The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee public holidays on 4 and 5 June this year coincided with TT Week (the annual motorcycle races) on the Isle of Man, so they pronounced 6 July Jubilee Day on the island instead. This worked in nicely for a four-day weekend with Tynwald Day, the Isle of Man’s national day, which occurs on 5 July. On this date each year, since 1417, the island’s legislature, Tynwald, meets on Tynwald Hill in St John’s where all the new laws are declared.
Cut to Milntown just outside Ramsey, a lovely house and estate dating from the early 16th century, which is now open to the public with a restaurant and beautifully kept gardens. On Isle of Man Jubilee Day last Friday a model boat pageant was due to be held on Milntown’s lake, so we decided to go along for a look-see and have lunch while we were there. Sadly, just as we were arriving, the presenter on Manx Radio announced that the pageant had been cancelled owing to the rain, as had many other events around the island; remote control boats don’t like water getting into their electrics, we were later told by the estate manager.
The restaurant is situated in a light, airy, newly – but sympathetically – constructed extension to the house with big windows and skylights. It’s run by my brother’s sister-in-law, Jenny, and her partner Simon. Jenny, who looks after front-of-house, is not there today but Simon, the head chef, is beavering away in the kitchen helped by Lucy, Jenny’s sister, who we wave to through the door from our table. Spritzers are ordered for my mother and me, Peronis for my father and sister. I decide to have local crab, dressed and presented in the crab shell, with salad and brown bread and butter and a little pot of mayonnaise on the side. It’s a light but filling meal and the crab is delicious and so fresh – a real taste of the sea.
Sticking with the seafood theme, my mother chooses the seafood medley which is a generous stack of poached salmon, smoked salmon and prawns topped with Marie Rose sauce and a sprinkling of paprika, and again served with salad and brown bread and butter. She thoroughly enjoys it and gives me a mouthful to try; I’m overcome with food envy! It’s beautifully cooked and presented and full of rich and smokey flavours.
Annie has the burger with caramelised onions, salad and chips, which seems to go down a treat, and Dad goes for the lamb tagine served with saffron rice which he says is fruitier than the last time he had it and less spicy; I think he preferred the slightly spicier version.
We all rather naughtily have puddings too, Annie the rhubarb and custard crumble which she loves, Dad the Mississippi mud pie which is a light but substantial chocolate mousse on a crisp biscuit base, and Ma and I share the white chocolate and strawberry cheesecake which is sweet and creamy, but not terribly cheesy, and has the same lovely biscuit base and big, juicy strawberries inset at the thick end of the slice as well as perched on top.
Fully sated we take a wander around the stunning gardens which are looked after by four full-time gardeners. There’s a pond with huge goldfish, endless varieties of gorgeous flowers and flowering hedges and trees, an abundance of organic vegetables and fruit, many of which are used in the kitchen, including artichokes, figs and squashes, a water-mill, a small lake with pet ducks, and woodlands – 15 acres in total. In spite of the light rain it’s a very enjoyable and tranquil experience; in fact, that everything is dripping with water only serves to make it look all the more luscious, colourful and fecund. (I do like that word!)
Lezayre, Isle of Man
Visited 6 July 2012