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The Square & Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset, pub review

Nigel Huddleston
square & compasses worth maltravers dorset - slim/geograph.org.uk

There’s something fitting about the fact that the Square & Compass has devoted valuable drinking space to a fossil museum. It’s not just that the pub sits high on the cliffs overlooking Dorset’s Jurassic Coast; it’s that the pub itself seems fixed in time, somewhere in the middle of the last century. It’s untouched by the modern trappings of gastro-food and app-driven table bookings. You simply roll up, possibly after a walk along the cliffs from Swanage or Lulworth Cove, thirst primed and ready to slake.

Food is available, but the menu is a simple selection of pies, and “pie” means exactly that, no more, no less: a Jenga-layered cube of wholesome simplicity, as if Mary Berry had been put in charge of the catering at a football ground. Its only accompaniments are the plate it sits on, and a fork. Drinks are served from a hatch in the wall, with customers queuing down the entry corridor. At busy times it’s like the Dad’s Army scene where Capt Mainwaring’s men all cram into a phone box. If it’s really busy a head pops out of a second hatch to solicit orders from down the line. 

In winter, there’s a choice between a snug that almost defines the term and a bigger room with a fire. But when the weather is fine you can drink in the stunning view along with your pint, looking out to sea on seats fashioned from Purbeck stone and retired farm machinery.

A fresh, zingy and nicely bitter Moonlite ale comes from Hattie Brown’s Brewery down the road in Swanage; Pitchfork from Epic Beers offers up tropical fruits, reflecting its relative exoticism, having travelled across the border from Somerset. Eve’s Idea cider is the driest of three home-pressed gems made by the pub’s owner Charlie Newman; it’s still, pleasantly acidic and quintessentially apple-y, as much a substitute for a good sauvignon blanc as for a cask beer.

Worth Matravers, Dorset BH19 3LF,

01929 439229,  squareandcompasspub.co.uk