River Cottage

 

Last weekend saw us return to River Cottage in Dorset with D and G – technically it’s in East Devon but most of our weekend was spent in Dorset. We’d bought G a special Sunday Lunch at the River Cottage HQ Voucher (on the proviso that we could come along too) and built a rather splendid weekend around that.

Saturday night we ate at Mark Hix‘s wonderfully chilled out Oyster and Fish restaurant in Lyme Regis which enjoys panoramic views if the jurassic coast, although the murky sea fret meant the view from our table was somewhat less spectacular which was a shame. Although the food and service amply made up for that – it was top notch and definitely in Rick Stein territory in terms of experience, with prices to match I might add.

Sunday was a beautifully sunny day (eventually) and our Sunday afternoon was sublime: mooching about the River Cottage HQ, inspecting the gardens and the cottage where they film the TV series and featuring one of the best Sunday lunches I’ve ever had. Beef three ways including ox heart canapés – well it wouldn’t be RC if there weren’t anything odd or unusual to try. All delicious of course.

Breakfast the following day was taken at River Cottage canteen in Axminster which again was superb with great quality ingredients which raised the humble full English to memorable status.

Hugh’s empire in Dorset is becoming comparable to Rick Stein’s in Cornwall and actually it’s all done very well – his personal brand shines through in all aspects. It’s also very evident that the local economy is boosted significantly by his presence and in a county where tourism is king, I suspect he gets every encouragement from the powers that be. One negative we found was the laughably expensive taxis – they seem to be making hay whilst the sun shines charging ludicrously high fares for what are very short distances. It was the only thing that left a sour taste, unlike the food which was of the highest standards.

 

Cafe Shore, Poole

Been a tad engrossed by the new job, hence the lack of posts so apologies for that. Normal service will, I hope, be resumed with this post.

Last week saw me doing a fair bit bit of UK-wide travelling and the most noteworthy was a trip to the glorious South coast. In particular, Poole in Dorset. The occasion was a long overdue client lunch and his suggestion that we take a trip down to cafe Shore in Poole was an inspired one.

Renowned for being one of the wealthiest places in the country (more millionaires per square foot than anywhere else etc) it’s a lovely spot. The restaurant overlooks the recently refurbished marina and being seated by the windows, we were treated to a spectacular view of the bay. For starter I had half a dozen Colchester oysters and my fellow luncher had the tomato salad. The native oysters were creamy and delicious – a real treat to taste shellfish of such quality.

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Service was brisk as it was a fairly quiet midweek day and mains followed on pretty quickly. I went for the special – Sea Bass to complete the fishy theme and Paul had the lamb. Both were declared a triumph. The bass was lovely – really well seasoned and delicately cooked on a bed of  noodly vegetables type stuff (apologies for the lack of info).

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The bill including a glass of wine apiece and some rather nice coffees came to around £60 – so not cheap – but the view alone is worth the  price and in truth the food was very, very good. The only letdown was the weather – a gloomy overcast day didn’t show off the splendour of the bay – but that was the only bum note in an otherwise perfect lunch. Whilst Poole is quite some way from Leeds, I would certainly recommend that you pay Cafe Shore a visit if you’re in the vicinity, it’s definitely worth the effort.

River Cottage Annual Members Party 2008

The whole point of the weekend was to attend the RC annual party for members, as you probably know. However, in true Globe Troffers style, we managed to cram into the weekend all manner of food and dring excitement.

The Saturday began with a quite acceptable breakfast at Fernhill Hotel (very good place to stay if you plan a visit to Park Farm) and then a nice 2 mile stroll to Lyme Regis, which looked resplendant in the early autumn sunshine. A fine wander along the front and on to the cob was made perfect by an OK crab sandwich lunch in restaurant overlooking the bay (the view was better than the food I have to say) but Chablis went down well and we all commented on how life can be hard.

We squeezed a quick game of crazy golf (really) before a quick scrub up and taxi to RC. Drinks and canapes in the garden was just perfect as the sun slipped behind the picturesque Devon/Dorset hills. The rest of the evening was equally outstanding – although the marquee got very cold due to problems with the heating a splendid evening ensued with the food and drink excellent considering how difficult it is to cater for 250 people in a marquee in the middle of nowhere. Special mention has to go to the Sea Bass Ceviche, grilled sprats, super tender lamb shoulder and the carrots, which were excellent. The local somerset brandy took the lining off my throat though and Stinger (Hugh’s beer) came to the rescue.

Julie gave Hugh a kiss and cuddle (as did Dawn I think!) and the evening rolled on with much discussion on wild mushrooms with John. Standing around the bonfire capped it all and we jumped on the trailer to get the taxi back to the hotel. What an absolute cracker of a night!!

River Cottage Canteen – Friday Night

Well, we could be posting from now until Christmas to cover off this weekend! It was absolutely brilliant. Gurdev, Dawn, Julie and I travelled down to Dorset for the annual River Cottage Members party.

The journey was tortuous to say the least due and it was a race against time to get to the River Cottage Canteen before they stopped serving – and we made it, just!

In the sentre of Axminster is the Canteen and you enter on an evening through a deserted shop/del through to the restaurantant at the rear. It felt very unpretentious, down to earth and very real. Bang on Hugh ‘brand’ I’d say. And the food that followed was stunning – simple, great produce cooked simply with great style and a very steady hand.

Clearly there is talent in this kitchen too and you could sense Hugh’s hand in everything from the home made bread and butter, smoked cold meats (awesome flavours), fresh picked crab through to the very meaty main courses. We opted to all share three dishes – shoulder of lamb, pork belly and a double portion of sirloin (wow). It was Julie’s idea to all share and it was a great call.

We washed it all down with a couple of bottles of St Emillion (the only french wine on the menu) for me and Gurdev and the girls shared a bottle of white from the Sharpham estate in Devon.

As you’d expect, everything was super local and the cheese board was memorable and vast. What a great way to kick off our weekend – more to follow!