The Royal Hotel

Last weekend, I headed off to Southend to take Mumbly out for some shopping, and Sunday lunch* at the Royal Hotel.  We had a mooch along the shops and the seafront before making our way to the top of the High Street.

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Having been closed for over a year whilst it was completely refurbed, the Royal has been completely reincarnated, with the Ballroom serving as the main dining room, and new cocktail lounge downstairs. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea, and has a special menu on a Sunday, with vegetarian and fish options that change each week. We went upstairs for lunch, where – at 3pm – the Ballroom was pretty full. It’s a really beautiful room, with great big windows and chandeliers.

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For starters, I went for the tomato, spinach and hazelnut arancini, which was delicious, and mum had devilled whitebait which, I am told, tasted “really fresh.” The little fishes were HUGE, despite the fact I’d somehow convinced myself that whitebait and scampi were the same thing (they are definitely not). I am pleading vegetarian ignorance.

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Mum opted for roast lamb for her main, which came with all the trimmings (and romanesco! And cauliflower cheese!) which I happily helped her eat. We eyed up everyone else’s dinner, and are pretty certain that the extras change, depending on what meat you have for your roast. I had a creamed leek and roasted Jerusalem artichoke puff pastry tart with chestnut and dolce latte, and ohmygod. Honestly, it might be the best vegetarian meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant. So, so good. I couldn’t even tell you which bit of it I liked best, it was so good.

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Somehow, there’s always room for dessert. A raspberry and tarragon creme brulee, and a chocolate brownie with mint chocolate ice cream finished us off, and we definitely had to sit for a good twenty minutes post-dinner before we could contemplate rolling ourselves down the stairs.

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We headed into the bar, where we had an amazing view of the seafront at sunset, and finished off our visit with a passion mock-jito and a Mrs Kensington, which was gin, elderflower, and apple juice. Yum.

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Definitely pay The Royal a visit if you’re in Southend; the food is incredible, the staff are fantastic, and we had a really really great few hours. If you eat in the Ballroom, try to get a table at the windows on the right hand side, because the view is stunning. The Sunday menu costs just £22 for three courses, which is a steal.

I’m already planning at least two trips back – there’s a bar menu as well as the restaurant menu, and there are more cocktails calling my name…

Vegan Life issue 12

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Having been bumped up to ten issues a year earlier this year, Vegan Life magazine seems to be doing better and better.  The new issue just popped on to shelves and into inboxes last week – the online version, which I’m subscribed to*, is completely interactive, which is pretty cool.  Hover over pictures and they turn into recipes, and you can turn over bits of pages for extra content.  Nifty.

vl2Every recipe I’ve tried out of this magazine has always been delicious.  The January/February issue has got a couple of polenta recipes that look pretty tasty, as well as carrot cake (fave), and that chia seed pudding on the front cover.  I’ve always been a little bit baffled by chia seeds, to be honest, and I know lots of people (and instagram vegans) who swear by it, but I always thought it looked… complicated.  Apparently not, and I thought I’d share a sneak of the recipe for you here…

Going vegan is on my long-term list, but it’s not a goal I’m looking at yet, and definitely not one I’m looking at whilst I’m living at home.  I’ll get there eventually, once the guilt gets too much for me.  Ha.  This issue does, however, have some tips for if you are looking at going vegan, (and you can sneak peek this article online) and there are so many companies listed in the pages for cruelty-free everything – from food, to shoes, to make-up – that would really come in handy if you’re trying to switch.  There’s Veganuary next month too, which could totally help!

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I love the Accidental Vegan pages (oreos, HOLLA), because sometimes, I JUST WANT TO EAT SWEETS THAT AREN’T MADE OF HOOVES. /endvegetarianrant. Haha.  There’s a debate about vaccinations, and the cutest rescued pig I’ve ever set eyes on.

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I really enjoy flicking through this magazine; it always gives me ideas. If the next few days doesn’t render me unable to eat again for at least a month, I’m going shopping for chia seeds 😉

 

Disclaimer** I receive an online subscription to Vegan Life magazine, for which I review issues and articles in return.  All opinions and writing are always my own.

Autumn menu at Pizza Express

Partly to congratulate myself on being so organised, but mostly to try out the new menu, Mum and I went to Brentwood’s Pizza Express for dinner* on Tuesday night. Carb loading for an 8 hour flight the next day? Yes. Ha.
The restaurant is at Wilson’s Corner, and I’ve been a couple of times before, so we parked just up the road and dodged the rain just in time to get inside. Our waitress, Lisa, came to take our drinks order, and offered us some pre-starters. Mum had a little bowl of olives, and I had a large glass of wine 😉

For starters, I had the bruschetta, and mum had the new calamari with caesar dressing. My bruschetta was lovely, and mum’s calamari was gone so fast I can only assume it was good! At the moment, Pizza Express are doing a special pumpkin version of their infamous dough balls, which I’ll definitely be going back to test out!

 

I decided to have the new Risotto Mio for my main, which is technically one of the new starters, but they also offer it as a main portion. Chestnut & closed cup mushrooms in a creamy white wine risotto with parsley, garlic oil and pine kernels, finished with Gran Milano cheese, fresh parsley and truffle oil. It was huge, and delicious, and I wish risotto was more photogenic.

Another of the new items on the menu is the Pennette Bolognese, which Mum opted for. A rich beef, porcini mushroom, tomato and garlic Bolognese sauce with pennette pasta, finished with Gran Milano cheese and fresh parsley.
 

We also had a side order of the new Potato Nicciola, which are little fluffly baked potato balls, with cheese on top. Yum. Definitely a good choice.

Stuffed from our mains, we decided to split a dessert, so we went for the new Dessert Trio, three sweet treats to share: gluten-free Chocolate Brownie with fresh strawberry, Lemon Posset Crunch and two scoops of Primo Gelato with a chocolate straw. We switched the gelato for lemon sorbet, and it was lovely.
 

Completely full, we waddled back to the car and home, where Dave got a panicked phonecall from me worrying that I didn’t have enough jumpers, and would I need more socks? and then I went to bed to get up at 5am for the airport. Meep!

Our dinner was lovely, and I’m definitely planning to go back to try out the bits that I didn’t. I should mention as well, that Lisa was great. She was super friendly, and came to chat to us, and made good recommendations. I’ve got a little survey card to fill out – which I’ll do when I’m back home because it’s in my other bag – but I wanted to mention here how good she was. Hi Lisa!

Disclaimer* – I was invited to review the new menu at Pizza Express, but all writing (apart from the menu descriptions, obvs) and opinions are always my own!