Muddy eats: the Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George

img_0149When the weather turns parky, where else to head than a cosy pub serving up a menu of delicious, winter warming food? That’s why a friend and I tottered out of the freezing cold night and into the warm and welcoming embrace of the award-winning Lord Poulett Arms in Hinton St George the other evening.

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The former Georgian coaching inn, in the almost too perfect South Somerset village of Hinton St George (not far from Crewkerne and Ilminster), is good looking but unpretentious, with a local pub feel and a smattering of national awards and accolades for its food.

img_8928Inside lights were low, with flickering candles and up-lighters, an open fire in the hole in the wall dividing the main room into two, a separate snug with a huge inglenook fireplace, a bar area off to one side with newspapers, books and a comfy chairs – oh, and a load of Autumnal hops hanging from the beams. Exposed stone, flagstone floors and Farrow & Ball walls complete the picture. It’s certainly got plenty of atmos.

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My inglenook is bigger than your inglenook

Table settings are simple and in keeping with the surroundings: brass candlesticks, starched linen, plain silverware – and for the country touch, a little flower pot.

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Bread was a home-baked mini cottage loaf, still warm…img_8938

If the setting is a little bit country, the starters are a little bit rock’n’roll.  Like the pub platter of Thai chilli beef, salt and black pepper squid, salad, crisps and Japanese rice crackers; and the Black Cow vodka and salmon cured with beetroot (hence the colour), with chervil root puree, beets and dandelion. img_8946

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The mains were just the sort of thing you feel like on a winter’s evening: heartwarming, generously portioned, classic dishes – with an added Lord Poulett twist. So the pan-roasted Exmoor venison loin (perfectly cooked) with butternut squash fondant, pumpkin puree (especially good) and buttered leeks came drizzled with a bitter chocolate sauce (sounds odd but it worked).

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Bright green broad beans and spicy Merguez sausage were added to the slow braised rolled lamb breast, Puy lentils, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and roasted red pepper. And the lamb? Tender, tasty and lots of it.

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I always say I’m going to have the cheese but I always end up with a dessert. Here’s a pretty bird’s eye view of snowy ginger beer sorbet and flower petals hiding a hearty Victoria plum bavarois, Chantilly cream and ginger beer jelly (which I couldn’t finish) and the incredibly sweet honey jelly,  apple flapjack,  cream and meringues (which my friend did).img_8969

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Staff were brilliant by the way – knowledgeable, helpful, efficient and really friendly. Makes all the difference.

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: By night, definitely couples: the flickering candlelight oozes romance (the pub has  four boutique bedrooms too, just saying), or just good friends. By day, anyone who enjoys platefuls of good quality food in convivial surroundings, including families with kids. In the warmer weather, there’s an attractive garden out back with (from memory) vintage French wire furniture.

Not for: anyone not feeling hungry: you get loads on the plate; those who want a formal dining experience – it’s a country pub. Strict vegetarians – out of nine mains,  five are meat, two fish and only one’s veggie.

£££: Mid-range, I’d say. Starters £6.50-£8. Mains from burger at £14.50 to venison at £25. Desserts £6-£6.95; selection of artisan English cheeses £7.25-£11.50.

Opening hours: pub 12am-11pm; restaurant 12pm-2.15pm & 6pm-9.15pm.

Lord Poulett Arms, Hinton St George, TA17 8SE, Tel 01460 73149. lordpoulettarms.com

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Somerset