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 canap├ęs – 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.


The great pasty challenge

In Cornwall last week for a few days and what is the first thing I yearn for? Apart from Rick Stein‘s fish and chips (which are sublime) it has to be the authentic Cornish pasty.

Just like Guinness in Dublin, the pasty definitely tastes better the other side of the River Tamar. Everybody will have their favourite bakers and recipes for the ubiquitous pasty and by and large I have to say I’ve yet to have a bad pasty in Cornwall.

For those not familiar with pasties, they originate from the miners who used to take them down the mine for food. Pasties tend to be variations on meat, swede and potato with bits and bobs added. Purists of course will insist on beef, onion, potato and swede with plenty of seasoning.

So who’s pasty is the best?

Well for a bit of fun I bought an authentic, traditional pasty from the Chough bakery in Padstow (award winning no less) and a pasty from the famous Rick Stein deli in the same town. Of course Stein has rather monopolised Padstow but I don’t mind as he’s definitely taken the place up market and the quality of his food is top notch.

This wasn’t a scientific test by any means but we blind tested the two pasties with our party and there was one resounding winner – Rick Stein’s. The flavour was infinitely better – well seasoned and the quality of the meat was superb. Oh, and it was bigger. So the locals may decry the johnny come lately Stein pasty but it is far superior to the ‘traditional’ recipe.

But what do we know? We’re just from Yorkshire…