Lyme Regis for the Weekend
Mr J loves cooking, and he’s really interested in smoking and curing his own meats so for his birthday last year I bought him a one-day Meat Curing and Smoking course at River Cottage in Dorset.
The course was on a Saturday in late February, so we decided to make a weekend of it and drive down to Lyme Regis, which is only 15 minutes from River Cottage, on the Friday evening.
Lyme Regis is one of my favourite places with it’s historic Cobb and harbour and the kids love hunting for fossils on the beach.
Although this was just a weekend for Mr J and me we have been to Lyme Regis numerous times in the past both with G when she was little and with the Grandsons.
Lyme Regis has something for everyone and is both a perfect family resort and a great destination for couples. It’s the home of palaeontology, a world-class creative and cultural community, a bustling harbour, excellent restaurants and an array of shops.
While Mr J went off to do his course at River Cottage on the Saturday I spend the morning wandering around Lyme Regis. I love the fact that there are lots of galleries and also lots of small independent shops.
After buying a few bits and pieces and stopping for coffee I wandered back to the Alexander for lunch.
Alexander Hotel Lyme Regis
We decided to stay at the Alexander Hotel in Lyme Regis as I wanted somewhere that was comfortable and cosy as I was spending the Saturday on my own while Mr J went to river Cottage.
The Hotel is perched up high and has wonderful views over a long stretch of Jurassic Coast and the famous harbour wall, the Cobb where it curls into the sea, the spot where Meryl Streep stood against the crashing waves in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. The view is stunning, and we saw it both on a sunny day and on a stormy one, when the waves crash over the top. Being February, we certainly had a mixed bag of weather.
There are 24 rooms, and most can accommodate kids (five on chair beds, others with Z beds), plus there are two apartments that can host families of four or six.
Direct access to the shore is through the Alexander’s gardens and if you have kids with you can borrow buckets and spades from the hotel. There is a play area with swings, climbing frames and trampolines; in poor weather you can play board games in the lounge.
“Like the countess for whom the residence was built in 1735, this Grande Dame is reassuringly old fashioned, elegant and well maintained with just a hint of eccentricity. The place oozes windswept romance and is set in beautiful gardens that lead you down to the beach and a fairy-tale Lookout Tower where private dinners and weddings can take place. Ceremonies can also be held within Alexandra’s enchanting 18th-century chapel.”
We arrived at the Hotel late afternoon on the Friday and settled into our comfy room which had wonderful views over the garden and out to sea. Later that evening we had dinner in the Hotel restaurant. Chef Tom Holloway keeps it simple with local and in-season produce. The menu is a good mix of local fish, seafood and meat. We had the Lyme Bay Crab, Herb Crust Lyme Bay Plaice and pan roasted free range chicken. The dining room is fairly formal but elegant and the staff friendly and obliging; the meal was well prepared and delicious.
On the Saturday morning Mr J and I ate breakfast together in the restaurant before he headed off to River Cottage. There’s a Breakfast buffet offering a good selection of fruit juices, breakfast cereals & muesli, fresh fruit, natural yoghurt, seasonal berry compote, homemade granola, mini Danish pastries, freshly baked croissant and jams. And, there is also the option of a full cooked English breakfast, kippers or smoked haddock. We opted for a full English.
When I returned to the Hotel on the Saturday lunchtime I had a simple lunch of homemade soup and bread in the wonderful conservatory. I then spent the afternoon in the cosy lounge reading my book and having a late afternoon
River Cottage Curing and Smoking Course
As I said Mr J loves cooking and the main reason for our weekend away in Lyme Regis was so that he could go along to the course I’d booked for him at River Cottage
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookery courses are held at River Cottage HQ in a lovely setting with a wonderful kitchen garden. The course was held in the farmhouse kitchen.
The course is a practical one-day Meat Curing and Smoking course that teaches you to make things like salt beef, salami and hot smoked fish. It also covers basic butchery skills and the key techniques for curing and smoking.
Curing and Smoking is a method for preserving food that is centuries old. The addition of salt and smoke to food can be traced from ancient civilisations right up to the present day.
Mr J spent the day at River Cottage learning from Steven Lamb, their smoking and curing expert, how to brine a chicken, make a cure, cure bacon, build your own smoker and how to smoke a chicken breast amongst other things.
Recipe from River Cottage for Quick Hot smoked chicken Serves 4
Ingredients 4 chicken breasts. Cure Mix 150g sugar 150g salt 1 tsp juniper berries 4 bay leaves shredded 1 tsp black pepper corns coarsely crushed Combine all the cure ingredients in a bowl.
Take a small plastic tray or something similar that is large enough to hold the chicken breasts in a flat layer. Scatter half the cure on the base of the tray Lay the chicken breasts on top and scatter over the remaining cure.
Allow the meat to salt for 12-15 mins Rinse the cure from the meat under a cold running tap; allow them to dry overnight in the fridge.
Hot smoke the breasts over a gentle heat for 45 minutes using oak sawdust until the breasts are cooked through. Allow to rest before serving.
Mr J thoroughly enjoyed the day which as well as tasting the food they were preparing and cooking along the way also included a lunch of local, seasonal produce, prepared by the River Cottage chefs.
He enjoyed it so much I think I might be booking another one of the many courses on offer which range from “nose-to-tail” to “seashore foraging”.
HIX Oyster & Fish House
Mr J and I both love fish and seafood so for dinner on the Saturday evening we booked HIX’s. The restaurant is perched on the hillside offering panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast and is an easy walk from the Hotel.
Mr J returned from his course at River Cottage around 6pm on the Saturday evening and we had booked the restaurant for 8pm. After a quick change and freshen up we wandered along to the restaurant.
We arrived slightly early so enjoyed a couple of cocktails at the bar while we were waiting for our table. There is a good selection of cocktails including Black Cow Martinis and HIX classics, my favourite being the “Blueberry Breeze” – Havanna 3yrs old rum, lime juice, blueberry syrup and mint To accompany the cocktails we had some popcorn cockles which were absolutely gorgeous, a definite winner!
We started dinner with some lovely oysters and then had some grilled seabream with crushed seaweed potatoes and some steamed winter greens. We finished the meal with cheese and biscuits followed by a coffee.
The fish was fresh and cooked superbly and the accompany sides were very tasty. We shared a bottle of Muscadet, Sevre et Maine, France, with the meal.
After a wonderful meal we decided to take a taxi back to the Hotel as it was fairly late.
A Breezy Walk by the Sea and Home
After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel on the Sunday morning we started our journey home with a quick stop off at one of our favourite places, Portland Bill / Chesil Beach for a breezy walk by the sea.
More about Portland Bill and Chesil Beach next time.