Hoovering: A local pub, for foreign people

We had an impromptu visit from some family who live worlds away. My American Uncle Bob (pronounced Unkee Baaaaaaaaaab) popped over from Albuquerque, New Mexico – Breaking Bad country. Despite being capable of outdrinking a pirate, my lovely Uncle is no Walter White. He plays golf.

My cousin Jenny was also over from the Virgin Islands, where she runs her coffee shop on a marina. It’s always so exciting to see them. They left their sunny idylls to join us in drizzly Langton Matravers, Dorset, the home of my Nana, Mum, step-Dad, Bracken (dog) and my teenage wonder-sister Hatty. We, along with friend AJ, went for Sunday lunch at the village pub: The Kings Arms.

Jess and Jenny

When I was growing up in Swanage, the town next door, this was the sort of pub you would avoid like the smear. It could have been the inspiration for The Slaughtered Lamb in An American Werewolf in London. Are you imagining that? Well, the food was worse than the atmosphere.

I left home 13 years ago. How far has it come on in those years? Leaps and bounds don’t even cover it. It’s lovely now. It has become somewhere where friendly people sell you great food and drinks. It’s not posh and it’s not trendy but everything about it is good. Flag-stoned floored, hobbit-low-ceilinged and built from local Purbeck stone, it’s tiddly yet maze-like. We booked a little room off to the right, as you go in.

You can’t be in a Dorset village and not guzzle cider. They had Stowford Press on draught. If I’m not in a position to drink a local scrumpy (i.e. I need to be able to remember my own name at some point in the next 10 days) then this is my favourite. It’s fresh, crisp and dry. Without being saccharin like Magners or Bulmers or throat-strippingly acidic like Strongbow or Symonds. Aspalls is delicious, too, but it gives me the sort of hangovers that make me cry at adverts for banks.

For a pre-lunch snack I had some Snyder’s Jalepeno Pretzel Pieces. They were great big chunks of crunchy pretzels coated in a nuclear-strength chilli dust. They were hotter than Chris Pratt. They were hotter than Jennifer Lawrence. They were a bit much, for a sensible person. I’m not a sensible person and I’ve got a weird, fire-retardant mouth. I made an unhealthy dent in them.

We got settled at – or in the case of the dog, under – our mega-table. It was cool that they still had a few other options for people who didn’t want a roast. Jenny had ham, egg and chips, which looked pretty excellent. I rarely ever have roast lamb, so I went for that.

Like the pub, it was charmingly unfashionable and frill-free. The meat was plentiful and gorgeous. Medium cooked and slathered in wonderful, real, moody, soup-like gravy. The vegetables had room for improvement. All the roast-eaters felt a little stinge-d that we only had one parsnip each, but we’re a parsnip-loving clan. The carrots and broccoli had been boiled a little too close to the sun but were still tasty. Largely because they sat in a dreamy lake of that wonder-gravy.

I loved the mange tout. Our American comrades had never met a mange tout before. That was fun to try and explain.

“Like a pressed version of a sugar snap pea.” “Whats a sugar snap pea?”

The Yorkshires weren’t as perfect as when you get them seconds after they’ve left the oven, but they were still delightful. Crunchy, slippery and so comforting, like a hot water bottle that you put on the inside of your tummy.

The mint sauce was the nuts and tasted home-made. Tartly zinging through all those other hearty, wholesome, salty flavours.

And oh, the roasties. They took the gold. They were absolutely spot on. Hot, molten and crumbly coated. Fluffy, creamy, rich insides dissolving in your mouth like some sort of beautiful magic. I’ve just made a guttural, animal sex-noise while recalling them. Some of our party said they were the best roast potatoes they have ever had.

We were too full for a whole pud so Nana, Jenny and I got one to share. Ginger and lemon cheesecake. The ginger in the base was nice. The rest was less so. It had never met a lemon and it’s impression of a lemon was so bad it was lemon-ist. It tasted of sweet nothing, literally. But it was worth having ordered it just to see how excited our Nana looked when it arrived. Glorious.

Nana and the cheesecake

Lovely grub in an intimate pub with my lovely tribe reunited for an afternoon. Doesn’t get much better.

The Kings Arms, 27 High Street, Langton Matravers, Dorset, BH19 3HA
Tel: 01929 422979
Opening Hours: Mon- Sat: 11am – 11pm, Sun: Midday- 11pm
Disability Access: Yes, though it’s small and windy it is all on one level. There is no disabled toilet, however, and one-step to access the toilets generally. Very narrow walkways.