Being my favourite restaurant and bar in Essex, I’m constantly recommending it to people for family gatherings, celebrations or nights out, so when I was offered the chance to take some fellow Essex Bloggers along with me to sample the delights on offer, I was very excited!
As always, the first real fizz of excitement for me hits as I walk down the High Street and it comes in to view – it’s such a beautiful, classic building. Up the front steps, through the doors and into the lobby where you can see the cocktail bar to your left and the lounge to the right, the décor being classy and elegant yet homely; it’s dangerously easy to spend hours within their walls, eating, drinking and relaxing. The vibe is just perfect – decadent yet welcoming.
Once everyone had arrived we were given a quick tour of the building so the other ladies could see what it had to offer – seeing their faces as we walked into the ballroom restaurant was a definite highlight for me! The room was actually set up for a wedding reception that day and there was a Saxophonist playing in the corner which really added to the magic.
After the tour, we went down to our table in the lounge area, and the owners – Matt and Dave – came to sit with us and talk us through the food and drinks we were about to sample.
One of the stand-out things about The Royal Hotel’s cocktail bar is the sheer amount of drinks available to choose from – 50 to be exact – and quite a few of those are their own inventions, not available anywhere else. I’ve tried a few of them in the past (all lovely) but on this particular day we would be sampling 3 brand new mixes, none of which I’d had the chance to try before.
First up was The Earl of Grey, a very easy-to-drink mix of pear and gooseberry vodka, lemon, Earl Grey infusion, basil and black pepper.
This was such a dreamy mix and, for me, immediately brought about feelings of summer – this would be an ideal drink to be sipped in the sunshine. In my younger days I drank many a bad vodka mix and, as a result, it’s not a spirit I favour these days, however, The Earl of Grey was beautifully light and is proof that, when put together by a proper mixologist, cocktails should be easy on the palette.
Our next sampler was my favourite of the day – the Mrs Kensington. Hendricks Gin, elderflower liquer, apple juice and cucumber, this absolutely screamed British garden parties for me! Mixed with precision, you couldn’t actually taste any booze, with all of the different elements balancing perfectly.
With the addition of the cucumber spiral and the flower on the top, this tasted like a truly ‘English country garden’ drink and I’m incredibly tempted to try and recreate it for our friends when we have our next BBQ! In terms of both flavour and aesthetics, this drink really was beautiful and I will definitely be ordering this again the next time I visit!
The third and final cocktail we tried was brand new – so new in fact that it didn’t have a name – and we were acting as guinea pigs for Dave in order for him to see our reaction and gain some feedback. Designed with Easter in mind, it looked like an egg, with the main body of the drink being a Pina Colada and a set Pornstar Martini acting as the ‘yolk’. Brought to you with a straw in the glass, you pop the yolk and the two drinks then mix together – absolute genius and so tasty! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo as I was a little too keen to get stuck in. Bad blogger!
This final unnamed drink really acts as a pointer of where The Royal Hotel are looking to head with their cocktail menu. The ‘yolk’ itself took them 48-hours to set, meaning this one mix is labour intensive, and truly experimental. Having professional Mixologists on their team, they are looking to design more cocktails unique only to them, utilising various culinary and scientific methods to create a touch of magic. Having tasted these 3 examples, I have to say, I am extremely excited!
So those were the drinks – now for the food and, oh my, what a treat we were in for!
First up we were served two platters with a selection of different items from their bar menu. This is no ordinary bar menu food though, everything had a delicious little twist to it and was incredibly moreish.
Smoked salmon scotch eggs, salmon and cream cheese wraps on a bellini base, wild boar sausage rolls, stuffed mushrooms, pork belly popcorn, vegetable crisps, chicken and bacon goujons… every single thing was mouth-wateringly tasty; there was not an item on those plates that didn’t make me want to do a happy dance! How the chef managed to take something as simple as a vegetable crisp and make it so good, I have no idea.
Following the savoury platter, the empty boards were whisked away and replaced with a variety of sweet options – carrot and walnut cake, bakewell slices, Pina Colada cheesecake shots and macarons. Because of my nut allergy, the only thing I could eat was the cheesecake, but I had two, so that gives you an idea of how good they were! The creamy body was delicately flavoured and balanced with the caramelised pineapple chunks and toasted coconut flakes on top. I could have eaten about 10 of these!
All in all, we had a brilliant few hours. The service was, as always, flawless, the food was beyond tasty and the cocktails were so well-designed and well-balanced.
I’m booked to return to The Royal Hotel later this month, and then I’m hoping to go back again with friends over the summer too – my regular haunt and my venue of choice, I can’t recommend this place enough! Get yourself booked in, whether for dinner in the ballroom, afternoon tea, the bar menu in the lounge, or just for cocktails in their sea-view bar.
This might be a building with an incredible history, but something tells me it’s future is going to be just as exciting!
* In Association with The Royal Hotel *