Mark Hix’s perfect weekend in Dorset

The former chef-director of Caprice Holdings opened his first restaurant, Hix Oyster & Chop House, in 2008, and his latest, Pharmacy 2, with Damien Hirst earlier this year

Mark Hix on the harbour wall at Lyme Regis, Dorset
Mark Hix on the harbour wall at Lyme Regis, Dorset | Image: Gareth Iwan Jones

I grew up in Dorset and about three weekends a month I escape from London to a little house I’ve got in Charmouth, a village near Lyme Regis. It’s more of a wooden shack really, overlooking the sea. On Saturday I wake early, especially if I’m going fishing, so I’m usually up by 6 or 7am. I might have a bit of breakfast, say, a brick à l’oeuf with a blob of harissa, or an omelette, and a cup of coffee. Then I’ll head out.

I keep my boat moored in the harbour at Lyme Regis. It’s a vintage Chris Craft speedboat from the 1970s and I’ve been restoring it for years – new engine, new decks, everything. It’s called Smokey Joe because when I first got it, the engine was always catching fire. I usually go eight or 10 miles out until the coastline disappears a bit – it’s very relaxing. You can catch all sorts – sea bass, pollock, mackerel, cod. I’ve also got lobster and crab pots.

If I’ve got a good catch I might take some of it to the [Hix Oyster &] Fish House, my restaurant in Lyme Regis. I’ll often lunch there, so I can keep an eye on the menu. Or I’ll go somewhere that does good, uncomplicated seafood like The Riverside in West Bay, a lovely restaurant on the River Brit, or Crab House Café in Weymouth, where you can enjoy Portland oysters, a beer and a great view.

After lunch I might go back out for more fishing or meet some mates in the pub – I like The Volunteer Inn in Lyme, which is very traditional. If the weather’s bad I’ll go to The Alleyways in Bridport, a covered market with lots of antiques traders under one roof. I’m always renovating something so I’ll look for gilt mirrors, antique books, furniture. I go so often that I usually get a good deal.

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In the evening I might have friends round for dinner – I’ll cook whatever I’ve caught on my wood-fired oven in the garden. I like to cook Asian because people don’t expect it, but I don’t usually have a plan. I just use bits and pieces I’ve picked up from one of the farmer’s markets in Bridport – some herbs or salads from Trill Farm, some local cheese, some oysters. And there’s always something to be foraged: mushrooms, wild garlic, sea vegetables, berries. Sometimes I’ll host paying guests in my kitchen – I cook four courses and serve them with different wines. It’s like having a dinner party but one where you don’t know any of the guests, which I find quite fun.

On Sunday mornings I don’t tend to lie in – I might go for a walk along the beach. Later I’ll jump in my Land Rover and go shooting. There’s a syndicate of eight of us who shoot at the old-school Aishe Barton estate in Exeter – we’ll head out whatever the weather. Then we’ll head back to the Fish House for supper, or my friend Chris will get someone from the River Cottage in to cook dinner at his place.

There’s always something going on – festivals, bands, exhibitions. In September I run the Food Rocks festival, where loads of local producers and restaurants set up stalls along the seafront in Lyme Regis. We also do this thing we call Guitars on the Beach: a couple of years ago Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, who lives in Lyme, came. He played Smoke on the Water accompanied by about 3,000 guitarists and there were people in boats moored off the shore burning smoke flares.

If I want to see some art then I’ll visit Hauser & Wirth Somerset; the owners are friends of mine. It’s in a converted farmhouse with meadow-style gardens designed by Piet Oudolf and has a good restaurant that sources food from a neighbouring farm. I might also have a cocktail in the bar, which was designed by the artists Björn and Oddur Roth.

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I’m good at staying up late but when I’m in Dorset I’m usually in bed by about midnight. And I sleep better there than I do in London.

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