There are lots of great places to eat and drink within a short walk or drive of ‘Sunflowers’. Here are a few of our personally curated favourites, with contact details and observations. Those which are dog friendly are marked *.
Cafe Newt * at the MotoCorsa dealership, The Old Brewery, Wyke Road, Gillingham
Cafe Newt is a short walk from ‘Sunflowers’ (very near to the Buffalo Inn, as mentioned below) and opened in July 2017 as the in-house cafe at the amazing MotoCorsa motorcycle dealership housed in The Old Brewery building on the way to Wincanton – immediately identifiable by the stone elephants at the front! The cafe serves a range of light meals and snacks made using local ingredients (sandwiches, cakes, jacket potatoes etc) and local 918 coffees and Dorset Teas. Gluten-free bread and soya milk are available upon request and dogs are welcome in the conservatory at the rear and on the patio. Read our blog review here. They also serve an excellent Flat White and will offer your dog a free treat.
The car park is accessible via Pound Lane and dog owners are also requested to enter via the rear entrance, through the courtyard (where you can admire a life-size fibreglass model of a Bugatti as you do so!) Open Monday to Saturday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm.
The Secret Garden Cafe * at Thorngrove Garden Centre, Common Mead Lane, Gillingham
The closest place to go for coffee and cake to ‘Sunflowers’ – this is a gorgeous (newly opened, as of March 2018) cafe set at the heart of a nearby garden centre. Completely dog friendly, inside (the cafe) and out (the courtyard) with extremely friendly staff. Serves light lunches, ice creams and cakes as well as hot and cold drinks and is open Monday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm and (unusually) on Sundays too, 10.30 am to 4.30 pm.
The Ugly Duckling *, Swan’s Yard, Shaftesbury
Our favourite place for a coffee when in Shaftesbury. Very friendly staff. Cakes, sandwiches, ice creams etc as well as light meals. Daytime only. Very child friendly – they provide duckling pictures to colour in and crayons upon request. Outside covered seating area where dogs are welcome; water bowls provided.
The Pear Tree, 4 Half Moon St, Sherborne (opposite the Abbey)
This is a cute deli with a coffee shop attached. They offer light meals and snacks and close at c. 5.00 pm. We often call in if we’re in Sherborne for the farmers’ market – their field mushroom stuffed with Dorset Blue Vinny cheese is famous! No bookings taken.
You can walk to:
The Buffalo Inn *, Lydfords Lane, Gillingham, SP8 4NJ. Tel: 01747 823 759
A nice old pub with beers from Dorset brewery Hall & Woodhouse and also with a lovely Italian restaurant (Ristorante da Massimo) on-site, run by Massimo and his family. They’re adored locally for the authentic, thin crust pizzas made in the wood burning oven, as well as the home-made pasta dishes (which are huge, so go hungry). Booking is a MUST (we’re happy to book for you if you ask us to do so when you book your accommodation) as they only fill each table once per evening. Dinner and lunch available, plus coffees and the usual range of pub drinks. Dogs are permitted in the pub but not the restaurant area. The restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday evenings, but pizza is served in the garden from 3-6 pm on most summer Sundays. Winner of the Hall & Woodhouse Community Pub of the Year Award for 2017.
The Wine Bar*, 20 Queen Street, Gillingham. Tel: 01747 825 825
A very welcome addition to our local restaurant options since it was taken over in the autumn of 2017 by Arnie and Sarah, The Wine Bar is open for lunch (12 noon to 3.00 pm) and dinner (5.30 pm to 10.00 pm) Wednesday to Saturday and offers a good range of starters (typical dishes include home made soup, pate and tempura prawns, although the menu is regularly updated) and main courses (recent options include slow roast belly of pork, sesame crusted sea bass, butter nut squash and goats cheese risotto). Excellent service, highly recommended. Closed on Sunday nights and all day Monday and Tuesday. Specials available for steak (Wednesday) and tapas (Thursday) nights; read our blog reviews here and here.
Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the bar at the front of the restaurant and in the garden and decked area at the rear.
The Grill House, South Street, Gillingham Tel: 01747 824 278
Opened in June 2017 on the site of what was much loved restaurant SSK. Serves food from 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm, Monday to Friday; 12 noon to 9.00 pm, on Saturday and noon to 6.00 pm on Sundays – enjoy burgers, chicken, vegetarian options, huge sandwiches and a Sunday roast option: read our September 2017 review here. Booking suggested for Friday and Saturday evenings.
Also within a short walk of the property: The Gillingham Tandoori restaurant and The Phoenix * pub, which serves food at lunchtimes and is dog friendly.
You will need to drive to:
The Ship Inn *, on the A30 at West Stour, SP8 5RP (about 4 miles away). Tel: 01747 838 640 www.shipinn-dorset.com
This is our personal favourite pub – we go there a lot and always take our own guests for meals or just a drink. It’s an independent pub with a wide range of beers available (it won the Wessex CAMRA Pub of the Year award in 2016) and even has a gin menu! The food is also great and booking is a must. We love it for Sunday lunch – Steve is a big fan of the three meat roast. Open daily, but closed for dinner on Sunday evenings. Dogs are welcome in the bar but not the restaurant. It’s owned and run by Gavin, a really friendly and welcoming bloke. The car park is opposite the pub and you’ll need to cross the A30 on foot to get to/from your car.
The Udder Farm Shop and Restaurant, East Stour (on the A 30), SP8 5LQ. Tel: 01747 838899 www.theudderfarmshop.co.uk
This is a large farm shop, recently expanded to now include a deli counter, a butchers, a fishmongers, a selection of organic wines and a greengrocery section. They stock a huge range of locally sourced products (including 918 Coffee’s Flaming Dorset range, Dorset Teas, Moore’s Biscuits and our popular local yoghurt – all as served here by us) and have won assorted “Taste of the West” awards in recent years. They do takeaway sandwiches and coffees but also have a nice little restaurant on the side of the shop, which offers great views towards Shaftesbury. They are open for lunch, afternoon tea and snacks and booking is suggested for lunches. The UFS is extremely family friendly – we always take my nephews there. As well as a children’s menu, they also provide a lovely outside play area with a climbing frame and lots of space to run around. They often have coupons for a deal on tea and scones in the ‘Blackmore Vale’ magazine, so take a look in the copy in your room if that’s of interest.
The Mitre, 23 High Street, Shaftesbury, Dorset, SP7 8JE
Tel: 01747 853002 www.themitredorset.co.uk
Traditional style pub, serving Youngs beers and classic (but good!) pub food – fish and chips, ham and eggs, sausage and mash etc and with a nice children’s menu. The standout feature is the beautiful terrace at the back, which offers lovely views over the Blackmore Vale. It’s also very handy for the famous Gold Hill, where the iconic Hovis bread advertisement was filmed in the 1970s. You will need to park in the Bell St car park and walk from there to the pub. Booking recommended for summer evenings.
The Walnut Tree, Shaftesbury Road, Mere, Wiltshire, BA12 6BH. Tel: 01747 861220 http://walnut-tree-inn.co.uk
A place which is popular for its Sunday carvery; the food is great but we find the service to be a bit more “spotty” than elsewhere – however, it’s not a problem if you’re not in a hurry and just want to hang out. Very popular with friends/guests who are gluten intolerant, as they are known for offering a wider than usual range of gluten-free dishes.
The Coppleridge Inn*, Elm Hill, Motcombe, SP7 9HW. Tel: 01747 851980 www.coppleridge.com
It’s worth visiting this pub just for the superb drive – the daylight views between here and your destination are absolutely stunning and you get a beautiful view of the Blackmore Vale once you arrive. (Ask us for directions, as your sat-nav/GPS may send you a different way). Another favourite of ours, again for Sunday lunch or weeknight specials. Booking suggested at weekends. Dogs are allowed in the bar. The restaurant area is quite ‘old school’ in terms of décor and atmosphere, so previous guests have told us that they prefer the vibe in the bar and conservatory; you may also prefer to book a table in there instead. Lovely staff, who adore dogs. Food served at lunchtimes and from 6.00 pm, seven days a week.
Chutneys, 28 Salisbury St, Shaftesbury, SP7 8EJ. Tel: 01747 852585 www.chutneys-restaurant.com
After much local research, we’ve concluded that this is the best Indian restaurant in the area. It’s a cut above the more usual Bangladeshi interpretations of “Indian” food and the presentation and quality of the food is excellent. Booking is an absolute must on Friday and Saturday nights; open for lunch, dinner and takeaways. Guest Jim commented that the naan bread was the best he’d ever eaten!
La Fleur-de-Lys, Bleke Street, Shaftesbury, SP7 8AW. Tel: 01747 853 717
We haven’t actually eaten here ourselves, but a recent guest did and returned home RAVING about the food that she and her husband had for his birthday dinner, describing it as “The best meal I’ve EVER had!” So we thought we’d let you know about it, too. Our guest Alison, who took this photo, is a vegetarian and her husband is not – and they particularly like the fact that the menu had lots of choice for them both, in a more classic/fine dining setting. It’s a very small restaurant, with only a few tables, so do make sure you book in advance.
The Hive Beach Café*, Beach Road, Burton Bradstock, DT6 4EN www.hivebeachcafe.co.uk
A bit further afield, but well worth a visit if you’re down on the coast (about an hour’s drive from here). This is basically a beach shack which serves restaurant standard food, mostly fish and seafood, with a menu based on locally caught and sourced produce. We have one of their beautiful recipe books here if you want to take a look at their fish dishes. Considering you are sitting outside/under a tarpaulin, it’s not particularly cheap, but it is lovely and you get a gorgeous view over Burton Bradstock beach. If you’re a National Trust member, the café is opposite an NT site so you can go for a bracing walk before or after your meal. We often go here for lunch after we’ve visited the Bridport market in the morning. The café opens at 10 am and they do £10 mid-week lunch specials for the over 55s on Tuesdays and Thursdays during term time. Dog friendly in the café itself (but dogs are only allowed on the actual beach in the autumn/winter).