Earlier this year my Grandad moved down to Wimborne and some friends got married. Not much to link the two together, or so you'd think. But the food served at the wedding - a deliciously meat heavy feast of salt beef salad to start followed by Dorset lamb - was from the catering arm of the Tickled Pig, whose bricks and mortar restaurant/cafe also happens to be based in Wimborne.
After an aborted attempt to eat here on a previous visit that was derailed by a trip to the hardware store coupled with rampant hunger (the Pig is on the opposite side of the town to Grandad's new place), we made it safely on the second attempt.
Inside, the ground floor restaurant/cafe shares its space with a newly opened deli that sells everything from locally grown herbs and flowers to chocolates, cheese, pasta and pickles. There's even 'ready' meals prepared in their own kitchen, which you can buy to takeaway with a bottle of Tickled Pig branded wine.
My moules frites were rather moules with a wedge/roastie potato hybrid and a hunk of bread. Like many people with a grizzly seafood story - I shan’t put you off your lunch - I only really fancy mussels when a certain mood takes me, and wondered if the day after an all-day hangover (with hints of concussion from some over-zealous dancing near a low hanging speaker) was the right time to choose them.
Luckily I had faith, and these were some of the best bivalves I have eaten for a while. The mussels themselves were plump and sweet and singing of the sea and while the advertised samphire was missing in action there was plenty of the promised fresh chilli and a good lick of cream to tone down the salt and spice. A bottle of Sovereign ale, brewed in nearby Corfe, made a good match
Grandad’s pork was served two ways; medallions of pan fried fillet and a hunk of slow cooked belly, propped up by a huge puck of breaded and deep fried mash (like a potato croquette on steroids), carrot puree and cider jus and a scattering of token kale. I assume all was well, as it was dispatched in double quick time (along with a few of our chips) with special praise reserved for the belly, which had that perfect wobbly fat/meat ratio and shredded upon the mere sight of a knife.
While we were waiting for our lunch Grandad had told us of a crackling disappointment (surely the worst kind of disappointment) at a local hostelry he had recently eaten at, but there could be no complaints with the pig skin on offer here. He was especially lucky as not only did he have a giant shard on his lunch, they also bought an extra mega scratching out after they had cleared our plates. Cue much envy from the rest of the table. (the crack-o-meter was off the scale! - TE)
From this angle you may be mistaken for thinking that the behemoth chips rather overwhelmed the Ewing's burger, but taking into account both perspective and the fact the chips could have sunk the Titanic, it was a very solid sandwich. While I would rather have a burger that went out and not up – being as I haven’t quite evolved my boa constrictor’s dislocate able jaw –the cricket ball shaped puck of Devon Red beef had stayed admirably pink and juicy within.
The real stars of the show, however, were the smoked Dorset red cheddar and home cured pancetta (both available to buy from the deli) which added a huge umami bomb to proceedings. The Ewing also fell hard for the little ramekin of homemade burger sauce which she used to dunk her huge chunks of fried potato, side salad and, when she ran out of food on her plate, fingers.
I find it pretty hard to resist the wobble of a panna cotta, or anything tea flavoured, and so the earl grey infused cooked cream fought off a late charge from the pain au chocolate bread and butter pudding (which coincidentally - made with good old Mother’s Pride and not fancy croissants, I suspect - was also on the menu at Grandad’s new gaff that lunchtime). It didn’t disappoint, served with homemade almond biscotti that almost rivalled the Ewing's. I would have happily eaten more than the one lone New Forest strawberry served alongside, though.
There wasn’t really much of a choice to be made for Grandad and the Ewing; chocolate brownie with honeycomb, salted caramel and the, mysterious sounding, chocolate oil, all the way (although with double crackling and a great hunk of sponge candy, I’m not sure Grandad’s dentist will be thanking us on his next visit).
I was quick enough to swoop in for a mouthful, and enjoyed the grown up balance between bitter chocolate, burnt sugar and Purbeck ice cream, and the textural contrast between gooey and crisp that makes a good pud. I can’t say I’m any the wiser on the chocolate oil, though.
We finished a wonderful meal with some good coffee, roasted by Amid Giants and Idols, a local roastery based in Lyme Regis. Macchiato for me, cappuccino (don't tell the Italians) for the Ewing and americano for Grandad; not that he seemed to need the extra boost, being far more sprightly than a pair nearly a decade younger than him with their ages combined.
And another big pig up to Grandad, who proved he wasn't a boar, patiently posing for a selfie with the two little pigs and the eponymous tickled pig above the front door. (Grandad is THE BEST! - TE)