Dorset Strikes Gastronomic Gold


Jonathan Raggett, Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels, talks about two recent awards that underline the quality of the dining experience at Summer Lodge.

Jonathan Raggett

Jonathan Raggett

“Guests at Summer Lodge regularly rave about the quality of the cuisine and many express amazement at the fact that the restaurant does not get more in the way of official recognition and awards.  I totally agree, but as Managing Director of the Red Carnation Collection nobody is going to pay any attention to me – I’m obviously rather biased!

I was therefore hugely pleased to see that the recently announced Condé Nast Traveller Gold List 2010 includes Summer Lodge as one of the best three hotels in the UK for food

This is nothing more than Steve Titman, our Executive Chef, deserves.   The Condé Nast Traveller judges praise him for producing “fine-tuned classic English cuisine using local produce: Dorset lamb, pan-seared sole, pot-roasted guinea fowl, and his signature dish, shepherd’s pie.”  I can second that, and would like to point out that the humble sounding shepherd’s pie is a real labour of love for Steve.  It takes him two days to prepare – that’s how long he spends over a hot stove to create the gorgeously rich stock and to make sure the meat just melts in your mouth.  The presentation is a feast for the eye and the flavour is exquisite.  Calling it shepherd’s pie is, in my opinion, a little misleading…and an example of Steve’s endearing modesty.    

As the judges suggest, Steve also takes considerable pains to work very closely with local producers to find the very best that the region has to offer.  Provenance is a passion for him and he cultivates terrific relationships with local farmers, fishermen,  game keepers and cheese makers.  He also uses home grown vegetables and herbs, fresh from the hotel’s kitchen garden.

Condé Nast adds that “the wine list, by sommelier Eric Zweibel, is excellent” and I certainly wouldn’t argue with that.  Eric is a legend, with vast experience and a stunning list of achievements to his name. In 2004 he was named Ruinart’s UK Sommelier of the Year (as past winners are ineligible for further competition, he now acts as a judge) and in 2007 was listed among the world’s four most accomplished practitioners in the Best Sommelier of The World Competition, in which he was also the sole finalist from his native France.  The list he has created for Summer Lodge is truly spectacular, and has received the prestigious ‘Best of Award of Excellence’ from Wine Spectator, every year since 2005.

Earlier in the year, thanks to this talented pair and the dedicated team at Summer Lodge the restaurant was also named ‘Restaurant of the Year 2009’ in the Taste of Dorset Awards. 

I’m sure these two awards will not be their last and the pair of them already have great things planned.  They’re collaborating on a series of cookery demonstrations, and have just announced the 2010 season of Summer Lodge wine dinners – if you enjoy your food and wine, and want to learn from a couple of real masters, these are opportunities I’m sure you won’t want to miss!