Friday, 20 January 2012

Whisky Mist - Tripping With Talisker

Along with several foodie friends, I was recently invited on a foray to the seaside of Lime Regis by the nice team from Talisker whisky. And who am I to decline such a thing?

A vague visual similarity between the coastline of West Dorset and the Isle of Sky where Talisker is distilled was originally mooted as the reason this destination was chosen for a trip in the great whisky’s honour. That and its relative closeness to London, of course. And who could blame our assembled team of hosts and guides for not wishing to escort a group of rowdy food and drink journalists any further than they had to?

Another, better reason for our route is soon unveiled – we’re off to Mark Hix’s eponymous Lime Regis joint to take part in a bit of seaside foraging and a nicely matched whisky dinner. Though Mark may have little more to do with the whisky than being partial to a wee dram of it, somehow his coastal restaurant, some light frugality in the form of picking our own dinner and a spot of indulgence courtesy of the spirit in question suddenly seems wholly appropriate.

After a brief dalliance with the quiet coach that looked set to anger some less well-spirited travellers, we’re settled in our own area and tucking into a Hix prepared picnic of Talisker cured salmon, terrine and homemade piccalilli, washed down with Hix label vino. It’s a meal of a standard which has likely never graced South West Trains before.

All this eating and drinking helps time fly by, and we’re soon at our end stop. Despite being unfortunately greeted with a torrential rain storm, we’re not deterred. Only a couple of times are we heard to mutter, “But it was sunny in London”, and at no point are our spirits dampened. Even if everything else is.

The rain does limit our foraging to a beachside stroll, putting pay to the original plan of grabbing some whelks. Still, we quickly find some sea beet, and then some sea kale, and even some sea spinach. There were probably other sea-prefixed vegetables out there too, but quite frankly we were more than satisfied with our hoard and eager to give mixology maestro Nick Strangeway’s foraging themed whisky punch a go instead. It mixed sea buckthorn juice with Talisker, lemon juice and cloves, and was just gently heated to help us thaw out after our expedition.

The cocktail made a fine aperitif to a full meal laid on by Mark, which wasn’t quite as well received as the tasting of the accompanying whisky, but unanimously enjoyed all the same.

We tried 10, 18 and 25 year old Talisker, and whilst the first two delivered the brand’s trademark peaty, smoky flavour in style with some honeyed caramel notes providing sweetness, the 25 year old provided liquid wow factor, merging evocatively swirling bonfire flavours with powerful hits of spice and black pepper. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but few whisky lovers could resist its multi-layered deliverance of lingering luxury.

Over on the edible side, the highlight was undoubtedly our starter selection of local seafood, spoiling us with oysters, cockles, lobster and mussels. A following course of silver mullet with clams and locally foraged sea vegetables also won through thanks to the freshness of each component, though the general consensus was that much of the meal didn’t deliver quite as much on the plate as promised on the menu, a dish of slightly overcooked roasted partridge on toast with elderberries, being a case in point.

A fish scotch egg which we tried more of an impression, though. It may have failed to light up anyone’s eyes on taste alone, but certainly raised some eyebrows after its price of £9.75 was revealed. Cripes. You can read more about this on the blog of fellow journo David Constable, being as he is the Scotch Egg King and all...

So, after a great day out, some fairly good food and some bloody fantastic whisky it’s quietly to bed without a fuss being made. Well, not quite. You can read more about everything consumed on Lucy Shaw’s Wine & The City blog or Chris Osburn's write-up for The Food Network, but it may just be that Alex Larman’s grittiest account of the night’s antics turns out to be the most accurate. Just don’t let anyone tell you that I was involved in downing anything...

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