I have just returned from my annual holiday with Liz and her brother. As per usual we ate out a lot. Our first port of call was Mat Follas' bijou little restaurant The Wild Garlic just up the road from our holiday cottage in Beaminster. I had been looking forward to it for ages and my meal didn't disappoint. Scallops for a starter were just right, and they were followed by one of the biggest plaice I have ever seen on a dinner plate, simply grilled with lemon and capers. Dave chose venison which arrived on a very cheffy plate of this and that complete with a pot of steaming pine needles to inhale. (Liz and I both thought lavatory cleaner).
He didn't think it added much but the venison was very good. Liz chose cider braised pork belly, crackle and sweet potato which again came in a cheffy arrangement pictured above. The crackle was pronounced inedible because it was so hard. And her meal was disappointingly tepid. We shared a plate of cheeses and a selection of desserts. The cheese won hands down although Mat when questioned didn't know which cheeses were on offer. The puds looked lovely but the flavours lacked oomph. Service was lackadaisical, dirty glasses being left on the table for ages for example. It was, however, pretty cheap for evening service. With drinks beforehand, a nice bottle of Temperanillo and a glass of pudding wine the bill came in at just under £140 for the three of us. And we saw Mat a few times, which was nice. (And by the way Mat the amuse bouche of carrot soup was revolting).
Yes, I would go back. It was just a shame that on that particular evening Liz didn't experience the wow factor.
Wednesday saw us returning to The Riverside Restaurant in West Bay. This really was a meal to write home about. Liz has been going there for years and says it never disappoints. I had been once before and had good memories. I started with my favourites. Oysters. Mmmm!
Oh how I love oysters. I love mussels too which is what the others had. All were delicious. And I could have eaten all the mains but settled on roasted wild sea bass with sea blite and a red wine jus. I didn't think it quite worked as the sauce tasted quite sweet and I'm not mad on fish with a sweet tang. It looked lovely though but I wish I'd had what Liz did, pan fried brill fillet with a leek, crab and mustard sauce.
The desserts were first class (better than Mat's I'm sad to say) and I chose an iced white chocolate, raspberry and almond parfait. It was a good choice. The others fared well too.
So, if you are ever in Dorset this is a fish restaurant not to be missed. I shall be back.
We spent Thursday morning on the beach and out on The Cobb at Lyme Regis, beloved by The French Lieutenant's Woman. Tempted though we were to go off on one of the many mackerel-fishing trips the unpredictability of the wind put us off. And anyway none of us are big mackerel fans. We had driven past Mark Hix's Oyster and Fish House but had decided to save that for another visit. As the wind increased and the sunshine began to disappear we hot-footed it back to the car and decided to find lunch out of town. In another town in fact. We had read that River Cottage had opened a canteen and deli in Axminster. We thought it would be very busy and that we would buy enough items from the deli to picnic with. In fact the canteen looked so warm and inviting we queued up for a table, not much of a queue either, perhaps a 5 minute wait.
The canteen does what it says on the tin. Seasonal fresh food simply cooked. My fish soup with croutons and rouille was perfect, Liz and Dave had corn on the cob which they both enjoyed. I then went for the organic beefburger which was, quite frankly, overcooked although the meat was tasty. Dave pronounced his pork koftas excellent and Liz's sardines in parsley and lemon were outstanding.
We had become seasoned chip eaters during the week and we all thought that those served here won first prize. Only Dave could manage a pudding. His blackberry pannacotta looked and tasted superb.
Lunch included a bottle of Rioja and came in at £68 which we thought represented good value. On the way back to Bridport we passed the new River Cottage. It was a shame we hadn't realised our holiday cottage was in the same grounds as the original!