Saturday, 28 January 2012

1st Anniversary Weekend

I can't believe it's already been two whole weeks since Ben and I celebrated our very first wedding anniversary!  We celebrated with a trip to Devon, and most excitingly, an evening at River Cottage. We are both big fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, particularly his Fish Fight campaign and his recent Veg TV series and cookbook.

We had originally planned to venture down to Devon for our evening at River Cottage in the summer, but due to "events beyond our control", we had to delay our visit and decided that it would be a lovely way to spend our Anniversary.

We set off on the 3 hour drive first thing on Friday, with another of Hugh's enterprises, Axminster Canteen, on our "must do in Devon" list...  We arrived in plenty of time for lunch and spent a leisurely time enjoying the atmosphere of the light and friendly dining room. We ate entree's of Crab Linguine (me) and Turnip & Rocket Soup (Ben) , followed by Slow Roast Beef with Mash (me) and Oyster Mushroom Ragu with Polenta (Ben).  Given Hugh sources all of his food locally, each dish was ridiculously fresh and so incredibly tasty, i'm still dreaming about my beef more than a week later.  We were drooling over the dessert menu the whole time, but by the time we had finished our two courses, we really couldn't fit another morsel in.  Before we set off again, we spent a little time perusing the deli, taking particular interest in the Palestinian Olive Oil (we had never seen before we had been given a bottle as a xmas gift).  We finally purchased the Veg cookbook and also bought Veg Patch to help us through our second year of 'growing our own'.

definitely tasted loads better than it looked :)

Slow roast flank of beef

Mushroom Ragu

It was back in the car (oh so nice to have a car!), and drove back through the gorgeous Devon countryside to our hotel in the little village of Bridport (which technically is in Dorset, but hey, it's all gorgeous).  Our room wasn't quite ready, so we enjoyed a glass of crisp vino in the sun drenched bar while we waited.  We were finally shown to our room and we were in heaven, the Red Four Poster Room was, true to its name, Red, with a four-posted bed AND a roll top bathtub in the room - sigh!

That evening, we didn't stray far, and had dinner at 'The Stable', the pizza restaurant in the adjoining "old stable block'.  After choosing from the MANY local ciders and ales, we settled at our table to enjoy the buzz of locals and travellers alike enjoying the funky vibe of what I could describe more as a New York hangout than a restaurant in country-England.  Our Fresh Hawaiian and Margherita pizza's were cooked in front of our eyes in the open kitchen and speedily arrived with that awesome charcoal flavour from the fiery pizza oven.

We awoke on the Saturday to a somewhat grey day, and after reading about Saturday being Market Day, we headed out onto the streets to savour the local delights. We tasted a few different things including a 'not so nice' almond croissant (which was more like a lump of stale bread)... an interesting vegan parsnip and lentil muffin and Ben feasted on a vegetarian curry. I decided to wait until we got back to the hotel to eat anything substantial, and i'm glad I did, I ordered the pancakes with fresh berries for Room Service - light and fluffy, with maple syrup and ice-cream - I was a very happy girl!

We then decided to spend the afternoon exploring the local area, and being right on the 'Jurassic Coast' the scenery certainly didn't disappoint.  We decided to head east and took the scenic route (and may or may not have made a couple of 'wrong turns') toward east toward Chesil Beach.  Most of the road is quite high so it was it a glorious view down to the ocean - and with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds it made for a glorious afternoon sight. As you will see below, it was also quite windy - I pretty much decided to enjoy the views from INSIDE the car after that!

As the sun was getting low in the sky, it was time to head back to the hotel to 'get ready' for the main event, our evening at River Cottage.  Actually, River Cottage is somewhat a casual affair, so we didn't have to spiffy ourselves up TOO much, but we did draw the line at Wellies :)

We started our evening with a glass of bubbles to celebrate the fact that exactly one year ago, we became man and wife! The hotel bar in the evening is incredibly romantic, a REAL wood fire, soft lighting, chilled music - it was a perfect start to our evening.

Then it was into the taxi, and after a 20 minute drive, we finally arrived at the gates of River Cottage.  Unfortunately, because we went in winter, the dark had already set in so we really couldn't see any of Park Farm - except the tractor trailer that we were transported down the farm in! We were escorted straight into cosy fire-lit yurt, where we took a pew on hay bales and were handed a Hot Mulled Cider. As we sipped, canapés were handed around (crab cakes and purple sprouting broccoli of note) as we chatted to our fellow diners.

Once the second tractor-load of guests had settled in, we were escorted into the main dining room.  The seating is along 2 very long communal tables with a pre-determined seating plan (boy-girl-boy-girl etc).  We took our seats between two lovely couples, who we chatted away happily to all evening.  Then the feasting began.

First, more canapé style food, smoked partridge, game sausages (Vege pakora's for Ben) and a lovely beetroot dip served with homemade flat bread and dukkah.

It was at this point that Head Chef, Oliver, came out to talk us through the rest of the evenings feasting...

Smoked "on the premises" Haddock & Cheese soufflé / Chard & Cheese soufflé (v)
Roasted Venison with Parsnip Puree  / Chana Massala (v)
Apple Tarte Tatin w Chantilly Cream
Cheese Board (Brie, Goats, Blue) with Sloe Jam and the most amazing candied nuts i've EVER eaten
Petit Fours (Chocolate Tart & Lemon Creme pancakes with candied peel

At this point we were also invited to venture into the kitchen at some point throughout the evening to see what went on behind the scenes and chat to the chefs (unfortunately we didn't make it in until after dinner, so everything was all clean and packed away - but it was still fun to see).  And with that, Oliver was off to whip-up his egg whites for the soufflé, leaving us to salivate over what was yet to come.

There really isn't much else to say, other than each and every course was absolutely delicious, even the Venison, which was a first for me!  The only problem I had throughout the evening came close to the end, when I was SO FULL I couldn't possibly fit another morsel in - unfortunately I didn't quite make it to the Petit Fours, but Ben assured me they were quite amazing!

our very "deconstructed" cheeseboard!

Needless to say we slept very well that night and haven't stopped reminiscing about it since - it was definitely a night to remember!

The next day, we sadly checked-out of our lovely room, and as we had arrived at River Cottage in pitch black the night before, decided we just had to drive back to River Cottage to see it in daylight.  Unfortunately, you're not really allowed to go down to the farm out of hours, but we did wander down far enough to get a little glimpse of the main buildings and made friends with some sheep along the way.

Not wanting to head straight home, we decided to drive into Lyme Regis as a few people had mentioned it was a nice seaside village.  We spent a couple of wild and very windy hours wandering the promenade and side-streets, but the wind got the better of us and we decided that we couldn't avoid heading back to London any longer...BUT not without a quick stop to one of the many farm shops we had seen along the way to stock on some fresh vege's to take home with us.

Devon, you were amazing, we love you and we hope to see you again soon xxx

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