IF you were to rate a place purely on appearance and position, then the historic Bankes Arms Country Inn at Studland would certainly get five stars.

Built from Purbeck stone and perched near the cliff top with panoramic views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight, it has got to be one of the most picture-perfect pubs in the area. And if you’re a fine ale fancier, then you’ll be delighted to know that it is also home to the Isle of Purbeck Brewery. But what about the pub grub?

Well, as we were in the area early one evening we felt duty-bound to find out. There was just enough light for a pre-dinner drink in the large beer garden before we headed inside to get a seat as close to one of the two open log fires as possible.

Unfortunately only one of the fires was lit and the only table free was near the door but everywhere was candlelit so it felt warm and atmospheric.

There is no menu, just a selection of home-made specials written on slate tiles on the wall which cover all the main bases – meat, fish and vegetarian. The problem is that it can get rather busy and you usually have to queue to order your food at the bar.

I was tempted to try the local pan-fried sea bass but couldn’t resist the idea of poached salmon with prawns in a Marie Rose sauce. Although it sounded like a fairly logical combination, I wondered if the sauce would be too over-powering for the fish.

But in fact it worked well and enhanced rather than masked the subtle flavour of the pink fleshy salmon fillet which had been perfectly poached and was so tender it was like cutting through butter. The dish came with choice of chips and salad or new potatoes and vegetables so I went for the latter option.

Meanwhile my husband was making short work of his lamb shank which was the size of his fist and had been slow-cooked in a rich, red wine and rosemary sauce.

For dessert we shared a large wedge of home-made apple pie which was jam-packed with filling in a rich buttery pastry and served with a choice of ice-cream, cream or custard. We plumped for custard which was the good old fashioned rib-sticking stuff – perfect!

Although it’s not cheap, all the produce is said to be fresh and local and the portions are ample.

Another plus for us is that well-behaved dogs are accepted and if you have one too many ales, you could always stay the night as there are ten bedrooms upstairs!

This is an independent review by a reporter without the cooperation of the establishment.

My Bankes Arms Country Inn bill:

Poached salmon fillet £10.50
Lamb shank with new potatoes and salad £13.50
Apple pie £4.75
Pint of ale  £3.60
Small glass of wine  £3.05

TOTAL:   £35.40


The Ratings Board

  • Location: *****
  • Atmosphere: *****
  • Value for Money: ***
  • Quality of food: ****
  • Service: ***
  • Comfort: ***
  • Family friendly: ****
  • Menu choice: ***

Overall: ****