Best for: spruced up Dorset bounty, minus the white tablecloth, seven-course nonsense.
Dish to order: tricky as Brassica’s menu changes not once but three times a day, by virtue of the fisherman’s haul or the farmers’ offering – just without the familiar local-seasonal preach.
Its stone may be greyer, its boutiques more affordable, and its residents less Notting Hill-orientated, but Beaminster is about as close as Dorset comes to a picturesque Oxfordshire village. There’s the same Agatha Christie quaintness, bunting and Labrador profusion. There’s also a superb restaurant, more understated than the Oxfordshire sort (a radical local-seasonal approach is tradition, not trend in rural Dorset), which sits on the square, pulling in all its sunlight through two marvellous bay windows and emitting a ruddy, welcoming glow at night. Brassica, run by Cass Titcombe, Louise Chidgey and a clan of incredibly affable waitresses, feels more farmhouse sitting room than restaurant, with its crackling fire, flagstones and wicker chairs. Much like the gentleman sat on the table opposite us, there’s an unexpected quirk amid the traditionalism – a pair of bright green angular specs and Doc Marten style boots furnishing an ironed shirt and plummy accent with intrigue, much like the contemporary art and retro lighting against Brassica’s soft farmhouse canvas. The menus also seem to tow this line. A pork shoulder, but make it ragu style with perfectly crisp polenta or a steak cut with the elegance typically reserved for fish – even the bowl of chips has a cosmopolitan lick to it. From the divinely soft aioli-lathered focaccia all the way to the comforting gingerbread pudding and affogato, here’s a menu that can win the hearts and stomachs of both the pub grub brigade and the hard-to-please city palates. Indeed, it sits in that sweet spot, a comforting distance away from the silver service (and often crusty) fine dining malarky, edging closer towards elevated simplicity, but ‘simple,’ (despite the term’s new-age allure) doesn’t do this fabulously unfussy joint justice. The spanking fresh razor clams drizzled in chilli, garlic and parsley butter and the extensive wine list of mainly European varieties would attest. As I leave, the green-specced gentleman introduces me to his posse of publishing veterans and plugged-in locals, convened around a Merlot-studded table. They’ve left the big smoke behind and are determined I leave behind all notions of scribbling gushy prose about their secret epicurean tavern. Such is the spirit of Dorset, and Brassica captures it entirely.
Address: Brassica, 4 The Square, Beaminster, DT8 3AS