A return to the Royal Hotel

Hello!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  The first couple of months of this year has literally whizzed past, and I can’t believe it’s March already.  Anyway, here is my momentous return to this neglected little blog, and what a return it is. It’s also a return to The Royal Hotel, which I visited not long after its reopening last year.

The restaurant upstairs has got a snazzy new menu, the downstairs bar has got amazing new cocktails, and – excitingly – the basement is opening soon as a brand new absinthe bar.

Let’s (always) start at the bar.

The Royal’s mixologists are continually testing out new cocktails, and they’re adding signature recipes to the menu all the time.  I tried one of the new ones, The Sloe Paddington, and it was delicious.  Sloe gin (tick), raspberry gin liqueur (tick), lemon juice, mint, and marmalade. God, it was good.  Mama Bear had a  mock-jito because she was driving, and it’s probably a good job, because it was gone so quickly that if it had had alcohol in it, it would’ve gone straight to her head. Ha.

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After a couple of cocktails, our table was ready, so we went up to the ballroom to eat.  We had some bread and hummus whilst we debated the rest of the menu, and for starters, I went for the soup of the day (everywhere should do carrot and chilli soup, all the time), and Mum had pan seared scallops with black pudding and pea puree fondant, pancetta, and sour cream, and I have to say, it looked stunning.

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For mains, I opted for the new vegetarian dish, a braised garlic and herb puy lentil tapalone, and, inspired by the wildlife that has taken up residence in my parents’ garden, Mum had coq au vin style pheasant (!)

Our mains were really good; Mum said she wasn’t sure she’d eaten pheasant before, but that she’d have it again.  My plate looked like a flower when it arrived, but I deconstructed it pretty quick.  The only thing I’d say was maybe a downside was that it was mostly lentils; the tapalone is like a dumpling filled with lentils, and there are lentils with the green beans too.  It was good, but if you’re not a big lentil fan, it might not be for you.  On thinking about it, it actually might be a vegan option, rather than just vegetarian, but I’ll have to check!  We munched it all up and had a little break to decide on dessert.

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I didn’t manage to take a picture of my lemon tart before I ate it, but Mum and I shared that and some mixed sorbet – the flavours change about, but the lemongrass and basil is loooovely. We’d spent so long nattering over dinner that the parking had run out by the time we were finished, so I took a few instagram pics of the sun setting out of the window, and then we dashed back to the car.

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I should also mention that the service at the Royal has been AMAZING both times I’ve been.  The staff are friendly, and chatty, and really know what they’re talking about. If you have no idea what a tapalone is (just us?), they’re happy to explain anything, and they were superb.

I’m excited to see what the absinthe bar is like when it’s done – it’s something really fun and different, and Southend is really pulling it’s socks up on places to go out.  It’ll have a gin distillery any day now 😉

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*We were offered dinner and drinks at the Royal Hotel in return for an honest review.  As ever, all words/opinions/pictures are my own!

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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…

Café Rouge, Loughton

I was invited to have dinner at the newly refurbished Café Rouge in Loughton this week as a little midweek treat, and it was looooovely. I took Mumbly with me, and we had a very nice Wednesday night out!

I’ not massively familiar with Loughton, but it was a much quicker drive from Brentwood than I thought it would be, and we found the restaurant really easily. There’s a little car park dead opposite, which was handy being as my shoes were ridiculously high. There were outfit pictures, but Mum somehow timed every single photo to coincide with how often I blink, so I deleted all of them. Ha. I basically wore all my new things and super bright pink lipstick. 😉

We headed into the restaurant and sat in a little booth. The decor is gorgeous, with blown up posters of vintage French films and glamourous film stars. There’s outside seating both at the front and back, and a huge area upstairs with it’s own bar for big groups.

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As well as having been refurbed, there’s a new menu too. I tried my hardest to convince Mum that she had to have snails, but she was having none of it. We decided on wine, and our lovely waiter brought us over some bread and olives while we decided what to have to eat. The olives were lovely, mixed in with tiny little gherkins (which I’ve found a sudden, inexplicable love for), and roquito chillis. Decisions made, we ordered and happily munched all the bread while we waited for our starters.

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Mum had opted for the king prawns in garlic and smoked chilli butter, and she’ll never forgive me if I put the photo of her eating them on here, but she looked very much like she enjoyed them. Haha. They were enormous, and she gave up on her cutlery pretty quickly.

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I wasn’t going to have a starter, because I was going to save some space for dessert instead, but I am a piglet, and I couldn’t decide what to have for my main, so when our waiter said that I could have the risotto as a starter, I jumped. It was DELICIOUS, and my only regret is that I didn’t eat it all because I would have been too full to eat anything else. Champagne risotto with roasted butternut squash, petit pois, plum tomatoes, pea shoots, and lemon dressing. It was gorgeous.

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We both went for fishy mains – I am a terrible vegetarian, I know, but saying I’m a pescetarian (I can’t even spell it) is even more pretentious than saying I’m a vegetarian and then ordering fish. ***Flawless. Ha. Mum had the salmon fillet, and I had smoked haddock fishcakes. Yummmmmmmm.

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I was so full that there was no way I could even contemplate dessert, and I made Mum eat half of one of my fishcakes, because my eyes are always bigger than my belly, so *sadly* we’ll have to go back for desserts another time.

Café Rouge is on Loughton High Street, and is open from 7am until 11pm. You can find directions, read menus, and book tables on the website, here. We had a great evening, the service was amazing and the food was all delicious. Thanks for having us Café Rouge, we’ll definitely be back!!

We were invited for dinner in return for a review, but as ever, all opinions and writing are my own!