A seafood platter overlooking the sea at the Harbour Inn in Lyme Regis on Sunday.
Last weekend was one of those that the British autumn was made for.
My friend, Andrew MacDonald, invited a large group of us down to his house near Crewkerne, Somerset for the weekend to help him press his orchard apples for cider. So on Saturday, armed with wellies and waterproofs we all left the noise of London for the joys of the country. Hosted by Andy’s lovely mother (in the most beautiful home you might imagine), we were treated to two days of excellent food and drink as well as chocolate-box views and smashing company. Picking, washing, smashing, pressing and bottling the MacDonald family’s apples was followed by a Saturday night supper of cider-roasted pork stuffed with figs and Caerphilly cheese stuffing. Dessert was a ‘Maman-Blanc’ style apple and custard tart served with homemade gooseberry ice-cream. Not to mention lunch, breakfast, the veg and Bex Macdonald’s amazing blackberry jam, this weekend was a foodie heaven.
(More about the cider making later)
On the Sunday we all squeezed into the cars and drove for 30 mins to Lyme Regis. Lyme is one if my favourite places in the UK, if you can prize me away from the sea view then I’ll almost certainly be diving headfirst into one of the rock shops or the fishmongers, lost for hours and never to be found.
After much wandering and debating we ended up at the Harbour Inn, a popular but not inexpensive bar/restaurant with a seating area on the beach itself. For the prices I would expect no less, but I have not yet had a bad meal here, and this platter was no exception. Not to be fobbed off with a few defrosted prawns and some mediocre salmon, this was the most varied version I’ve had so far. You could tell that the fish was fresh and local. It included:
•Fresh mackerel pate
•Pickled seafood salad
•A huge mound of freshly picked crab.
Plus all the usual accompaniments, bread, salad, coleslaw etc.
The Boy had a huge bowl of mussels that were also good. Our friends mainly had fish and chips which I cannot comment on (although at twice the price of the nearby chippies I hope it was good). Washed down with a pint of local cloudy cider in the salty October sunshine, this greedy girl was in her element!
A little hindsight now has reminded me that Mark Hix has recently opened a restaurant in the Lyme area, Hix Oyster & Fish House. Given my never-ending appetite for seafood and Hix’s reputation for food provenance I would have jumped at the chance to sample the menu. Which is probably why it’s a good thing we missed it otherwise we’d all be going home with full bellies and empty, grumpy wallets! With the upmarket Rumours, the traditional fish bars and the Devon tea rooms, you really are spoilt for choice here.
Below: Apple pressing in Andy’s garden. Photo lovingly pinched from Miss Lizzie Gardner