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The Forester Reviews

From The Web

The Forester in Donhead St Andrew - Fire

Like so many pubs, The Forester has been through a number of changes over the years but in the last few it’s hit gold. Whilst it has an upmarket feel (to me it’s not “pubby”), many local people use it and the food is excellent

We loved it – had a really nice dinner, everything was great

“We are a walking group of seven men and two dogs who called in on Wednesday lunch time. We were made very welcome as were the dogs! We had a lovely lunch with extra special touches and great beer. Very much recommended.”

Trip Advisor

The Forester in Donhead St Andrew - Restaurant

“Fantastic dining venue. Lovely building with super food and excellent staff. Great beers and wines too! Thoroughly recommended.”

Beer in the evening

“Taking a break on our way through to Salisbury from Seaton, we dropped in on the Foresters for the first time. I’m glad we did, as we had super meals (the fish was to die for) all in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Thanks.”

“I cant believe my luck in finding a great pub, with an amazing menu, which changes daily I might add, all food sourced localy and what a fantastic wine list. Well done guys we will return.”

“The Foresters at Donhead is an excellent pub with really nice and original food. The beer is well-kept and the wine list is good and without too much of a mark-up. BUT: THERE IS NO RAILWAY STATION IN SHAFTESBURY!! In the review of the Foresters it states that the nearest station is Shaftesbury” [The nearest Railway Station is in Tisbury.]

Information Britain

The Best in the area; this village gastroboozer continues to attract plaudits for its “very high standard of cuisine” and “nice people too”.

Harden’s guide 2015

“Tipped as more a “top restaurant” than a gastropub (and certainly ‘worth the drive’), this ‘charming’, ‘cosy’ and ‘hospitable’ thatched inn, in a pretty village, attracts particular praise for ‘excellent fish’.”


The Forester in Donhead St Andrew - Eating

“The Forester is a lovely old country pub located in the Donheads close to Wardour Castle in beautiful walking country. Traditional in style, it has warm stone walls, a thatched roof, original beams and an inglenook fireplace. An extension provides a restaurant and a restaurant/meeting room, with double doors opening on to the lower patio area. The garden and large patio area are furnished with hardwood chairs and tables as well as bench seating. The restaurant has a good reputation for its freshly cooked food and specialises in Cornish seafood, with deliveries five times a week. A Taste of the Sea lunch might offer pan-fried herring roes with smoked bacon, capers and parsley, followed by fillet of plaice with herb butter and new potatoes. Alternatives might be Kashmiri-style duck leg curry, or rump of local lamb with goats’ cheese gnocchi, tomato and black olive jus. The wine list has been carefully compiled by the landlord. “

The AA

“Exceptional in every respect. Wonderful building, superb food and delightful staff. Wholeheartedly recommended.”

“The Forester Inn in Donhead St Andrew is outstanding. Very good food, good beer, and a very comprehensive wine list.”

“Visited this Pub recently, wish I’d had time to eat the menu is extensive and coupled with a fine wine list I am sure The Forester Inn would soon become a firm favourite in my list of places to eat out. A genuine Country Pub serving an excellent range of Food and Drinks.”


The Forester in Donhead St Andrew - Fine Dining

“A great deal of care and attention has been lavished on this immaculately thatched sixteenth-century inn on the Wiltshire/Dorset border. Outside, all is neat and tidy, while the interior has been allowed to display its traditional attributes including heavy beams, sturdy wood floors and a fire blazing in the inglenook.

The dining room puts on a more gentrified face with exposed stonework and paintings by local artists on the terracotta-hued, half-panelled walls. Food is taken seriously here, and the regularly changing blackboard menus suggest that the kitchen revels in its work.

Browse through the day’s offerings and you might find wok-cooked mussels with Thai spices or a salad of smoked duck with Cox’s apples and hazelnut dressing before mains such as seared tuna with aromatic couscous and chilli jam or something earthy like game pie or braised ham hock ‘crepaniette’ with garlic mash. Cappuccino brûlée and lemon tart with blackcurrant sorbet are the sorts of things to consider for a sweet-toothed finish. Real ales from Wiltshire and Dorset breweries vie for attention with the sharp wine list.”

The Mobile Food Guide

Others Say

“It’s always worth the trip to the Forester. Real hospitality from two lovely people who are there all the time running the “pub” just as it should be.

I like the fact that it’s still a pub but with the advantage of not just great beers and great food but a wine list chosen personally by the Chris and Lizzie who really know their stuff and they are brilliant at selecting wines from their native Australia, I’m always surprised by a new gem they have turned up.

I always have a problem choosing where to eat great seafood. The Forester comes out top for me, the fish is amazingly fresh and Chris and his chefs know exactly what to do with it. By far my favourite pub.”

Mitch Tonks
TV Chef, Food Writer, Restaurateur & Fishmonger.

The Forester in Donhead St Andrew Reviews 01

The Forester

Charles Campion Hauls an impressive catch at The Forester

“The pub has a well-deserved Michelin Bib Gourmand – it fits perfectly with the criteria of serving excellent food at reasonable prices”

You’ll find The Forester at Donhead St Andrew clinging onto the south west toe of Wiltshire. Dodge one way and you’re in Somerset, or Dorset, or Wiltshire. It’s a very beguiling bit of country with rolling hills, ancient woodlands and seriously expensive large houses. To confuse matters, there are two Donheads – St Andrew and St Mary.

Fly fishermen will note that Donhead St Mary is me source of the River Nadder, which then flows through Donhead St Andrew and onwards to nearby Salisbury. The country here abouts is riddled with chalk streams and there is a fledgling spring bubbling up in the garden of The Forester. The pub is large with several interconnecting rooms and bars, plus two private rooms that will seat a dozen diners around a large table. Casting an eye around the car park, it’s hard to overtook the fact that 90% of the cars are high-end four-by-fours – there should be a pub rating scheme based around the value of what’s in the car park.

Given a thoroughly British tendency to only eat fish when it is battered or turned into fish fingers, it is impressive that The Forester’s menu majors in fish Chris and Lizzie Matthews took the pub on 10 years ago and before that they worked with Mitch Tonks of the Fishworks chain and fish is clearly a passion – five out of seven starters and five out of nine mains are fishy. The kitchen relies on a Brixham day boat and a couple of West Country fishmongers to supply the quality and very fresh fish daily – menus change to reflect the catch.

Having overcome the customer prejudices attached to featuring fish, the kitchen then faces the challenge of working with what is basically a rewarding, but unforgiving, ingredient. Fish needs to be cooked carefully and the spectre of overcooking is always close at hand. Fish also tends to be an expensive ingredient, so The Forester does well to price starters between £6.50 and £8.50, mains from £l7 to £21, with only a couple of the larger steaks pushing the boundaries to £27.

One of the most impressive starters is the ‘Provencal style fish soup, rouille, Parmesan and in-house bread – a good rich bowlful. Especially considering the non-availability of some of the classic French ingredient fish such as rascasse. Provencal style it says and Provencal tastes it delivers. Or there’s ‘Grilled fillets of Cornish sardines, fennel, tomato and pickled baby artichoke salad with wild garlic dressing’; or ‘Calamari fritti of Cornish squid with tartare sauce’. The meat starters are also well done – ‘Wessex Lowline Angus tongue’ comes with a rather good oxtail ravioli and green beans in an intense consomme – plenty of textures and plenty of flavours. Or perhaps ‘Mere Park Farm lamb croquettes with beetroot ketchup’ appeals? The Forester relies on local suppliers.

The main course choices also walk the line between sophisticated fish dish and some crowd pleasers like a burger and some steaks – ’30 day aged Dairy Farm Barn, Wessex Lowline Angus beef’ – sirloin, fillet or a cote de boeuf for two. Meanwhile the main dishes offer sea bream, turbot, monkfish, haddock, and pollock. Order the ‘Roast tranche of Cornish turbot, olive oil crushed potatoes, white sprouting broccoli and Hollandaise sauce’ and you gets large hunk of perfectly cooked fish with a well-made Hollandaise. Overall, this is an accomplished dish. The ‘Fish and chips’ is also done well – ‘Brixham haddock in beer batter, hand-cut chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce’.

The seasonal elements are still there – ‘Roast Cornish Pollock, wild garlic mashed potatoes, spinach and sauce Vierge’ and the balance is good.

There is an impressive set menu (Tuesday to Friday lunch, Tuesday to Thursday dinner) that is forgivingly priced at two courses for £18.50 and three for £22.50. There are three choices each course, so you could be sitting down to ‘Pan fried herring roes, bacon, capers and toast’; then ‘Fritto misto of Cornish and Brixharn fish, fried, salad, wild garlic aioli’; and ‘Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream’.

It always spurs on the appetite when you come across an impressive cheeseboard and The Forester’s artisan cheeseboard sings to any cheese lover. The full array is £10 (a single cheese £3.50) and comes with bread or biscuits and some Devon honey on the comb. The selection changes, but might be Sussex Charmer, Bath Soft; Two Hoots Barkharn Blue; and one French guest – La Buchette, a goats’ cheese from the Tarn. All the cheeses are in fine fettle. Dessert is also taken seriously (six to choose from priced between £6 and £ 7.50). There’s a ‘Fresh pineapple tart tatin, masala ice cream’; ‘Dark chocolate mousse, orange curd, honeycomb, blood orange sorbet’; and that great classic Affogato’- honey ice cream, shot of espresso, biscotti, vin Santo. All the elements of a taste adventure. Black and white. Hot and cold. Sweet and bitter. A winner every time.

The Forester is driven by Chris and Lizzie and they have a crew of young bar staff, waiters and waitresses who are unfailingly friendly and eficient The pub’s wine fist steers a course between interesting bottles and good value options, while the bar offers two mainstream West Country real ales Butcombe and Otter. The pub has a well deserved Michelin Bib Gourmand it fits perfectly with the criteria of serving excellent food at reasonable prices. What is even more impressive is that in this instance the ‘excellent food’ is probably a fish dish. As a hand drawn poster in the bar relates, ‘Every fish should swim three times – once in water, once in butter, once in wine: Donhead St Andrew is some way from the sea, but the fish at The Forester is very good indeed.

Light bites from the bar
Sausage rolls and cockle popcorn

In pride of place on the bar is what may be the ultimate fuel for a greedy drinker – a large, hand-made, local pork and onion sausage roll with grain mustard on the side. Attractively priced at £3.50, this does question the price of crisps and peanuts! There is also a captivating ‘Appetiser’ – the cockle popcorn (£5.50). Deep-fried cockles deliver a rich vinegary tang – they are fried until crisp in a light batter. These are seriously more-ish.

Charles Campion
TV Chef, Food Writer, Restaurateur & Fishmonger.

Michelin Guide