A Dorset Lunch – December 2013
I could tell you about the excellent fish pie; the Dorset crab that had crawled its way up from the harbour; the cider brandy cocktails; the unctuous roasted artichoke; the view… my god I could tell you about the view. It might be the finest view from any restaurant window in the country.
Granted, when we went on the Saturday evening for dinner we couldn’t see anything, just the reflection of happy diners and some dodgy Dan Flavin art work, but when we went back later in the week for lunch… gosh. From the sweep of the Jurassic coast – a geological Viennetta and a paleontologists wet dream – to the ark of the Cob (minus Meryl Streep), up to the heights of Golden Cap and the twinkle of the sun hitting the windows of the houses in West Bay… Yes, I could tell you about that – but it would make sense for you to go yourself and take in its majesty. I could tell you all about the “Greatest Pop Hits of the 1970’s played on the Saxophone” and the dodgy Robbie Williams live album, as I heard both twice. I could tell you about the ear-rottingly dull London types sitting at the table next to us talking about their daughters “acting”. That’s really all you need to know about Hix Oyster and Fish House. Go at lunch time, request to sit by a window and stay until you’ve heard the day’s current music selection twice through (or you’re thrown out for hurling a crab claw at young Jocasta and her parents).
The above were both lovely meals, some of my favourites of the year. The food was good, the drink did what drink does. What made it? The company made it, as it should make every meal. I’m not interested in food fetishisation; in being blown away by what’s on my plate or in my glass. I’m not interested in reverence of cheffy hagiographies. I’m quite happy to know that the fish on my plate was not too long ago swimming in that blue (or grey, or green or black depending on the light) sea in front of me, I couldn’t give a damn the name of the dear old fisherman who landed it. Nor the name of the ancient grizzly Frenchie who has tended his vines since the day dot and produced what is in the glass in my hand. I’m happy if I know that the chap in the kitchen hasn’t got ideas above his station (foams, water baths etc.) and knows when to leave well alone. What matters is that person sitting next to you, and I was lucky in that that person is the woman I’d happily spend the rest of my life with.
Hix is the second best lunch in Dorset. The first is to be had after a plunge into the sea in mid-November in nothing but your knick-knacks and then a climb through fields of mud to the summit of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast. The reward: a pork pie, a slice of quiche and some squares of chocolate, whilst looking out to Portland Bill; taking in the impressionistic scrape of Chesil Beach, the pleasant rock and roll of Dorset hills, tumble of hamlets and the green calligraphy of holloways and hedgerows. Embracing Charmouth and Lyme Regis are those two great elementals: sea and sky, with nothing more than the purposeful white contrail of a Boing or Airbus on its way across the ocean to break up the most glorious blue you could ever imagine. Ozone and air in the lungs, good food in the belly and a promise of coffee and a cuddle at the end of the walk home…