From Michelin kitchens to chilli-fermenting ones: David and Mikka Tamlyn have a new home for award-winning Weymouth 51
A couple who have developed an innovative range of handcrafted fermented chilli sauces have just moved their cafe and chilli shop to Sturminster Newton. ON the shelves there’s an eclectic range of enticing sauce names from Sichuan Naga (super hot) to Rockfish Oyster Drizzle (medium) alongside the jars of colourful chillies and fermented vegetables. Owners David and Mikka Tamlyn met in Hong Kong: ‘I was a chef working in restaurants,’ says David. ‘I had trained under Marco Pierre White and then went on to work under other Michelin starred chefs like David Moore at Pied a Terre and Phil Howard at The Square in London. I initially went to Hong Kong to open one restaurant – I opened 20 more!
‘Mikka and I met, I stayed and we had three children! But I injured my back and we decided to return to the UK. Physically I couldn’t do much, and I started growing chilli plants to give to friends. It was part of my recovery plan. Of course, the plants grew and my friends started to ask what they could do with all the chillies … so we started making chilli sauces. We called the business Weymouth 51 because we were living in Weymouth and we have a list of the 51 varieties of chillies we originally used. We started selling them at farmers markets in Sherborne, Shaftesbury and across Dorset. We now have over 50 stockists – including Harrods (but you can also get them in Dikes in Stalbridge!).’
The W51 cafe-kitchen-shop
Although the company is named after Weymouth, David, Mikka and their children now live in Stalbridge. ‘We think it’s a better life for the children. Then we found these premises in Sturminster Newton which were ideal. When the opportunity came up to get this building we grabbed it! It’s a shop but also we’ll open as a cafe and as a kitchen. People came into the Weymouth shop asking for advice on growing chillies or how to ferment, and we could also offer them a coffee or kombucha at the same time.’
The sauces at Weymouth 51 differ from mass-produced varieties – they are naturally fermented which produces a far deeper flavour, showcasing the complex layers of the many chilli flavours. The couple use traditional methods, adding no sugar, chilli extract, colouring, flavouring or preservatives, and are proud that every bottle is 50 per cent chilli, undiluted with tomato or carrot as is common with a mass produced product. David still has the demijohn he started out with – he now uses large fermentation casks to cope with the expanded demand.
In addition to chilli sauce, the couple also make kimchi and collaborate with another Dorset business on kombucha production.
It may have an Asian flavour, but the business is deeply rooted in Dorset. Most of the chillies are grown here and David has sourced the finest local products to incorporate into the sauces. Even the glass bottles are Dorset-made – and the empties are collected back for recycling.
Apple crumble ketchup
‘We have a range of chilli sauces from super hot to mild,’ says David. ‘For example, the Carolina Reaper is the hottest chilli in the world – we use it in our Smoked Carolina 70 sauce. We also use Dorset Naga chillies, which were the world’s hottest until 2006!’
Chilli heat is measured on the Scoville Scale. A Carolina Reaper measures 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU), whereas a Dorset Naga ranges from 800,000 to 1.6 million SHU. Luckily, there’s a lot of choice for those who like milder options!
‘Good chilli sauce should be fruity and aromatic. We have an Apple Crumble Ketchup that goes well in burgers,’ says David. ‘The Scorpion On The Beach has peach schnapps and vodka, and a bit of a kick. And our Moo Glaze is a Korean barbecue sauce that is really popular. It uses Korean gochugaru chillies.’ In the interests of research the BV team tried a pulled pork bao bun with Moo Glaze – it was superb. The recipes are all David’s, a collection honed from his globetrotting experiences. Mikka worked in retail marketing prior to Weymouth 51 and her expertise shines in the branding and labels for the sauces – and inspires some of the recipes.
The couple grow their own chillies and also source some from local growers.
‘Our children also get involved with planting and picking,’ says Mikka. ‘We get our Dorset Naga chillies from Joy and Michael at Sea Spring Seeds in Dorchester; they developed it, so we know we have the authentic product. We’ll also swap chillies for sauces with some growers – they give us their chillies and get sauces in return!’
When it comes to growing, David admits that Britain is not the ideal place for chilli growing, compared to their native climates such as Central America.
‘Chillies need sunlight and heat so we use polytunnels to grow them in this country. It hasn’t been a good year for chillies this year. I also use hydroponics to grow chillies so they can be grown all year round – the energy bills have made that difficult.
It’s been a long journey, but David is proud of how far they’ve come.
‘As a family, getting to where we are today has taken four or five years. But it has given me a focus after my illness. I’m really proud we got our products into a place like Harrods. Now we can take the steps to the next level.’
- Buy online at weymouth51.co.uk
- The W51 cafe-kitchen-shop is currently open by appointment only at Unit 7, Rivers Court, North Dorset Business Park, Rolls Mill Way, Sturminster Newton, DT10 2GA. Call 07942 676675