Alison Smith visits Ammonite in Lyme, where they cram most of Dorset into a deli with utterly delicious results.
In 2015 when Ammonite, a long time wine shop came onto the market, Janet Wiscombe was approached by a friend for some advice regarding the viability of it as a business. She did such a good job of extolling the virtues of the place that in doing so persuaded, not her friend but herself to buy the business. Janet then set about transforming the space into a thriving deli, still stocking a diverse range of beverages but replacing Australian Merlots and German Rieslings with award winning Lyme Bay wines and Dorset ales and ciders.
The deli stocks an impressive array of predominately locally produced goods, including cheeses, condiments, chocolate and coffee but is not adverse to sourcing from further afield should an interesting or unusual product present itself. Take, for example, the Manfood range, with its bold retro typography and varieties including Asian spiced ale jelly and strawberry Negroni jam or the seaweed mayonnaise and nettle pesto by Wild at Heart. There’s even Charcoal Cheddar, the only fully black cheese, made with Yorkshire charcoal. Customers are invited to tuck into the selection of samples on offer, which today include Ammonite sweet garlic pickle deep with roasted garlic flavour and spiked with pungent mustard seeds and nigella and Lyme Bay Winery Strawberry Wine, sweet and fresh; ideal for a balmy summers evening. Husband Martin Wiscombe, artist and owner of The Pug and Puffin dog and human gift shop, also in Lyme Regis, designs bespoke labels for the deli’s own range of products. Painted in acrylic they mimic the style of old railway posters. Lyme Regis viewed through a nostalgic lens.
The shop is smattered with these attractively wrapped treats, which include wax wrapped cheeses; jams, chutneys and curds and old fashioned sweets. There remains, in keeping with the shop’s background, an emphasis on high quality drinks, with a well curated selection of regional or quirky spirits and liqueurs. The store has exclusivity in Lyme Regis on the retail sale of the full Lyme Bay Winery range, as well as locally produced new kids on the block Newton House, Fordington, Lilliput and Pothecary gins.
Unusually, every liqueur and spirit is available to sample its something they insist on when they stock a product allowing the customer to compare a variety of sups before purchasing. Frequent visits and tastings from suppliers and producers ensure that every one of the passionate team is familiar with the entire product range and able to guide the customer through the shopping experience, whether to pinpoint the botanicals in the Conker Gin or to direct them to the hottest chilli sauce in the South Devon Chilli Farm collection. Whatever the season, there is always something new to discover at Ammonite; today the shop front sings with fragrant fresh herbs, while a counter bursts with plump fresh olives from Olives Et Al. Come late autumn, cream liqueurs will take centre stage and staff will be busily packing hampers full of Lyme Bay Christmas Mead, Dorset Tea Bags and Ammonite stollen flavoured chocolate. And all the while chirpily dishing out titbits of deliciousness to tempt and delight.