Harriet Mansell

Harriet Mansell was born in the West Country, an area of southwest England that includes Dorset, Devon and Somerset. She began her career working for fellow west country chef Mark Hix, followed by stints at Noma and cooking on superyachts. In late 2020, she opened her debut restaurant Robin Wylde in Lyme Regis, a town in west Dorset. Less than a year later she conceived a restaurant and wine bar housed in a 400-year-old cellar near the beach. Her vegetable-forward menus are guided by the wild produce that she forages daily from the rugged Jurassic coastline. Here’s what else you can do if you’ve made it to the Pearl of Dorset.

Follow Harriet

A Foodie Town in West Dorset

The dining culture in Lyme is relaxed. It’s fueled by locals and staycationers visiting in the summer and focused on great regional produce. Being on the coast, we have fantastic seafood to be experienced whether it’s in casual fish and chips shacks or chicer spots serving champagne and oysters. It’s been great seeing more food businesses pop up here lately. I think it’s because the people here are looking for cool, small-scale places to spend their money.

My Connection to Southwest England

I was raised just over the border in Devon and have always loved the southwest. It’s a really magical part of the world. I spent time cooking all over the world, but when it came to opening my own place I knew I wanted to be in the southwest. I trialled a pop-up of my first restaurant, Robin Wylde, in a pop-up space in Lyme [Regis], and when the opportunity for a brick-and-mortar came up, I knew it was right. The restaurant’s name is a reference to the incredible wild ingredients that are on offer in the region. The team and I go out most days to forage the coastline and hedgerows – and that’s what informs the menu. We recently started a wild food bakery within the restaurant to use our wild larder of ingredients in the form of bread and pastries through the winter months. In the summer of 2021, I opened Lilac, a restaurant and wine bar just down the road from Robin Wylde. Here we serve a local, seasonal sharing menu with English wines on tap.

“It Doesn’t Get More Local Than That”

I love Millside. It’s a fish restaurant right in the heart of Lyme Regis, tucked away near The Town Mill and beside the River Lym. It’s great for seafood and serves artisanal beer from the Lyme Regis Brewery, which is just across the street. It doesn’t get more local than that. Soulshine in Bridport does really creative comfort food. Head chef Andy Tyrell is a River Cottage (cookery school) alumnus and cooks with beautiful, vibrant produce that you want to get stuck into. 

Sunday Lunch in Lyme Regis

If it’s been a long week and I want to go somewhere to relax and enjoy good food with friends, it’s Glebe House all the way. When industry friends visit me, I take them there for Sunday lunch. It’s phenomenal. It’s set in this beautiful old house with rooms you can stay in and boasts some incredible views over the countryside. Chefs Sam and Hugo are so talented and wonderful. The menu is farm to table and gloriously unfussy. Their fresh pasta is to die for. I also take friends to The Seaside Boarding House. It’s one of my favourite spots for a special occasion. It’s twenty minutes from town and has beautiful views across the bay. The menu is refined and is largely focused on local seafood. The last time I was there, I had some cured meats and fresh cheese that were delicious. The porchetta was a winner.

Natural Sparkling Wine From England

For something a bit different but really special, I take people for a wine tasting at local vineyard Castlewood. We have a great relationship with Rob Corbett, the owner, who supplies us with fantastic bottles for the restaurants. The vineyard is in a beautiful spot beneath the ancient hill fort of Musbury Castle, perfect to take a tour and try some unique natural wines. The Brut Nature – a natural English sparkling wine – is one of my favourites and a regular on my menus. 

An Incubator for Some of the Best Venues in Dorset

The Pop-up Kitchen is a restaurant that holds a very special place in my heart as it was the place where I trialled my first restaurant. Ali, who runs it, has provided such a valuable resource to chefs and people in the industry, myself included. So many venues in and around Lyme Regis got their first start with her and have gone on to establish incredible places. She is really defining the dining scene by giving a platform to new businesses. At the moment, local chef Lowell Fachau is trialling his pop-up concept Radix there – and it is one to watch. 

A Snapshot of Lyme Life

The Volunteer Inn – or “the volly” as locals call it – is a proper pub with lovely vibes. It’s a great place to get a snapshot of Lyme life. The landlady, Becky, is really welcoming and pulls a mean pint of cider. Poco Pizza is another great spot to experience the local culture. It does great woodfired pizza and has a beautiful view over the Lyme Bay. 

Some of the Best Oysters in the World 

I know I’m biassed, but Dorset oysters (particularly the Princess Portland) really are incredible. They’re such a treat when I come back after a long trip away. You can have them  super fresh at Mark Hix’s The Oyster & Fish House overlooking the beach.

A Short Drive You Won’t Regret 

If time allows it, you won’t regret the hour’s drive to Holm in South Petherton, a village in the South Somerset district. The restaurant is set inside an old bank in the village. Nicolas, the chef, serves a constantly changing menu. It’s seasonal and super-refined while the setting is really relaxed. It has some lovely Somerset ciders. The last time I was there I had the non-alcoholic seasonal shrub which was delicious.

Portrait photo credits: Matt Austin

Our guides are fact-checked and updated regularly. Read more here. 

This is where you say something cool and awesome about this website and business. Can be whatever the hell you want.

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap
%d bloggers like this: