It felt like we were in the land of the lost as we weaved our way up Zig Zag Hill in thick fog last Friday evening. Our goal; The Museum Inn, Dorset, the reason; The legendary Yapp Christmas party, our immediate aim; to get there in one piece and ahead of Charlie, our fear; he would empty their barrels of 6X before we got there. Thankfully, thanks to my Stig-like driving prowess and Paul's Ordnance Survey standard navigation (the Sat Nav's nagging drone had long been confined to the boot), we arrived intact, in deepest, darkest Dorset (Farnham to be precise) and Charlie had barely managed to get to grips with his first pint.
The Museum Inn is a free house with fine dining and Bed & Breakfast, the perfect venue for a Yapp night out. It may seem strange having a Christmas bash in January, but this is the nature of the beast for all of us who serve in the wine trade. December is not a time for relaxation and frivolity; we leave that to you dear customers. Our blood, sweat and tears shed in that festive month are dedicated to ensuring that you all have a wonderful time. Our loved ones are now used to our haggard looks, twitchy behaviour and gentle rocking on Christmas Day a culmination of two months worth of frantic business (for which we are truly grateful). Now it is January, now it is our time...
Two bottles of house Chablis and several rounds of 6X helped freshen the palate and relax the muscles ahead of our meal. The bar was packed, which I took as a good indication for the quality of the menu ahead. We were then seated in our own room, under the watchful eyes of a wall of hunting trophies. I am still not sure whether our hosts had given us our own space for our benefit or the other patrons. Nevertheless, there was no time to consider this as the food started to arrive.
To start, I had opted for pan-fried, diver-caught Lyme Bay scallops and I was delighted with this selection. The scallops were delicious, so tender as to melt in the mouth. With my taste buds well and truly activated, I had to force myself to slowly chew my roast loin of local estate venison with a braised venison pie so to appreciate all the rich flavours. Again, the cooking skills were self evident with the perfectly cooked meat and the miniature pie was a great addition. I can also venture to comment that the slow-roasted Gloucester Old Spot pork belly was another excellent main course (thanks to Bianca's kind donation of left overs). The succulent pork was accompanied by some braised red cabbage, which was as good as I have tasted anywhere (sorry Mum)! To finish I had opted for an Assiette of Rhubarb: Rhubarb Crumble, Stem ginger ice cream and Rhubarb Shot, the perfect finish to a fantastic meal.
As we always appreciate, Tom and Jason had once again done us proud with a raid on the Yapp cellars and we were well fuelled with a Magnum tour of the Rhône - J.L Chave Hermitage Rouge 1993, Provence - Domaine de Trévallon Rouge 2005 and Australia - Jasper Hill Georgia's Paddock Shiraz 2003. All of which were perfect partners to the Museum Inn's superb cuisine.
Our stay at this most hospitable of venues was all too soon drawing to a close as our carriages arrived to collect us. The friendliness of the staff, the quality of the food and a not inconsiderable bar bill (as it spilled from Tom's shaking hands and down to the floor one could not help but a liken it to an Andrex ad.) had all contributed to a great evening. It certainly helped to make the stresses and strains of Christmas trading well worth it.
This is where my reportage ends, with us all departing into the darkness with two reliable and brave cabbies. However, in that darkness glowed the neon lights of Legends night club, shining across the counties, like a beacon to weary travellers. However, that, dear readers, is another story...