The mussels are plump. The sourdough says Crunch Me. And the red-purple pinot noir comes from the serried vines that stretch past this stylish little terrace the place company contentedly dine. Sure, you guessed it, that is Essex.
Shocked? Don’t be. In recent times a bevy of British hoteliers, restaurateurs, wine-makers, coffee-grinders, cheese gurus, gastropublicans and genius seafood freaks have turned the East Anglian seaside – the bulging tummy of England from south Essex to west Norfolk – right into a grand Culinary Coast the place you possibly can waddle from regional feast to locavore picnic.
And the superb Crouch Ridge Winery is a good place to start out a wonderful, gluttonous highway journey.
Cheery: Sean Thomas goes on a tour of the ‘Culinary Coast’, which stretches from south Essex to west Norfolk. Alongside the way in which, he finds that Burnham-on-Crouch, pictured, is ‘a cracking instance’ of how this stretch of coast ‘is rising to gastronomic notability’
Quaint structure in Burnham-on-Crouch. It’s ‘very a lot price’ visiting the port city for a day or two, says Sean
With my mussels and pinot supper over, it’s time for mattress, and the winery affords soothing, easy rooms in a transformed barn trying over the Crouch valley.
An alternate for lodging is to move just a few miles south to the little city of Burnham-on-Crouch and the Thatched Cottages, beautiful sixteenth Century self-catering farmhouses with the mod-con you didn’t know you wanted – mummified cats within the partitions to maintain out witches.
Proper over the highway you’ll discover a wonderful farm store – strive the Thorogood asparagus, which is claimed to be the Queen’s favorite.
Burnham-on-Crouch, perched on a silvery estuary, is a cracking instance of how the Culinary Coast is rising to gastronomic notability.
Medieval Maldon, pictured, has many eating places and brasseries to strive, however Sean says that ‘actual foodies’ ought to head to Mersea as an alternative
Mersea Island is ‘flat and muddy with a working port that sends boats into the uneven River Blackwater’. Whereas right here, dine on top-notch molluscs, crustaceans and all issues finned at The Firm Shed
This cheery Essex river port has, lately, blossomed with microbreweries (Wibblers), high quality pastry-making cafes (Peaberries) and ethereal gastropubs (The Ship Inn).
Together with stirring walks on the yachty coast to work off the energy, it’s very a lot price a day or two. The highway journey takes you west from right here – with an virtually obligatory detour to the traditional Saxon chapel of St Peter’s, on the distant finish of the Dengie Peninsula.
A bare-boned field of holiness surrounded by saltmarsh, reed beds and cockleshell seashores, its profound and pensive loneliness can induce a shiver of religiosity in essentially the most atheistic guests.
Subsequent cease, lunch! You would strive one of many many eating places and brasseries in medieval Maldon, however actual foodies ought to head to Mersea Island – after ensuring they received’t get stranded on the one highway in, which is vulnerable to tidal floods.
Flatford Mill in Dedham Vale, the place John Constable painted The Hay Wain. ‘On a high quality summer time day, by the mill on the pond, you is perhaps practically as impressed,’ says Sean
Don’t anticipate standard magnificence in Mersea. It’s flat and muddy with a working port that sends boats into the uneven River Blackwater.
But it surely does boast some sensible seafood spots, particularly The Firm Shed, a weather-boarded chalet proper on the harbour whose humble kitchen seems top-notch molluscs, crustaceans and all issues finned.
Colchester oysters – liked by the Romans – are predictably ace. Many individuals prefer to seize a cup of the Shed’s spicy langoustine soup, with fats dollops of creme fraiche and a field of salty chips.
Guzzle all of it down on a bench by the marina, with the solar and sea breeze in your face. Chic.
Your subsequent vacation spot is on the northern finish of Essex and little-known but magical Mistley, which seems over the River Stour to rural Suffolk.
Whereas in Orford, take time to wander concerning the ‘peculiarly lonely fort’ (pictured)
Aldeburghboasts ‘high quality chocolatiers, revered fish and chip retailers and top-tier motels’
In Manningtree, pictured, you’ll cross the ponds the place Matthew Hopkins, essentially the most prolific Witchfinder Common within the days of the Civil Battle, would have the unlucky accused sure and thrown to be examined for indicators of witchcraft within the infamous ‘swimming’ torture
With its air tangy with the malt of native breweries, and its brooding Georgian wharves looming over Regency follies, Mistley is a novel nook of Britain.
It additionally has The Thorn, a fantastically atmospheric vintage lodge with an amazing menu in its wood-panelled restaurant, a specialist deli and gastro-lab subsequent door (making award-winning marmalades and gins), and a great deal of spooky legends. The location was as soon as owned by Matthew Hopkins, essentially the most prolific Witchfinder Common within the days of the Civil Battle.
If you wish to really spook your self, take a post-prandial stroll down the riverside in the direction of Manningtree, the place you’ll cross the ponds the place Hopkins would have the unlucky accused sure and thrown in to be examined for indicators of witchcraft within the infamous ‘swimming’ torture. Brrr.
One other brief detour inland takes you to the splendid landscapes of Dedham Vale, the place John Constable painted The Hay Wain. And on a high quality summer time day, by the mill on the pond, you is perhaps practically as impressed.
Sean’s highway journey ends on the prime of East Anglia’s bursting stomach, on the ‘breezily stylish’ White Horse Inn in Brancaster Staithe (pictured)
The placement of the White Horse Inn, surveying the dunes and marshes of north Norfolk, is ‘peerless’. On the fitting is likely one of the inn’s fish dishes
The blue damselflies hover, the yellow flag irises shine, a heron slowly stalks the sticklebacks. The Nationwide Belief tea store, in Flatford, proper by the water, is surprisingly modernist and in completely the proper place for a pitstop whereas out on the strolling trails.
As you velocity up, curving by way of Suffolk and spherical in the direction of Norfolk, your selections proliferate. However you actually ought to cease at Orford, with its shingly, poetic seashore, to examine the whirling birdlife, wander concerning the peculiarly lonely fort, stroll in UFO-haunted Rendlesham Forest, and hoover up just-landed lobster and smoked eel on toast at celebrated Pinney’s, a deceptively easy diner in a cute Georgian terrace. Strive the lemon syllabub, too.
Then arty Aldeburgh beckons, with its high quality chocolatiers, revered fish and chip retailers and top-tier motels. Additional north there’s Southwold (sensible by the seaside), or close by Walberswick (super-smart, anticipate to see well-known TV actors), and Nice Yarmouth for kiss-me-quick sights and ice lotions.
My highway journey ends on the prime of East Anglia’s bursting stomach, on the breezily stylish White Horse Inn in Brancaster Staithe. The seafood platter is groaningly good – candy pickled winkles, succulent cockles, well-known Cromer crab – and the placement, surveying the dunes and marshes of north Norfolk, is peerless.
The Queen comes right here, to close by Sandringham, and, more and more, so do a number of households, drawn by the unspoiled villages and seashores, hidden medieval church buildings, and, after all, the great meals.