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La Fosse in Cranborne: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 15:05 06 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:05 06 November 2017

Mark creates legendary local cheese boards at La Fosse

Mark creates legendary local cheese boards at La Fosse

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Hyper-local food sourcing and world-class creative cuisine come together in Cranborne, as Helen Stiles discovers

Tucked away in the pretty village of Cranborne, near the east Dorset border, La Fosse is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the finest produce from three counties: Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. Its award-winning chef-patron, Mark Hartstone and his wife Emmanuelle, are passionate about using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients starting from their own allotment and produce from Cranborne’s villagers.

This dedication to promoting local food within his menus, often using smaller lesser known artisan food and drink producers, especially for cheeses, has won Mark many accolades including Best Chef in the Dorset Magazine Food, Drink & Farming Awards. Having seen Mark in his Dorset flag-emblazoned chef’s whites, I know he has a particularly soft spot for Dorset – he even has a bespoke tweed flat cap in Dorset colours!

Vegetarian diners at La Fosse at Cranborne have an exciting choice of dishes, as my dining companion Stu discovered. The summer fungi tart with seaweed and marsh samphire was, he said, “multisensory” - high praise indeed from a discerning vegetarian. My Rockbourne trout trio – not a blue grass group from the Appalachians – but a fine selection of Hampshire trout from gin clear waters near Fordingbridge - arrived in seared, hot and cold smoked formats, with a lovely lightly dressed salad. Both starters showed simplicity raised to the sublime by the chef’s art.

For our mains, my char-grilled lemon chicken with garlic girolles and new potatoes suited the balmy late summer evening. The free range chicken was beautifully moist. Sharp citrus flavours brilliantly partnered the earthy girolles – a match made in heaven.

Stu chose the sweet potato gratin byaldi; added to this slow-cooked tuber was a dash of truffle oil, and a few drops of Mark’s Sixpenny Gold reduction (the award-winning Sixpenny Brewery is located in the village), which added interesting floral and umami notes. Garlic, lemon and lime zest combined with Orchard Bay Bakery breadcrumbs to create the dish’s zesty crunchy topping.

I should confess at this point that we were pacing ourselves, as Mark is legendary for his local cheese board. But how can a girl resist an apple trio consisting of a scrumptious crumble, apple and maple ice cream and an apple salad – traditional apples from the village blanched in a cinnamon and apple liquor and then infused in a dash of Liberty Fields Apple Aperitif; a pleasingly autumnal trio that shouted of seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Stu’s indulgent caramalised banana, waffle and chocolate sundae was pronounced to be ‘proper man food.’

And so, clocking up minimal dairy miles, we arrived at Mark’s award-winning Dorset’s Best Cheese Board. This man is a judge at the World Cheese Awards – a true savant de fromage, so you know your taste buds are in the hands of an expert. Among the delicious dozen was a tangy Rosary goats cheese from the New Forest; Tilly Whim, a semi-hard cheese from the Chalk Valley across the field; Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers’ Stoney Cross, a truckle of mould ripened cheese similar to a French Tomme De Savoie; Ford Farm’s Dorset Red and Mark’s ‘overseas’ choice – Isle of Wight Blue.

How do you follow that? With a mini sweet shop selection, of course! Traditional favourites, like rhubarb and custards, mint humbugs, fudge and treacle toffee came in little glass jars. Our choices were popped into La Fosse’s candy striped bags, which we took off to our lovely beamed bedroom – all are named after a cheese, ours was Old Sarum. We fell asleep dreaming of cheese. I suspect Mark must do that quite a lot!

Find out more about La Fosse at Cranborne at la-fosse.com or call 01725 517604

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