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Meet the publican: Gavin Griggs at The Ship Inn in West Stour

PUBLISHED: 10:49 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:10 29 August 2017

The Ship Inn at West Stour dates from 1720

The Ship Inn at West Stour dates from 1720


At The Ship Inn in West Stour, Gavin Griggs runs a great village pub for the community alongside a destination dining venue with an interesting seasonally inspired menu which he devises with head chef, Bruce Core

Throughout university Gavin Griggs worked in pubs and hotels, something he always enjoyed. So when in 2005 the London-based photography agency he ran was sold Gavin made a lifestyle change and bought a 1720 coaching inn in the heart of the Dorset countryside. Built by an old ship’s captain with timbers from his boat, The Ship Inn at West Stour has been transformed by Gavin and his wife Sally into a vibrant village pub, offering an ever changing locally sourced menu and a wide range of real ales, traditional ciders, interesting spirits and top notch wines. 

What was it like when you took over The Ship Inn?

The pub was very run down so it was a very steep learning curve. My Mum, a retired school head mistress did the cooking until I found a full-time chef and Dad, a retired dentist, helped out on the bar, they were a great help in those early days.

What inspires your menus?

Alongside the usual pub classics, head chef, Bruce Core and I pool ideas and do a cook off of the more unusual dishes we come up with before putting them on the menu, such as Caribbean goat curry, spicy Louisiana chicken and king prawn jambalaya or pheasant Kiev. We have fresh fish deliveries six days a week so fish dishes include seafood platter, dressed crab or Thai style mussels, and Bruce’s ‘Posh Fish Pie’ is a best seller. We are very popular for steaks, both fillets and rib eyes, and Bruce’s scallop dishes and twice baked soufflés fly out the door.

What’s on the menu at the moment?

Watercress and pear soup; courgette, halloumi and herb fritters with cucumber and dill sauce; grilled Lyme Bay mackerel fillets with harissa crème fraîche, roasted beetroot, chorizo and new potatoes; iced lemongrass parfait, mango coulis, papaya and mango compote…great summer dishes

Do you source a lot locally?

Meat comes from Andrew Barclay in Wincanton - who sources from local farmers, and my mother- in-law’s farm nearby supplies us with pork and lamb. Fruit and veg is from Hillside Farm in Sutton Wick, and salads from neighbouring Kington Magna.

Stepping behind the bar…

Last year we won Heart of Wessex CAMRA Pub of the Year, so this is quite a passion of ours. Being a freehouse I can buy from any brewery; we have three real ales which change every week, currently Six Penny Brewery, Keystone Brewery and Plain Ales Brewery as well as Timothy Taylor, Otter, Exmoor, Butcombe, Dorset Brewing Company and Sharps. We like traditional flat ciders with at least five from the West Country, including Landshire from Copse House Cider, up the road from us, and for summer we have a rhubarb cider Flat Tyre. Prosecco (by the glass or bottle) remains ever popular and new wines on the list for summer include Primitivo - a big juicy smooth red and Alabarino which is very crisp dry and fruity.

What about your spirit selection?

Alongside the usual spirits we have 20 different gins including Dorset gins Pothecary, Conker & Seven Swans. The other spirit gaining in interest is rum.

And if I want to stay over?

We have five very comfortable en-suite B & B rooms. We are famous for our hearty breakfasts, ranging from a Full English (with veggie option) to Eggs Benedict with ham from the mother-in-law’s pigs.

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