Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A foodie paradise -County Hotel Chelmsford, Essex

When it comes to good food I am constantly surprised to discover that sometimes the most unexpected places can delight with quality offerings, amazing presentation and imaginative recipes.

Street food for instance has come a long way since it was fundamentally a greasy burger in a limp bun. Some of our country's best chefs are producing spectacular food out of a van.

I'll confess I had very low expectations of the food at the County Hotel in Chelmsford where I stayed after a press trip recently. I expected a safe, chip-heavy menu and just hoped there would be something fresh available.

County Hotel Chelmsford, Essex, UK #visitessex #essexvineyardspresstrip

I'm sorry, County Hotel. I should have looked more closely at your accolades online. It proudly states that the hotel's Samphire Restaurant has been awarded the coveted AA award for culinary excellence this year along with the AA four black star award.

A newish manager has overseen a host of improvements to the hotel which had previously been described as "tired" on Trip Adviser.  From the impressive gin collection to the elegant restaurant decor this is a hotel well worth a fresh look at. With rooms costing around £85 a night the hotel is very competitively priced considering it is just a short hop into London and Chelmsford itself has recently been transformed with a chic new high end shopping area.

Single room, county hotel, chelmsford

If I am honest (and I always am) my single room was nothing special with single glazed windows and an uninspiring view of a flat roof and a bit more of the building. However the room was spacious and well appointed with better than expected tea and coffee making facilities and toiletries in the bathroom along with nice big fluffy white towels.

facilities County Hotel, chelmsford, Essex

A couple of issues I had with heating were swiftly sorted by the charming and helpful staff who politely did not point out I was an idiot for not working out the simple controls, but there was not much that could be done about a faintly odd smell in the room. It was nothing dreadful however and frankly the large bed was so comfortable I was soon asleep, enjoying probably the best nights sleep I have ever had in a hotel.

But I have jumped forward past my amazing dinner.

I was eating alone so had taken my Kindle expecting to shovel sustenance while catching up on my murder mystery. The menu however took me by surprise and had so many gorgeous choices I had to ask my friendly waitress for her recommendation.

I plumped for the poached duck egg with asparagus and hollandaise to start and was delighted to find the egg was perfectly poached. The Kindle was unceremoniously stuffed back into my handbag - this was food which deserved my full concentration!

duck egg with asparagus and hollandaise

The main course was a tough choice. There was a herb crusted lamb rump which sounded divine served with dauphinoise potatoes and maple glazed carrots. I've a soft spot for steak and the County Hotel's ruby red ribeye with crispy marrowbone was immensely tempting.

Fish choices were appealing too - pan fried fillet of John Dory, gin-battered cod fillet or monkfish wrapped in parma ham. But in the end I went for the waitress-recommended slow-roasted free range pork belly with creamed potato, cavolo nero, red cabbage puree, apple sauce and pork jus.

pork belly at award winning restaurant County Hotel, Chelmsford

It turned out to be a good choice although I would have preferred actual red cabbage to the rather dried on puree which luckily still managed to add flavour to the dish. Portions in the restaurant are generous so I struggled but, Dear Reader, you will not be surprised to learn that not only did I finish my main course but I valiantly volunteered for desert too.

Oh and I am so glad I did. I am not generally a dessert person preferring a good starter to a sweet finish but the homemade warm pear frangipani with caramelised pear and salted caramel ice-cream and a gorgeous sticky sauce was worth loosening my belt for.

Fully sated I headed for bed - and as I mentioned before slept like a baby.

warm pear frangipane with caramelised pear

There was no way I was going to miss breakfast the next day and despite having only just about digested the amazing dinner I decided that the only way was a full English.

breakfast county hotel, Chelmsford, Essex

Oh and maybe a browse through the impressive continental section. Mmmm and maybe some bacon and homemade pancakes (a decision made after seeing a plate heading for another table.)

breakfast at County Hotel, Chelmsford, Essex #review


Locals obviously know about this amazing breakfast - there was even a family in school uniform enjoying a good start to their day. Once again my poached egg was absolutely perfect - no mean feat during a busy breakfast service. My request for a dairy-free alternative to milk was fulfilled quickly with not an eyelash batted and once again full to the brim I waddled out ready to do some early Christmas shopping.

So. In conclusion. Hotel good, staff fabulous, food exceptional. Another example of how Essex deserves to be known for more than TOWIE.

Want to know more about what the county offers? Check out my review of some of the locally produced wine, beer and gin liqueur after the #essexvineyardspresstrip HERE.

County Hotel, Chelmsford, Essex #review

Disclaimer: I stayed and ate free at County Hotel for the purpose of this honest review.

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