Philip Evans on his obsession with eating out…
GROWING up in a working class family there were few if any occasions when we dined out as a family. My mother was a great cook and I think my Dad never felt any restaurant could come up to mum’s standard. He was right.
There was probably little left from my parents’ combined income for expensive meals out after my mum had put away the rent money in a tin on the mantelpiece and enough to cover the funeral insurance. As in most households in Anning Road during the 1950s/60s, my father would hand my mum his pay packet every Friday and she would give him back a few quid for spending money.
My Dad was a retained fireman and whatever he got from catching the fire engine would be his. He wasn’t a big drinker and rarely went to the pub.
In those days Anning Road was a close-knit community and family celebrations were held at home with all the neighbours invited and my Mum putting on a table-laden buffet. For some reason I can remember the vol-au-vonts, an essential of any self-respecting spread in the sixties.
Weddings, anniversaries and birthdays would see our front rooms – only used for high-days and holidays – packed with neighbours and friends – Charlie and Win Broom, Bill and Freda Perry, Gordon and Betty Broom, Bill and Win Reed and Frank and Sylvia Searle. All life-time friends, sadly all passed on.
Food at home was wholesome and plentiful with oodles of offal. To this day liver and bacon is one of my favourite dishes. Steak and kidney pudding, stuffed hearts and the occasional curry were family staples and for “afters’ it was rice pudding, almost every Sunday, and roly-poly.
There’s always been a tendency towards gluttony in my family, a gene I obviously inherited, but I could never match my Dad’s obsession with tripe and onions and pigs’ trotters. Or in fact beef dripping on toast on a Sunday night.
When I started work as a 17 year-old cub reporter, earning 12 pounds ten shillings a week, I became a bit more adventurous with my culinary in-take but I had not tasted pasta until a few years later on my first holiday abroad in Italy.
The first family outing to a restaurant I can remember was to celebrate my 18th birthday at the Tytherleigh Arms, which was hugely popular in the 1960s/70s. If my memory serves me right I chose duck for my main course. I became very friendly with the Tytherleigh owner, the wonderful Leo Featherstone, who later ran the Mariners Hotel in Lyme, and ate many times at the Tytherleigh which served superb steaks.
When I started courting there were numerous visit to Berni Inns, usually in Taunton, where I plumped for a prawn cocktail, steak or half a roast chicken with black forest gateau to follow.
As the years passed and my work took me to the far corners of the earth, my tastes were more adventurous and today there are few things I won’t eat. I have a huge appetite, even to this day, despite my digestive system not being able to cope with the chillies and curries of which I was so partial.
Working in London I was fortunate to be able to dine as some of the capital’s finest restaurants. I’m not a great fan of haute cuisine and think some of the real cheffy dishes served on the numerous food programmes, to which I admit I am addicted, are all a bit much. Life is too short to deconstruct a blackberry and apple pie.
Rick Stein is my famous celebrity chef and I have probably watched every one of his culinary adventures a dozen times or more. His recent TV series on Mexico was particularly interesting, as much a travel show as a cooking excursion. Is there anything that man won’t put in his mouth?
I’m also a big admirer of the laid-back and simplistic style of Mark Hix, whose Oyster & Fish House in Lyme is a favourite of mine.
My all-time favourite restautant is the White Gables in Moycullen, near Galway in Ireland, where my eldest daughter Zoe lives with her husband Barry. It reminds me of how restaurants used to be in the UK, offering traditional dishes, superbly cooked and presented with staff who really look after you.
You won’t find flowers scattered across your meal at the White Gables. You know, I just don’t want to eat flowers.
In Lyme we are fortunate to have so many good eating out venues, cafes, delicatessens and coffee shops, including the award-wining vegetarian restaurant Tierra Kitchen in Coombe Street. With the renovation of the Pilot Boat Inn and coming of another celebrity chef restaurant at the former Three Cups (yes, building work has started at long last) on the horizon, the choice will be even greater.
The older I am the more important food becomes and I suppose eating out has become more of an obsession than a necessity. My favourite pastime is definitely a good slap-up meal with my family. Fortunately, all my children think likewise.
This section of LymeOnline is devoted to promoting all the food and drink outlets in and around Lyme Regis. If you run a food or drink establishment and are interested in being featured in our review section, call Philip Evans on 07796 951 991.