Restaurant review: The Wild Garlic, Beaminster, Dorset

Our Score was 9.5/10 (including 0.25 taken off for a wobbly table) ... not bad ! Here's the online version of the review:

Restaurant review: The Wild Garlic, Beaminster, Dorset

Mat Follas, 2009 MasterChef winner, has opened a restaurant. Has he bitten off more than he can chew? Far from it
Wild Garlic
The Wild Garlic, Beaminster: What a difference a year makes – Mat Follas has gone from winning a TV cooking competition to setting up this little beauty of a restaurant. Photograph: David Partner

Adducing a corpse as a witness for anything is a cheap and distasteful gambit, so let me begin by suggesting that Keith Floyd, who died after lunching elsewhere in Dorset a few days after our visit, would have adored Mat Follas's first restaurant and might even have identified him as the fruit of his culinary loins. Although familiar to many of you as this year's MasterChef winner, Follas was a new face to me due to the Grossmanophobia that makes watching that show impossible even now, years after that stoic sufferer from irritable vowel syndrome departed. Follas's career is the mirror image of Floyd's, the latter becoming a telly character off the back of being a chef-proprietor and the former achieving the trick in reverse, but otherwise they are as one. The vibrant passion for food – the sourcing and foraging for it, as well as the cooking of it – with which Floyd laid the populist ground for programmes such as MasterChef shines through at the Wild Garlic in the pretty town of Beaminster.
  • Open lunch, Tues-Sun, noon-2pm (11am-2pm Sun brunch); dinner, Thurs-Sat, 7-11pm. Price per head for three courses, wine, coffee and service, £40-45.
There is so much else to admire that the traditional Hazgush warning must be issued. The twin traps of fierce lighting and lousy acoustics that often ruin otherwise impressive restaurants are nimbly avoided. The light green walls are unencumbered by hideous paintings, the furniture is farmhousy solid, and the room resounds with the appetite- stimulating buzz of relaxed people relishing their grub.
The short printed menu, meanwhile, bolstered by a wide range of blackboarded daily specials, is perfectly judged and resists the temptation to impress with technical wizardry that afflicts many gifted amateurs when they turn pro. Follas understands that encouraging first-rate ingredients to taste of themselves has the edge over poncery and ostentation. He also has unusual mastery of presentation, adorning the starters with an exquisite little salad dotted with edible flowers. Pan-fried garlic scallops (three plump beauties for £7; the pricing of both food and wine is without chutzpah) came alluringly browned, and with absurdly delicious miso-infused seaweed. My wife was lukewarm about her caramelised goat's cheese ("Nice enough, but a bit pointless"), but my smooth, subtle chicken liver pâté was great, while ceviche of brill was spectacularly fresh and zingy, and had a limey kick to keep a fleet of Tudor galleons scurvy-free for a year.
There then followed a moment that had me cooing at Follas's business sense. The inter-course hiatus was plugged by an amuse-bouche of a dozen clams garnished with capers and garlic mayonnaise, one of those cute touches that costs a restaurant thruppence but leaves punters purring at what seems a lavish freebie. Two of us then went for the lemon sole, a vast and blameless fish served whole and on the bone, and laden with more capers and garlic butter. My wife thought her ribeye steak of water buffalo well seasoned and cooked to the ideal medium rarity, but lacking the depth of flavour of beef, and for what the marital ledger reveals to be the ninth time in 18 years of holy wedlock, we were in full agreement there. However, she was wild about the "smoked mash" – a mound of fluffy, creamy potato suffused with a hickory, mesquitish twang – that also came with my five ruby-red slices of sensationally tender and flavoursome sika venison.
Fresh berry mess was magnificent, and chocolate brownies with cream, chocolate twizzle and berries was "absolutely the best I've had outside the Popeseye," said my wife of a beloved west London steak house.
All in all, this was one of the most pleasing meals I've eaten in years, served with warmth and expertise by a dramatically mustachioed manager and a droll waitress in pole position to do something about it, since her day job is running the old-fashioned barber's bang opposite. Follas is an exceedingly rare talent. Nothing the programme could ever accomplish could compensate for unleashing Loyd Grossman on this island, but MasterChef should be very proud of itself indeed.


  1. I had to look up what 'adducing' meant, Mat. For the first word of the intro, it's a shocker.
    But well done, and well deserved.

  2. Congratulations Mat. I was so pleased to read this review - you deserve it! I expect there was a lot of whooping and hollering in Beaminster when you got the paper on Saturday!

    BUT you haven't put your score up! Why not? It's one of the highest I've seen - even with the 0.25 taken off for the wobbly table. Don't hide your light under a bushel!

  3. Ooooh, how lovely :-) Well done Mat!

  4. Well done, Mat - I was really pleased to read this in my Saturday Guardian!

  5. Well done Mat - I'd love to come to your restaurant one day, it looks fantastic.
    Your family must be really proud of you congrats!

  6. Congratulations Mat, it's a lovely review and so well deserved based on the passion we saw you display on the telly!

    I just wish we were closer so we could pay a visit!

  7. Hi Matt. Congratulations on the review. I used it to seal zillions of hints that I wanted to go to your restaurant for my 50th last weekend. It worked but all went Pete Tongue big style from there. I was told by my missus Friday morning that a table was booked and a room above the restaurant reserved. I was delighted but a little bemused as I could find no reference on your site to rooms above the restaurant.(though when I met you at Exeter Food festival you did say you were looking to offer rooms ultimately) Anyway to cut a very long story short it the day unfolded with the facts that we were booked into Wild Garlic in Nailsworth Gloucestershire and we were committed to the room cost. The chef there is also called Mat(t). The upshot was that we drove two and a hlaf hours in torrential rain to eat in the wrong restaurant!! Thankfully Matt was lovely and made a right fuss of us producing some lovely food and told us this wasnt the first time this had happened so beware folks and you might want to bearit in mind Mat? Anyway I have got over my unbelievable disappointment and will make my way to Beaminster sometime soon but this time the arrangements will be in my hands!! Andy Exmouth

  8. Merry Christmas Mat, all the best for you, the family and the restaurant for 2010


  9. This is a very informative article. I am glad to have discovered your blog. I will definitely promote this blog among my circle of friends Naples restaurants

  10. Would be a REALLY good idea to post opening times on your website and/or your answerphone message please. Just phoned to try and book a table for tonight (Monday) and now see from the above that you're not open at all on Mondays and only do dinner Thurs-Sat. We'll have to try again another time.

  11. Restaurant opening is here:

    The phone message is too long already I think but will think if we can fit it in