Sasha and I were recently asked to kick off a series of lectures hosted by the Friends of St. Andrews in the lovely and historic St. Andrews Church in Colyton, Dorset. Neither of us really ever expects a fee for this sort of public gig, but the Friends were kind enough to offer us payment in the form of a meal at the Hix Oyster and Fish House in nearby Lyme Regis. I had never heard of the Hix, but evidently it is one of several restaurants owned and run by Mark Hix, a chef and food writer specializing in British gastronomy.
The Hix is perched on a hillside overlooking the scenic Lyme Regis harbor and coastline, though because Sasha and I ate after sunset, all we could really see was a scattering of lights winking in the distance. Dark though the night was outside the Hix's windows, the restaurant itself was bright and cheery; it was a cozy little place with probably no more than 20 tables, and an upscale but friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Unlike Sasha, I almost always have a starter, though this time I opted not for my standard vegetable-heavy fare, but instead ordered the house smoked salmon and soda bread. That was a bit of a surprising choice for me, as well, given my former opinions on lox and lox-like products. As I have gotten older (or, I should say, as my palate has matured), I have increasingly come to enjoy raw and cured fish--particularly salmon. This version was really tasty, and I could have easily eaten another plateful and called it a night.
Luckily, though, I did try one of the entrees--a curry with sweet potatoes, (regular) potatoes, and pumpkin seeds, all on top of jasmine rice and served with a side of raita. Not anticipating quite how large my serving would be, I also ordered a side salad. Needless to say, I did not make it through all of my food, and I was quite stuffed by the end of the meal. Everything was delicious, however, so I was very content; if I hadn't been en route to the US the very next day, I would have taken my leftovers home and had a delicious lunch of my remaining curry.
Sasha ordered the Lyme Bay scallops with local bacon and greens--one of many meals made predominantly, or even completely, with locally sourced ingredients. We were both impressed by the enormous size of the scallops, though unfortunately a large percentage of each scallop was made up of its coral rather than its meaty core; since neither of us can bear to eat corals, a good bit of food was wasted. That said, it is hard to go wrong with the scallop-and-bacon combo, and Sasha managed to clean his plate of everything but the corals.
Since I couldn't finish my main course, there was no way I could even think about dessert; I did order a small pot of mint tea, though. Sasha, on the other hand, always has room for dessert (a fact that he even has a scientific theory about!), and he ordered the rhubarb cheesecake. It was a pretty little confection and disappeared rather rapidly, which I assume means that it was more than satisfactory.
All in all, it was quite a successful night out--despite the fact that I'd succumbed to motion sickness during our drive down Dorset's picturesque but very windy country lanes. I was grateful to have worn fairly sensible shoes, since the Hix is located in the middle of a slope and can only be reached by walking up from the waterside car park, or walking down from the one at the top of the hill. I only mention this because we saw several high-heeled ladies teetering their way down the path (and one well-prepared woman who walked there in boots but then changed into dress shoes just outside the doorway!); it would not be fun to begin date night with a twisted ankle, so diners should beware.
The restaurant was bustling--even well past 9 PM--so I'm guessing that reservations are a necessity. Sasha and I are very grateful to the Friends of St. Andrews for booking our table and gifting us with the Hix experience. If anyone else wants to make a similar deal, we are definitely willing to trade more lectures for gourmet food!