The Three Horseshoes, Powerstock, Dorset

It’s amazing how many blog posts I’ve still left to write from our short trip to Dorset at the end of May. I’ve already blogged the foraging course around which the weekend away was arranged, our meal at Hix Oyster & Fish House, another at The Wild Garlic and even shared what we cooked with our foraged bounty.

Still to come are interviews with the lovely owners of Denhay Farm and also with Mat Follas and Terry Ireland (one of the semi-finalists in this year’s Masterchef). Phew! For now, another restaurant review…

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For the third evening meal of our trip we followed local recommendations and headed to Powerstock for a meal in the Three Horseshoes pub.

I’m glad we phoned ahead to reserve a table as it’s pretty small inside and it was a popular place. Much more in demand were the tables outside, but I’m a funny one about eating outdoors unless we’re talking picnics…

I can no longer recall which beer Pete chose, but the fine sunny weather put me in a Pimm’s frame of mind and I ordered my first of the season. Sadly, the barman seemed unfamiliar with this classic – he measured a shot of Pimm’s into a glass and held the glass towards me. “Oh, noo”, I responded, “it needs a lemonade mixer in it, please”. That he managed but when I asked whether they might have any cucumber or strawberries or even a little fresh mint, he looked utterly bemused. I gave up and accepted my somewhat denuded Pimm’s. Sadly, it was also weak and insipid – I’ve since learned that the standard Pimm’s measure is 50 ml, whereas the barman poured only a single spirits measure (which was presumably the standard 25 ml or possibly a slightly larger 35 ml one).

Still, the sun was shining, we were on holiday, the food had been recommended and we were in fine mood regardless. The menu was chalked up above the fireplace – one of those marvellous menus where you struggle to narrow down your choice between all kinds of tempting dishes.

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As we were waiting for our starter, we were served some bread and butter.

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Having had a late lunch (at the end of the foraging course earlier that day) we decided to share a starter of wild boar and quail scotch eggs, pickles (£6). These were good, though they didn’t need the extra sprinkling of sea salt over them, they were strongly salted already. Tasty meat around soft-centred eggs.

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Pete chose the cod in beer batter, triple cooked chips, chunky tartare (£11). A generous portion of crispy battered fish with a simple salad, with the chips hiding beneath the fish. Even more so than the scotch eggs, this dish suffered from over salting mostly in the batter/ fish.

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I opted for the hanger steak St George, roasted bone marrows, chips ((£18). Unfortunately, the inside of the bone marrow was fridge cold. I called someone over, explained the problem, and had the whole plate whisked away whilst I was still in the middle of a sentence asking whether they could bring a side-dish to take the marrow away so I could continue eating the rest. Oh well, at least they left my bowl of chips.

Some considerable time later, by which time Pete was virtually finished with his dish, my plate was returned. The steak was beautifully tender and juicy. The mushrooms and sauce full of flavour, the sauce having clearly been reduced down to concentrate it. Sadly, once again, the chef was far too liberal with the salt – so much so that I actually couldn’t eat the sauce and scraped it off the mouthfuls I ate. The bone marrow had been tarted up with breadcrumbs to the extent that all bone marrow flavour was completely lost and all that remained was greasy, crunchy, herby breadcrumbs. You’d be forgiven for thinking the dish a complete failure based on the description so far. But, with the exception of the bone marrow, which really didn’t work, it was so almost there, so nearly a very successful dish, that it actually made me feel sad. More sad than I would have had it been completely rubbish.

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So, the Three Horseshoes pub then – a food lovers destination? Possibly so, as I’m confident the main weakness could so easily be fixed.

The flavours are right, the textures are good, the ingredients are of good quality.

The cooking, in the most part, is accomplished but let down by the very heavy-handed salting – I have no idea whether that’s the result of a jaded palate (which I doubt given the excellence of flavours) or failing to taste before seasoning. It’s doesn’t help that there seems to be an attachment to throwing an extra large pinch of sea salt over every finished dish as some kind of garnish, though the over-salting is more integrated than that – the scotch egg meat, the batter and fish, the herby bone marrow mix and the steak sauce… all were too salty and significantly so.

But service is warm and friendly, the location and feel of the place is attractive and the menu certainly appealing. I would be happy to visit again and see whether the chef is indeed worth his salt.

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13 Comments to "The Three Horseshoes, Powerstock, Dorset"

  1. Northern Snippet

    Its a shame when food is over salted.If its been correctly seasoned during cooking there shouldn't be any need to add extra,esp when reduced sauces which concentrate flavour/salt are used.
    The poor barman mustn't have been given any training,they would have had the required items in the kitchen,I like my Pimms with Borage-grows like wildfire in the garden or pot.
    Looks a nice place though!

    Reply
  2. Kanga_Rue

    I'm gobsmacked that any barman in the UK wouldn't know how to make a Pimms! Even if he doesn't drink them himself surely he's seen them before?

    Such a shame when over-salting occurs. Seasoning is important – I hate underseasoning as much, and it should be done during the cooking process. Certainly not as a garnish! Definitely some improvement needed, but looks like it could be a place to keep an eye on. Perhaps the chef was having an off day, so might be worthwhile checking out again next time you're in that neck of the woods.

    Reply
  3. Kavey

    @Northern Snippet – absolutely, they certainly would have had mint at the very least!

    @Kanga Tue – I know, I was gobsmacked too!
    Regarding the chef, with the single exception of the over-salting, the food was great, so would certainly be happy to go back and try again, no hesitation!

    Reply
  4. ruduss

    I'm not a huge fan of salty foods – a slight seasoning is all that's required to bring out the flavours. There's nothing much you can do when a dish does come out with liberal amounts of the stuff. I usually just ask them to cook it again.

    The scotch eggs look great – I love it how they get it soft-centred.

    Reply
  5. Josordoni

    I think I must be the only person left in the world that thinks runny eggs in scotch eggs is gross… sticky , or even hard boiled, is much better if they are to be served cold.

    Runny eggs are only for serving hot, with something to dip in the yolk, toast at breakfast, chips at all other times.

    Reply
  6. fingersandtoes

    I've had that with Pimm's before. My old local had a different person behind the bar every time I went in, seems like they employed a lot of transient working holiday types. One Eastern European girl had no idea what Pimm's even was, she had to go and ask someone, then tried to pour me a shot… although they usually have fruit in this pub there was no chance I was getting any.

    Reply
  7. Kavey

    @josordoni – these weren't served cold – I agree runny yolk would be disgusting in that situation, but then also unlikely as residual heat would continue to cook it as the egg cooled down. These were served hot and as such, I love the runny yolk!

    The only time I like hardboiled is when eating eggs cold and when the eggs are served within an egg curry.

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  8. Kavey

    Finally, my missing comments have appeared, though oddly, not in the order they were posted!

    @Ruduss – yes I would rather a chef hold back a touch on the salt, even if it tastes (a little) under salted to them, to account for different tastes in terms of ideal level of salting. Customers can always add salt but they can't take it away… and yes, I love hot, fresh scotch eggs with the soft centre yolk!

    @fingersandtoes – This young barman was a Brit so would have expected him to have heard of Pimms, but perhaps it's not a common choice in his age group, and he may only have started recently. Still, a country pub like that one in glorious sunny May – they'll surely get quite a few orders for Pimms!

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    You really don't want to eat there!
    The chef/ landlord is very bad tempered and rude!
    He massively oversalts his food and doesn't take critisism or complaints well (as i personally experianced). I heard him shouting at a young lad and call him the C word from outside in the car park – absolutely disgraceful behaviour!

    As for the bar staff, well very nice young people but very inexperianced! – none of them seemed to have any enthusiasm or know what they were doing!

    A very bad place to dine!
    If you want good pub grub, the Greyhound in beaminster is good!

    Reply
  10. Mat Follas

    I recognise Anonymous from some of my reviews ! lol

    To be fair to 3 Horseshoes I've heard great reviews recently and a number of comments how he has 'sorted' the salting

    Reply
  11. Kavey

    Many thanks, Mat.

    Certainly, the anonymous post coupled with the OTT comments AND the “helpful” suggestion of a nearby competitor certainly made me think this must be a fake comment by a competitor.

    My feeling is, if you can't get enough business on your own merits rather than by badmouthing competitors anonymously, you're doing something wrong!

    Reply
  12. Barry & Sue

    Friendly and wonderful service from the bar Staff, fantastic setting – so peaceful and quiet. Good selection of wines reasonably priced. Nice menu – we had Macaroni Cheese (with a nice blue cheese & mushroom twist) and Traditional beer battered Fish & Chips – cooked to perfection and delicious!! We’ll definitely be going back for more.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    If anything reads like a fake review from a “friend” of the business, it’s this. Why would a real visitor trawl the net for a years old review only to leave their comment on it. Nuh uh.

    Reply

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