2nd March, 2010
On a beautiful early Spring day we made our way down from Eggardon Hill, through potholed, mud-strewn lanes, past clumps of snowdrops and banks of willows laden with catkins, to the gem that is the Three Horseshoes. The owners have done a lot of work over the last few months with considerable improvements to the dining room, with the promise from the Brewery of a redecoration to the outside later in the Spring, and a refurbishment of the garden as soon as the workers can get on to the ground, things are definitely looking up, although there are still some rough edges to tidy up.
Things were less busy on this visit so service was good, although we still managed to while away the best part of four hours over another excellent meal.
The Palmers Copper Ale was excellent and with a glass of dry amontillado sherry and a dish of 'chilli' olives (not enough bite for my taste but pleasant enough) we settled at a table next to the fire.
Despite wavering over the mackeral with sea leeks (chef has a forager who supplies him with hedgerow and seashore produce) we both plumped for the venison platter. This comprised a couple of slices of a fine terrine, a homemade bresaola which was good whilst not being like any other bresaola I've ever had, the most fantastic Scotch egg, hot, with a centre of soft boiled quail's egg, a pot of beetroot relish and a garnish of purple water cress, beautifully served on the rather silly block of wood (but chef likes it that way and it is his place so who am I to argue?). Unfortunately the Scotch egg wasn't wheat free so I had to make do with a perfectly soft-boiled quail's egg but MrsRiverdale was able to pass on her comments.
MrsSRD felt she was being a little unadventurous when choosing the fish and chips but the fresh cod, which flaked into firm chunks, was as good as any she's had anywhere. It was coated in a light but crispy beer batter, with thrice-cooked chips which were crisp, without being hard, on the outside and melting on the inside and accompanied by a home-made tartare sauce, which dispelled any doubts she may have had.
I decided on the cottage pie, again it might seem a little unadventurous but the information on the menu that it was made using ox cheek, a meat I've not come across too often, and that it was accompanied by buttered greens, convinced me. The pie arrived in a terracotta dish looking rather slushy which was, at first, a disappointment; I'm one of those who usually insists on my shepherd's/cottage pie being firm, but the first forkfull showed me how wrong I can be. The meat was beautifully tender without being dry from over-cooking and the gravy was absolutely delicious and of just the right consistency. I'm not a lover of the thick, school-dinner, over-floured, type gravies and the light gravy that might accompany feathered game wouldn't have been suitable, this was a balance between the two and carried the flakes of meat perfectly. Due to my interest chef had incorporated some slivers of sea leeks into the greens which were a combination of purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens. The addition of the lightly garlicky, spring onion texture of the sea leeks made the dish into something really exceptional and an excellent foil to the pie, it would have been good with shoulder of lamb as well.
With rhubarb being in season I couldn't miss out on the Eton mess made with fresh rhubarb, it was as good as I'd hoped.
Mrs Riverdale chose the chocolate brownie with blackcurrant ice-cream. A fine pairing with the sharpness in flavour and creaminess of texture of the ice-cream contrasting well with sweetness of the brownie biscuit.
The exceptional food, with a couple of pints of good beer, a glass of sherry and a couple of glasses of an adequate Spanish red followed by a somewhat uninspiring cafetiere of coffee means the price of just over £70 keeps this place firmly in the realms of good value for money if not actually cheap.
It isn't unusual to be disappointed on returning to somewhere where one has had good experiences but there was no such disappointment for us. The food was excellent, the beer good and the premises improving no end. With the glorious surrounding scenery and access to long and short walks, this is a fine place to visit.