A gorgeously crooked thatched country inn is the surprise new addition to Mark Hix’s collection of Dorset dining experiences. Kathryn Lewis makes a trip to The Fox Inn at Corscombe
What’s the draw?
In the South West, the name Hix is synonymous with fish and seafood – Mark has long championed local fishermen, and his flagship restaurant overlooks Lyme Bay. So when, at the end of 2020, the renowned chef announced his next project would be a rural pub 11 miles from the coast, it was a curveball choice.
However, Mark and his team have done a fabulous job of giving the Grade II-listed inn the Hix treatment without tarnishing its original charm. Each of the dining spaces (choose between the snug Fox Bar, light-flooded Bill’s Garden Room, alfresco Kitchen Garden or Mark’s Kitchen Library) is filled with attention-grabbing antiques, photographs, cookbooks and other quirky curios which nod to Mark’s cooking career and Corscombe’s history.
The menus do, of course, feature the Dorset fishermen’s latest catch – this is a Hix restaurant after all. But the rural location also gives Mark the opportunity to showcase some of the other fantastic ingredients produced in the area, including in The Fox’s own kitchen garden.
Lee Streeton was appointed head chef when The Fox Inn opened in December 2020 and has worked with Mark, on and off, for over two decades – including as executive chef at HIX Mayfair.
What to order?
It’s hard to turn down the offer of seafood starters when herb-baked Lyme Bay scallops are hand-dived by Mark’s long-time chum John, and smoked salmon is cured in-house using Mark’s own recipe. With such provenance, these ingredients are prepared simply to allow the natural flavours to sing and are all the more delicious for the chef’s light touch.
For mains we were side-tracked from the familiar by some of the meatier options on the à la carte menu. A ten-day stint in a sugar pit cloaked our chunky bacon chop in a caramelised crust which melted on contact with the tongue, while its juicy cockle and salty samphire accompaniments cut through the richness of the pork.
Our waiter Felix’s recommendations had been so great thus far that we couldn’t ignore his gentle nudge towards Grandma’s apple and rhubarb pie for pudding. Mark uses his grandmother’s pastry recipe which, rather indulgently, replaces water with double cream. It’s decadent, sure, especially when lavished with vanilla ice cream and homemade custard, but the sharp notes of the fruity filling beautifully balance the velvety pastry.
Manager Spiros is working with Mark to refurbish the bedrooms above the inn and introduce a collection of suites in the courtyard. The first rooms will be available to book this autumn and are worth securing for a greedy getaway in the Dorset countryside.
Long weekend in Dorset? Read out Lyme Regis staycation guide here.