In Somerset to see my parents, we decided on lunch at Masterchef winner Mat Follas’ Beaminster restaurant, The Wild Garlic, situated on the square right in the centre of this Dorset market town. The restaurant feels lovely and relaxed – not so laid back that you would be worried that the only thing on offer would be overcooked lentils, but not so starched that you can’t walk anywhere without tripping over hot and cold running flunkies. Simple wooden tables, half panelled walls, light and airy. Nicely laid back – the sort of establishment which understands that a meal is best enjoyed in good company in relaxing surroundings.
The menu is short, but with plenty of variety, focussing on quality local, seasonal ingredients. At lunch we found a choice of four starters, 6 mains and 4 puddings. The ‘lighter lunch’ choice of 2 courses for £14 or three for £17 looked to be particularly good value. I went for this option, whilst H chose from the a la carte menu.
My starter was a simple crab salad – a small portion, in a nod to the lighter theme. H had a fully flavoured ham hock terrine, followed by the days’ special of turbot. The main problem with the turbot was the mechanics of eating it – it was balanced on the accompanying potatoes, making the delicate task of separating out the bones tricky, to say the least. My confit of duck was the triumph of the day, richly flavoured, well seasoned and just delightful. Amuse bouches of fresh buttered garlic popcorn and a soupçon of soup both went down a treat.
Puddings, sadly, were a bit of a let down, although beautifully presented, a Kandinsky on a plate (or board). A lavender pannacotta which was a little oversolid; Of H’s Pavlova, the lemon curd, roasted nuts, butterscotch and peanut butter powder was a terrific addition; the meringue itself, though, was not the best, not hitting the highs, and with the feet that had oozed during the cooking. They were wonderfully white (the result of a very long, very gentle cook), though, but H’s meringue is always better. But then she is the queen of pavlova.
Lunch was rounded off with a quick chat with Mat himself, and it was interesting to discover the differences between running restaurants in London and in the country, with a country clientele being more amenable to game, for example.
Running a restaurant is very different from the cooking skills needed to win Masterchef. Happily, though, it looks as though Mat abilities as a restaurateur fully allow his delight in cooking to shine through. We look forward to visiting the Chesil Beach Cafe, his new venture.
Lunch. £60 with one glass of wine.
The restaurant is open Wednesday – Saturday for morning tea, coffee & cakes, lunch and dinner.
Booking is essential, call the restaurant on 01308 861446.
There is also an apartment above the restaurant where you can stay.