This is my last post about England and to be honest, while I’m typing this I have tears streaming down my face. As this chapter in my life closes, I realize that these past 6 months have redefined me as … Continue reading
While I was off gallivanting in Scotland with my sister, David was off exploring the English Countryside with a friend. Thanks to a recommendation from Chef Philip of Hix Oyster & Fish House, David went out in search of a local distillery in the hills of Somerset. Judging by his pictures and the luscious liquid he brought back with him, we decided to take my in-law’s there for a boozy day on the farm before heading to dinner in Lyme Regis.
Somerset Distillery has been making cider, and just about every other type of liquid you can make from apples for over 150 years. In the main house, there are barrels of hard cider, both medium and dry. The village locals come in with their clear plastic jugs and fill up their containers, drop 4 quid on the desk and get back on the road. Most faces seemed familiar to the staff and between their own potato chips made with cider vinegar and sea salt, the cider and the animals, I could have stayed their for hours. The ciders, juice, brandies and aperitifs were enticing, and the 150 acres of orchard (home to over 40 varieties. of apples) was impressive, however after seeing the pictures from the previous visit, I had come for one thing and one thing only…. the pig. Our friend Paul took a photo of the pig and when I set eyes on his picture, I fell in love with her…all of her. When we arrived at the distillery, we grabbed a couple pints of cider and ventured out into the orchards in search of miss piggy. After walking around the orchard for almost an hour, there was no pig to be found and I was getting discouraged. She doesn’t really blend in with the scenery, and sticks out like a sore thumb among the sheep, roosters, turkeys, chickens, and horses. Just as I started to give up hope, I heard a loud snore from 25 yards away. Sure enough, she was in her home the whole time, snoring up a storm. Meet Bertha.
I said in a earlier post that the next time we went to Hix Oyster & Fish House wouldn’t be an accident. Not only was it not an accident, but we brought guests and a nicer camera. We were fully ready for our next gastronomic adventure with head chef Philip Eagle. David’s parents were visiting from Boston and the only thing on the “must do” list was a visit to Lyme Regis and a meal at Hix.
The small, rustic restaurant now seemed warm and familiar with its expansive windows and wooden interior. The four of us made our way down the spiral staircase to our family table, immediately next to the kitchen. I hung my coat on the coat rack and quickly looked into the kitchen and saw two new faces, but no Chef Philip. We got comfortable at the table and our server came over to take our drink orders, but I was fixated on was the lack of Chef Philip’s presence in the kitchen. As the minutes went by, my heart began to sink with the thought that maybe he took the night off, or worse yet, got transferred to another Mark Hix restaurant in London. Just as I began to begrudgingly accept the reality of a ‘Philip-less’ meal, the familiar voice came around the corner, and as I saw Chef Philip walk over to the table, I was at ease. For some reason I couldn’t fathom a dinner at Hix without the guidance, expertise and charisma of their head chef.
Here’s the long overdue sequel to Winkles, Cockles and Clams! We tried to see as much of the villages, valleys and bays as we could on our brief weekend exploration to Cornwall. Boscastle was a small village on the northwest coast, that laid between a cliff and a bay, boasting of all things Cornwall: pottery, pasties, and clotted cream. The village was bustling that Saturday morning and with a cappuccino in hand, David and I walked to the cliffs to take pictures. The seagulls were circling and the tide was low, while David climbed around the rocks with the camera . My shoes weren’t meant for walking along the rocks, so I sat on soaking up the sun and sea-air.
We aren’t sure whether it was dumb luck or fate that led us to Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, but we do know that the next time(s) we go, it most certainly won’t be an accident.
It was a last minute trip to the Dorset coast that almost didn’t happen in the first place. With a tip from David’s co-worker, we headed for Abbotsbury and left the cottage late without a proper breakfast. We saw a sign for The Langton Arms just off the highway in Tarrent Monkton, Dorset and decided to pop in for lunch since we needed fuel to continue our journey towards the sea. As it turns out, the Langton Arms is a highly regarded restaurant and bar on picturesque Dorset grounds. I ordered my English go-to meal of a goat cheese salad and David had two pints and a baguette sandwich with local sausage, egg, bacon and aioli.
The roads got more fun and the scenery more spectacular as we approached the Jurassic coast and the weather gradually improved as we neared the ocean. Past Dorchester, (not what you Bostonians are picturing) up over a hill and there we were, facing the southern expanse of the English Channel south toward Brittany, France. The views were majestic and luckily they didn’t let up for the rest of the daylight hours. We had checked the guide books and decided that from Abbotsbury, we would either head 30 minutes east toward Weymouth or 30 minutes west to Lyme Regis to get some fresh air and dinner. The guide book had brought Hix Oyster & Fish House to our attention as one of a handful of options to eat on the coast in Lyme Regis, but given our late start we expected to be dining in Weymouth (which meant a shorter drive home after dinner). As we sat on Chisel Beach watching fisherman cast long lines out into the sea, we contemplated dinner. I was not quite ready to head east towards home yet, so I told David to head west to Lyme Regis. Thirty minutes later we were parked and on foot walking around the small village.