exceeds what is implied by
the rather dismissive term, ‘pub food’. The Fiddleford Inn is a prime example:
to judge by our experience, the cooking there is at least equal to that in more
expensive and more pretentious restaurants. This wasn’t so surprising when we
learnt that head chef Robin Davies trained at the Ritz in Paris and was for a
time Lord Rothschild’s executive head chef at Waddesdon Manor.

There
is the choice of three rooms, all with lots of character, in which to eat: the
traditional bar, the music room which is more like a bistro with pictures on a
musical theme on its walls, or the more plushly furnished, intimate restaurant.
We were very happy in the music room, where Mrs Freddie had a grilled pavé of
salmon. The pavé turned out to be a thin slice, cut lengthways, and came with a
creamy spinach mash and a sharp mustard Hollandaise sauce. I chose tagliatelli
with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and pesto which made a happy blend of
flavours with the parmesan shavings that topped it, while the pine nuts
provided a contrast in consistency. As well as the main menu, there is a snack
board and a specials board. It is very important to both chef and owner that
the food is sourced locally and most of it comes from Dorset or the surrounding
counties. Much of it is organic.

The
Fiddleford Inn is open all day in the summer but closes in the afternoon in
winter. Food is served on weekdays and Saturdays from 12 to 2.30 and from 6 to
9.45 and all day on Sunday. Butcombe Best is the regular bitter, Otter from
Devon provides a darker alternative, while the other pump alternates between
beers from the Hidden Brewery and the Hop Back Brewery, both local
micro-breweries. The cider, ‘Cider by Rosie’, is made in Winterborne Houghton.

The
pub is a popular stopping-point for walkers on the nearby trail along the route
of the old S&D Railway, but its reputation is steadily spreading wider –
and deservedly so.

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