Arriving in the quaint Dorset village of Cranborne, you couldn’t feel further from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Despite being just a 30-minute drive from the charming cathedral city of Salisbury, Cranborne comprises of a village store, a pub, a garden centre, idyllic cottages, views of rolling hills, hardly any phone signal and not a lot else. If you want to ‘get away from it all’, this is the place to come.
There is one more place of interest in Cranborne and it’s probably the shining beacon of the village (and the surrounding area); La Fosse. Described as a ‘restaurant with rooms’, La Fosse is a unique destination in that it is both an award-winning restaurant and a homely bed and breakfast, all situated within an early Victorian house (some parts of the building are as old as the 12th Century). But on top of that, it’s so much more still – from the quaint private garden to the Scandinavian BBQ hut to the quirky décor of the rooms, La Fosse is full of surprises – in the best way.
There are six double rooms, each named after a different local cheese (which often feature on the restaurant’s award-winning cheese board – more on that later) all individually decorated with their own unique charm and a quirky mixture of old and new. Our room – ‘Old Sarum’ – featured an antique writing bureau, exposed original beams and a reading nook complete with matching suede armchairs, while the en-suite bathroom was full of Cowshed products.
The homely vibe is reinforced by the welcoming Mark and Emmanuelle, the husband and wife team who run the show here at La Fosse and are always on hand to provide fresh milk for your room, give recommendations for the local area or just have a chat.
Surrounded by field upon forest upon field as far as the eye can see, La Fosse is situated perfectly for walkers and cyclists wanting to explore Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire – ask nicely and you can even borrow some bikes. Or jump in the car and be at the scenic Jurassic coast in 20 minutes or in the depths of the New Forest even sooner. There are historical houses and gardens aplenty in this part of the world, plus Bournemouth is just a half hour drive away. Or try neighbouring – and slightly less popular (read: busy) – Christchurch, where you can try your hand at paddle boarding up and down the estuary, amble down to Hengistbury Head for a paddle in the sea and spot wild ponies on the riverbank.
After all that fresh air, dinner is most definitely on the cards and luckily, food is what’s at the heart of La Fosse. For a place that has received Best Restaurant and Chef of the Year in past Taste of Dorset awards and boasts a twice-winning Dorset’s Best Cheese Board, it’s a relaxed, informal and unassuming place to dine. If you’re lucky enough to have nice weather, you’ll be able to eat in the blissfully quiet private garden with birds circling and tweeting overhead, accessed only by a higgledy-piggledy walkway (make sure to say hi to the guinea pigs).
After starting with a cocktail or two, you won’t want to wait any longer to tuck into Mark’s delicious menu. Mark has trained under top chefs including Stéphane Carrafe at Chez Ruffet, Pierre Chevillard at Chewton Glen and Pebble Beach and at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, so we know we’re in for a treat.
If you haven’t ordered the six-course tasting menu in advance, the à la carte menu is ever-changing depending on the season and the day’s delivery of fresh produce from local suppliers. We start with a classic bruschetta with Somerset buffalo mozzarella and a delectable dish of seared scallops with chorizo, blackberries and nasturtiums. Mains include such delights as duck breast served with a berry jus and champ, Thai-style smoked haddock and a chicken trio.
The perfectly-sized portions mean we still have room for dessert (even after starting the meal with complimentary warm bread, butter and homemade nut and seed Dukka). We go for the mint choc ice cream with lashings of warm rich dark chocolate sauce, but the winner was definitely the lemon balm poached peach and summer fruit crumble. For those looking to really indulge, you could of course add a fourth course of that award-winning cheese board.
After all that indulging, we’re more than glad we only have a mere few steps to stumble up to get to bed, but the restaurant isn’t exclusive to B&B guests, so anyone visiting the area can dine here. For local residents, they are still running their takeaway ready meal service that was initiated during lockdown.
After a restful night’s sleep in the huge bed, it’s time for the second ‘B’ – breakfast. Normally, a full breakfast menu complete with full English offerings would be served downstairs in the restaurant (and previous reviews tell us that it’s outstanding). However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced breakfast to temporarily become a Continental-style affair delivered to your room, but there’s no need to be disappointed. The team has gone over and above to make up for the lack of hot breakfasts, and if you order wisely (like us) you can end up with a three-course breakfast consisting of a bacon muffin, fruit, yoghurt and granola and a croissant with plenty of sticky jam – not forgetting the tea, coffee and juice, of course.
La Fosse truly is a foodie’s delight, so thank goodness it’s surrounded by miles of unspoilt countryside to walk it all off.
La Fosse offers an elegant selection of rooms from doubles to suites. Prices range from £89 to £165, B&B, per night for two sharing. For more information or to book, please visit la-fosse.com or call 01725 517604.
Review by Georgia Green.