SHWINGS (CHELMSFORD) // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A couple of weekends back we were invited down to one of Chelmsford’s best restaurants, Shwings, in order to see what their Sunday roast was all about. Being a Shwings fan anyway, I had high hopes for this dinner, & I can confirm it did not let me down. The other half of the party, was until this point, a Shwings virgin. He has now seen the light & has safely been converted, all thanks to this phenomenal roast dinner. So first things first, service was exceptional as it always is at this place, friendly & welcoming, efficient, not pushy, recommendations made, it’s all there. Service is also very prompt, our food was served within ten minutes of being seated. Needless to say, we both went for the roast, we both had the 3 course roast and a platter of wings to share (you can’t visit this place & not have them), plus as mentioned, the other half had not visited, so he needed to try all of those flavours! There have also been some new flavour additions since my last visit, so again, it needed to be done.

We kicked our meal off with a couple of starters which were halloumi sticks with chilli jam, which just so happened to be the best chilli jam ever & fried pickles served with a blue cheese dip (I LOVE blue cheese but I know this isn’t to everyone’s taste, but try it, it’s really good, & it isn’t too strong here!) The starters were devoured in about 2 minutes between the pair of us, & we were impressed with what we got. We had huge expectations with what was to follow…

The roast comes in at £15, plus you can upgrade & add starter/dessert for extra £££. The roast itself is made up of 1/2 chicken, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding plus your choice of 2 veggie sides, as well as a very generous jug of the Shwings gravy. The veggie choices include minted peas, garlic carrots, cauliflower cheese & red cabbage with apple. Each of us opted for cauliflower cheese (who doesn’t go for cauliflower cheese?!), as it’s a favourite & also as we were recommended this. I am not lying, this is by far the best cauliflower cheese I’ve ever had, soft cauliflower smothered in a blanket of melted, gooey cheese, mmm! The other sides we chose were the garlic carrots & the red cabbage with apple. The garlic carrots were nice & light, not too heavy on the garlic, balanced just right, & the cabbage was triumphant to say the least! This was the first time I’ve ever tried this particular dish, & it was SO YUMMY. I enjoyed it so much, the first thing I did when I got back home was Google the recipe – this was some top notch stuff! To be impressed by just the veg alone, I think speaks volumes! Of course, the rest of the roast was absolutely wicked, the roast potatoes were perfectly crispy, the Yorkshire pud stood tall & provided sanctum for the delicious gravy (which had a rather nice white wine twang to it – really yummy), & the chicken was spot on, lovely & soft, fell straight off the bone & had the most perfect, crispy skin known to man (I’m an absolute sucker for chicken skin, I don’t care how terrible it is for you!) This really was one hell of a roast, & I would 100% urge you to try it out if you haven’t already. 

After smashing through the roast, we ploughed our way through the platter of wings. The platter consists of 9 different flavoured wings, the flavours are;
– Buffalo
– Honey & chilli (my all time favourite)
– Hoisin
– Sticky orange
– Smoked BBQ
– Jerk
– Sweet Thai chilli 
– Shwings, which is sriracha & miso
– Da Guv’na, which is a grilled wing in Shwing’s very own blend of herbs & spices
All of the above were delicious, as expected. Each & every one has such a unique taste, sometimes it can be hard to decide which is the favourite! The new flavours definitely throw a spanner in the works but I just don’t think anything would ever come between me & my love for the honey & chilli wings.

Following this chicken-based feast, we did, believe it or not, manage to do dessert as well (it took a bit of a breather, but yes, we did it) & we enjoyed sticky toffee pudding (our favourite dessert), this was lovely & fluffy, really deep in flavour, & the best Biscoff cheesecake known to man!! I’ve had a lot of these Biscoff cheesecakes but the time has come, & I’ve found the best one.

Shwings is by far one of the best places to eat in Chelmsford, they know what they’re doing & they do it well, hence the success they have. It wouldn’t have been the most obvious choice for me if you said pick somewhere to go for Sunday lunch in Chelmsford, but I’ve now tried it & love it. I would recommend giving it a try yourself, alllll day long.
A very special thank you to Mark for inviting us down & a huge thank you to all the team who looked after us – genuinely the loveliest, friendliest staff going. [GIFTED] 

THE JOBBER’S REST (UPMINSTER) // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A little while back we visited The Jobbers Rest, which is a cosy pub located in Upminster, not our usual turf, but well worth venturing out to. Naturally, before visiting, we’d had a glance of the menus & were seriously impressed, plus there were a couple of replies to Instagram stories saying how this was a fantastic place to go – we were very excited before we’d even set off.

So we were very kindly invited down by a lovely lady called Karen, who was also our host for the evening – she certainly knows her stuff! Karen kindly showed us around the pub, gave us a bit of insight behind the company, gave us plenty of recommendations, as well as introducing us to other staff members, a true credit to the business. The purpose of the visit was of course to sample the menu, & that is exactly what we did. We enjoyed some divine dishes, some very tempting cocktails & truly exceptional service.

Our scrumptious feast began with some very impressive starters, including;
– Loch Fyne salmon gravadlax, which was served alongside salmon pate, salmon caviar & a horseradish creme fraiche & dill pesto dressing. This dish was absolutely unreal!!! The salmon tasted so, so fresh & was so well complimented by the dressing… this could’ve been eaten about 3 times over, easy! Each ‘part’ of the dish worked so well, & what was nice about this starter too was that it was lovely & light, almost like you’d not eaten a starter at all (plenty of room for mains!)
The second starter was;
Cheese souffle – Another absolutely weapon of a starter! This looked the part too – a fun dish as well, as you got to pour in the cheese sauce, yum! The souffle was lovely & fluffy, & very quickly devoured. We would DEFINITELY order this again!

The starters set the bar very high for mains but we knew we wouldn’t be let down – with everything going so well, we knew we were onto a winner. Our mains arrived promptly, & looked absolutely incredible! We enjoyed;
– Slow cooked Beef Bourguignon – this was mouthwatering, to say the least. The presentation in itself was incredible, & the taste of it, indescribable. With each mouthful of the plate, you got different flavours bursting through, it was absolutely delicious. The meat was so tender, & literally fell to pieces when the fork touched it. By FAR one of the best cooked pieces of meat we’ve tried. The bed of mash was gorgeous too, super smooth & not too much of it to leave you feeling full & bloated. A beautiful, beautiful main. We can see this being a favourite during the winter!
– Jimmy Butler’s free range gammon steak, served with a duck egg & chips. So a slight twist on a pub classic – you can never go wrong with a gammon steak, & boy, was this a steak! The gammon was HUGE, very thick but tender throughout – cooked to perfection. The egg was cooked to perfection as well, with a rich runny yolk, perfect for dipping the chips into! Normally we would season our chips with salt & vinegar but these little beauties needed nothing – they did all of the work for themselves. 
We also enjoyed a couple of sides with the mains which were;
– Dauphinoise potatoes
– Buttered green beans
Both of these were superb. The green beans were perfectly buttery, cooked just right & worked entirely with the bourguignon. The potatoes were another level – these were dreamy. The right dose of garlic, & not too creamy, the one side you NEED to order if you visit this pub!
We were so, so impressed with our mains, all of the plates were completely cleared, bar a few green beans – this says it all!

Despite clearing our plates, we sure as hell had room for desserts – how could we turn our noses up at a third course, when everything else had blown us out of the water?! We went for one of the customers’ favourites, which was recommended, the Pistachio souffle, & Chocolate fondant with spiced orange & passionfruit sauce… wow, wow, wow, WOW! The desserts were EVERYTHING. The souffle in itself was a beast (in a good way of course) & the chocolate fondant was spot on. The souffle was deliciously sweet, & worked perfectly alongside the chocolate ice cream which it was served with, & the fondant was so rich & intense, but nicely broken up with the citrus fruit flavours. To be totally honest, we probably could’ve eaten the entire dessert menu – everything on there is amazing. Different, but things you know will work. Alongside our desserts, we also enjoyed a couple of cocktails, Karen had these made for us as a bit of a surprise, so we had two of the favourites which were the Amaretto Sour & everyones favourite, Pornstar Martini. These were of course sumptuous, (as well as dangerous!) We could’ve easily kept knocking these back, they were doubtlessly delightful.

We were totally astounded with our visit to The Jobbers Rest, truth be told, it wasn’t somewhere we’d heard of before, but we are really glad to have discovered such a beautiful restaurant with such an exquisite menu. We will certainly visit again, there’s just so much on the menu that we’d like to try, & we’ve also heard their Sunday roast is pretty top notch too. Not only is the food good, the level & quality of service we received was what you’d expect to receive in a premium restaurant (where you’re spending hundreds!) Every member of staff we spoke to went the extra mile for us, & nothing was too much. We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone at The Jobbers Rest, & of course the wonderful Karen for making this all happen! We are counting the days down til our next visit!

It’s also worth noting that for the PUP-LOVERS, this place is also dog-friendly. If the review wasn’t a reason enough to visit, they even have their own pups too!! Get yourself booked in ASAP!
[GIFTED]

TWELVE BURGER & BEER (SOUTHEND) // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A few weeks back, we visited Southend’s latest burger restaurant Twelve Burger & Beer. (Please bear in mind, the latest Covid restrictions were not in place when we made our visit). The restaurant itself is located in the heart of Southend, making it ideal to stop off for a snack if you’re out shopping, or perhaps a cocktail or two after getting off the train from work. We visited on a rainy Thursday evening, & enjoyed some yummy food! Sadly no alcoholic drinks for us (other than a small glass of prosecco on arrival – which was a really lovely touch), as we were driving. The restaurant runs a fantastic offer of 241 on ALL alcoholic beverages between 5 & 7pm, so it really is the place to pick up a couple of drinks. We saw several cocktails carried through the restaurant during our visit, & they all looked fab. We were gutted we couldn’t try some! We did however indulge in some fantastic food – we each upgraded our burgers to a ‘meal’ so as well as the burger, you get chips & a drink included in the price. Our burgers of choice were…
– Bacon Cheese Burger. This was delicious! The caramelised onions were what totally made this burger, it added a huge depth of flavour. I wish I’d gone for the double tbh! However, saying this, the burger itself was very big & I did need cutlery to make my way through it, or else it’d have slipped straight out the bun. This would definitely be ordered again!
– The Twelve Chicken Burger. Another delicious burger! The chicken on this was lovely & tender, with it being chicken thigh rather than fillet. This was quite nice to see actually, as most places will use chicken breast, but thigh is much more juicier – this was very welcomed. The only little tweak that we would probably make to this burger would be using mayo, as we much prefer mayo in a chicken burger. The sauce in this was almost like a raita, which was nice, but just not to our preference.
The burger menu itself wasn’t too extensive which we think is a GOOD thing – too much to choose from can be overwhelming, & with a smaller menu, this allows the restaurant to really perfect what they have on offer.
Each meal came with a portion of chips which were lovely – these didn’t need seasoning at all, & were wolfed up! Following our meals, one of us enjoyed a gorgeous vanilla milkshake – this was SOOOO yummy! It wasn’t thick, as we expected it to be, however, you should not let this deceive you! This milkshake was absolutely bangin’! All of the food was really nice & we enjoyed our visit here, just a couple of little bits that we think could’ve been improved – our meals didn’t come out at the same time, which meant one of us had to wait for the other, just a little timing issue, & secondly, we found the music a little too loud over dinner – we are all for music, but we would’ve probably preferred this if we were having a drink!
Thank you very much to @ for having us – we look forward to popping in again! [GIFTED]

THE GEORGE & DRAGON (EPPING) // FESTIVE MENU

Tonight we are visiting The George & Dragon in Epping to try out their new festive menu (below). We cannot wait to share our thoughts!

CAFE BRAZIL // CHRISTMAS MENU

We’re treating you to another Christmas menu – this time it’s Cafe Brazil’s festive offering! This is one I’m going to be checking out- I think it’s great value for money, & you will also receive a complimentary glass of fizz – what’s not to love?!

TURTLE BAY // NEW MENU

Thank you to Cab PR for the following content

Turtle Bay launches a new menu with more options than ever before, including Caribbean brunch for the very first time!

Curry Aubergine, Mr Fabulous’ Jamaican Patties, Five Alarm Chicken Curry – just some of the mouth-watering dishes you can get your hands on – and sink your teeth into – on the brand new menu at Turtle Bay.

For the first time ever, diners can start the day at Turtle Bay with a scintillating selection of breakfast items packed full of Caribbean flavours, such as Curry Goat Hash and Blackwell Breakfast – porridge served with a shot of Blackwell Rum. Other brunch offerings include dishes like curried chickpeas, jerk sausage and sweet plantain for both adults and ‘Little Turtles’ to enjoy.

Some of Turtle Bay’s specialities and iconic dishes will remain (so fans don’t need to panic) but in addition the new menu features a variety of reimagined dishes, and fresh new and exciting delights to try. There will be a selection of sharing platters and classic Caribbean curries to choose from. Inspired by street vendors from across the islands, cutters are Caribbean-style tapas dishes – perfect as a starter, for sharing or as a side. Not forgetting the fiery jerk flavours and scrumptious soul food that Turtle Bay is renowned for.  

There are even more veggie and vegan options than ever before too, as the new menu features a mouth-watering selection of dishes including Chilli Smashed Avocado Salad, Jerk Tofu a Vital Vegan Platter and more. 

Even the puddings on the new menu pack a punch. From the Chilli Chocolate Brownie to the Caribbean Mess, Banana Toffee Cheesecake, Fiery Root Ginger Kickin Ice Cream and more, these sweet treats are not to be missed, especially when you can sample two for £9, three for £13.50 or four for just £17 – get your spoons at the ready and prepare to tuck in!

Turtle Bay’s new lunch meal deal is available Monday to Friday between 12pm and 3pm, where diners can choose any burger or roti, plus one side and homemade soft drink for £10. Set menus will also be on offer all day Sunday to Thursday, with options to feast on two courses for £12 or go the whole hog and devour three courses for £15. 

Turtle Bay is all about slowing down, hanging out and feeling good, and this is exactly what its new menu will deliver. With the ultimate food freedom, customers can ‘lime’ away the hours in the restaurant, from 10am until late into the evening.

Go to www.turtlebay.co.uk to see the new menu and set your taste-buds on fire. 

KULA CAFE // BRUNCH REVIEW

A couple of weeks back we were lucky enough to be treated to a lovely brunch at Kula Cafe – a cute little cafe located right in the heart of London’s bustling shopping district, Bond Street. The cafe itself is situated on James Street, along with many other cafes, bars & restaurants, the perfect spot if you’re looking for lunch whilst shopping.

We were given menus on arrival, & as the day was beautiful we decided to take a seat outside. Seats outside are quite limited, so you’ve got to be ready to pounce as soon as one becomes free. At first, the cafe didn’t appear to be too busy (I think we’d probably missed the breakfast-time rush) but soon began to fill up both outdoors and in – although we were advised that the cafe does get so much busier – I can only imagine how hectic this must be!

Shortly after arriving we placed our order – and on our menus were;
Drinks
– salted caramel & toffee frappe
– Hollywood diet juice
Brunch
– egg florentine halloumi
– halloumi omelette
(we love halloumi here at Essex Foodies!)

Both drinks were delicious! The frappe was creamy & sweet, whilst the juice was fruity & refreshing. Both drinks were of a medium size which was perfect, too much frappe can be too sickly & too much fruit juice can be acidic, but the sizes here were fine & lasted us throughout our visit.

Both of our brunches were also delicious, we were blown away by the sizes of the portions & their generosity on ‘extras’ on the plate. The omelette was served with with a salad garnish as well as a slice of toast, definitely more than enough to set you up for a day of shopping! The omelette itself was completely full to the brim with cheese (no complaints here whatsoever!), & layered with perfectly cooked halloumi – my friend enjoyed this dish & she completely rated it. I went for the eggs florentine halloumi, which was a dish made up of poached eggs, hash brown, Hollandaise sauce, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, halloumi & salad all served on a bed of toast. I was honestly not expecting the dish to be as huge as it was, but I soon managed to work my way through it! Everything about the food was perfect, it looked lovely, was full of flavour & was very filling & kept us going throughout the day without the need to snack on anything – ideal if you are up in London for the day really. I would also say that this give you great value for money, some places would charge extra for the sides of toast & salad but Kula include these, certainly worth noting.

Once we’d finished our ‘mains’ if you like, we were then surprised with a massive Eton Mess waffle! This dessert was humungous but again, we soon found our way through this between the pair of us – my advice here would be that if you do visit, be aware that these desserts are really, really big & would easily be enough for 2 people.
The waffle itself was fluffy & fresh, & all the toppings were again fresh & worked beautifully alongside the waffle. The waffle was stacked with whipped cream, ice cream, meringue & fruits including strawberries, raspberries & blueberries as well as a fruity sauce. It was nice to have refreshing toppings to it rather than it be overloaded with rich chocolate for example (especially with the weather).

The pair of us were astounded by the quality of the food at Kula, everything that we had was superb. Not only was the food very photogenic, but it was tasty – there are no other words for it in all honesty! We would most definitely visit here again, & would recommend trying out Kula if you are ever close by!

A massive thank you to all at Kula for welcoming & looking after us!

#AD #GIFTED

BANANA TREE // NEW MENU REVIEW

The marketing/Instagram team at Banana Tree recently reached out to us to inform us of their new menu & invited us down to get our opinion on it – an offer we could not refuse!

We visited a few weeks ago now, & were very impressed with what was presented to us. Banana Tree is somewhere that I have visited previously so I knew what to expect, & had an idea of what sort of thing would be on the menu. I visited with my Mum who had not previously been. So first up, we had the prawn cracker basket which is served with a sweet chilli dip. The crackers were undoubtedly a hit with us, we didn’t leave a single one, & the sweet chilli sauce was the perfect condiment to pair with them, it gave a subtle kick to the crackers but didn’t overpower them. For our starters, we had the vegetable spring rolls & Mekong prawns. Both starters were served up very efficiently & were piping hot when they reached our table – perfect. The spring rolls were fresh & crunchy, served with lettuce wraps that completely complimented the dish. The prawns were perfectly cooked – the prawns themselves melted in the mouth, & again the chilli salsa really worked well with & complimented the seafood. As a whole we thoroughly enjoyed our starters & would certainly go for these again, I would also suggest getting them as sides maybe if you like picky bits along with the main course. Looking at the menu, the starter dishes are varied & I think there is definitely something for everyone on the menu, you’ve got the bulk standard dishes such as chicken satay which you can’t go wrong with, as well as the more adventurous dishes that not everyone would probably go for. All in all, we were more than happy with our starter choices.

For mains, we each had a main dish along with a side. Between us, we had;
– Blackened chilli beef with chilli salsa
– Classic sweet & sour stir fry with crispy chicken
– Soya noodles with beansprouts
– Egg fried rice

I have to say, I was very impressed with the beef, as I’ve said before in previous posts, beef can be a tough one to crack but this was perfect, the meat was soft & not chewy in the slightest, a win all round! The noodle dish paired perfectly with the beef also. I was also a little cautious with the beef dish as it was notably a spicy dish on the menu however the beef itself was fine & wasn’t spicy at all – it was only the salsa that had a kick, so nothing to worry about if you ever order this!

The sweet & sour chicken was exceptional! It was full of flavour, loaded with lovely vegetables that gave a crunch to your bite & the chicken was tender, just as it should be. We both loved this dish & would order again & again – it’s a classic that you can’t go wrong with.

Each of the side dishes were also perfect, the noodles were tasty & filling, but also not overpowering in flavour & neither were they too salty or heavily doused in soy sauce – definitely the best thing to pair with a meat dish to bulk it up a little. The rice was also lovely, this was very, very filling but tasty & fluffy, just as rice should be!

What we liked the most about our main choices was that they could be shared, you’re not just limited to what you ordered. This also fits in with what I said about the starter dishes – you could definitely order these & enjoy them alongside your mains.

The main courses were a solid 10/10!

Last but not least were desserts. The dessert menu offers some traditional Indo-Chinese delicacies, so not necessarily things you’d always go for or even heard of, but we came across the warm chocolate Indo-fondant and each enjoyed one of these. The dessert was delicious! It was lovely & warm, rich & sticky, & was very well complimented by the coconut ice-cream served with it. This dessert was simply one of the best we’ve had in our time of reviewing. In particular, we really enjoyed the ice cream. This was creamy & full of exotic coconut flavour.

We really enjoyed our time at Banana Tree & loved the food! We would certainly recommend checking them out. Banana Tree also offer a vegan menu so there really is something for everybody to enjoy. Thank you to all of the team that looked after us on our visit, & for the marketing team for inviting us, we look forward to returning!

THE LEATHER BOTTLE // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Last Friday Essex Foodies made a trip to this wonderfully cosy pub set in the pretty & picturesque village of Blackmore. The pub is super easy to find, & took around 15 minutes to reach from from Chelmsford by car – so not too far out at all. Upon arrival & at first glance, the first thing we noticed was just how (with cars) busy it was – this was not a problem for us as we had a table booked, however with this in mind, if you plan on visiting (which you should do once you’ve finished reading this), I would strongly recommend booking just to make sure you are not left waiting.

So first off, we were shown to our table which was inside & looked out onto the gorgeous beer garden – the garden being in full swing all thanks to the wonderful sunshine we’ve seen recently. We ordered our drinks & had a glance over the menus – we were given the evening menu & the specials menu. The menus I would say offer typical pub dishes but with a modern & much more gourmet approach – simple but to an exquisite standard.

After glancing over both menus, we soon came to decide what we were going for – both my starter & main I chose from the specials menu, & Mum opted for both courses from the evening menu. Everything on the menu sounded fantastic but there was just something about the specials that just stood out for me, so on the menu for myself, there was to start – haddock & leek fishcakes followed by the chicken wellington, & for Mum there was the prawn & crayfish cocktail to start followed by a main of beer battered haddock & chips (definitely always a winner on a Friday evening!)

The kitchen wasted no time in getting our starters served up, both plates arrived within around 10-15 minutes which was perfect.

As you can see from the above photographs, the food was remarkable! Mum commented on the size of her prawn cocktail & said that it was huge – we tend to find that normally with prawn cocktails you get less of the fish & definitely more of the lettuce, however this was not the case at all here – there was more than enough, & the bread was also generous with 3 slices on the side. Another thing that Mum was really pleased with was, believe it or not, the butter! I can vouch for this also though – most places will normally serve you really hard butter that doesn’t spread at all, this was perfectly spreadable & didn’t contribute to any holes in the bread! It’s the little touches like this that really do make a difference & you do notice.

The fishcakes that I had were impeccable. They were light, fragrant & very more-ish. The haddock was a good choice as the main ingredient as it’s not overly (as silly as it sounds, a fishy-fish) but gives a nice subtle flavour which is very well complimented by the fresh taste of leek. If these were a main at the restaurant, I would definitely go for them.

On to the mains! As you know, I went for the chicken wellington & Mum the beer battered haddock & chips. I think the pictures below say it all really! The haddock & chips was a roaring success with Mum – she loved every bite. The fish made a welcome change to the usual cod, it was delicate & flaky, with a crisp & fresh batter. Chips were second to none! You cannot beat a good pub chip. The meal itself is available in either small or large, Mum went for the small & this was plentiful, especially after a starter. At first glance she did question whether it would be enough but this soon changed as she quickly became full.

The chicken wellington was tender, juicy & delicious. The chicken itself was wrapped in prosciutto ham & spinach enclosed in a perfect & glossy pastry casing. I would absolutely recommend trying this dish, it was slightly unusual & made a change from beef wellington but in a good way! The chicken was served on a bed of wild mushroom sauce which was lovely & rich, & with green beans & new potatoes. I personally find green beans can be a tough one to get right & they can often ‘squeak’ but these did not – they were perfect & not a single thing was left on my plate! Even the potatoes were cooked to perfection.

After finding a little more space in our tummies, & after eyeing up the menu we of course decided to go for desserts.

I was torn between desserts – sticky toffee pudding is my all time favourite (I love to try & have this everywhere so I can find the best) & my go to, but with the weather being as gorgeous as it was, I could not miss the opportunity to go for the summer-fitting mango cheesecake. Mum followed in my footsteps & went for the summery eton mess. We were both delighted with our choices. Both desserts were fruity & tangy, & in all honesty, the right amount after the other 2 dishes we’d had. The pair of us would definitely pick these desserts again & again.

Another fantastic little feature is that the pub also boasts an extensive gin menu which also gives guidance on which tonic to pair to each gin – perfect with or without dinner!

We unquestionably loved our evening here, so much so that Mum booked a table whilst we were there & was back over the same weekend – this doubtlessly shows just how favourable we found this place to be. Everything was spot on, even down to the tiniest detail such as the butter (as mentioned). The pub offered such a warming & cosy atmosphere, & this was on a hot summer’s day so I can only imagine just how lovely it would be in the winter – I’m certainly excited to make a visit over Christmas as I think this will be lovely, & I will certainly be back before then anyway!
To put it simply, The Leather Bottle offers good, honest food & exceptional service & this is really everything I look for when it comes to planning an evening out. Thank you so much to all at The Leather Bottle for welcoming & looking after us, everyone here is a real credit & should be proud of their work! We look forward to visiting again soon in the very near future.

#AD #GIFTED

BALTI NIGHT // TAKEAWAY REVIEW

Last weekend, this award-winning takeaway based in Braintree very kindly provided a meal for myself & a couple of friends. My friends are already huge fans of this Indian takeaway, & are very friendly with & know the staff there, so after mentioning Essex Foodies to them, Balti Night very generously invited Essex Foodies to try it for themselves. As my friends already eat here regularly, this review will be based on just what I ate & experienced.

So first off, we ordered our food in the shop itself, so we got to see firsthand just how busy it was. The shop was packed with queue just starting to form outside of the door, & continued to stay busy whilst we were there. The phones were also relentless, with each line answered the entire time we were in the shop. I would say that we were in the shop itself at around 7.45pm, so I would imagine that it only got busier as the evening went on. I think the demand here speaks volumes & shows exactly why this takeaway has picked up as many awards as it has, which leads me on to mention just how many awards this place has won & been nominated for – their walls are completely dominated by various certificates.

On to the food, on the menu for me there was;
Mixed starter, which consisted of hot onion bhaji, chicken seekh kebab, meat samosa & crispy king prawns
Poppadoms (goes without saying)
Chicken tikka chilli masala
Pilau rice
Saag paneer (my favourite Indian dish, something I order every time!)

So that was really my typical sort of order asides from the main – I would normally play it safe with a korma or dry chicken tikka, but seeing as this was going to be reviewed & written about, it was really best to mix it up & go for something slightly different – & I can safely say that I think I should definitely do this more often, & starters I would normally go for tandoori prawns, or a dry tikka starter but the mixed starter was recommended so this is what I went with.

The starter certainly allowed you to try what I would say are probably favourites – I enjoyed each & every one, the seekh kebab is not something I would ever think to pick, but this was a nice surprise, the meat was tender & bursting with tandoori flavour, likewise meat samosas would not be something that I would pick either but after trying them here, I think I have been converted! The hot onion bhajis were crispy & provided a nice warmth, & finally the prawns were cooked to absolute perfection, they were soft but with a nice crisp bite to them. The starter gave me an insight to what the rest of the meal was going to be like.

Main – so typically I’d normally go for a meat dish with rice & a side or two, depending who I’m with & if I’m sharing! In this case, the food was not shared, it was everyone for themselves – (not all bad, more for me, ha!)
The pilau rice was the perfect accompaniment for the chicken tikka chilli masala as it played the offset when the chilli became too much, however saying this, I would say that the chicken tikka chilli masala was in no way too hot, it could just have a little bit of a kick to it now & then – I’m normally a korma girl but this was by no-means too much for me. I would order this again for sure. Saag paneer – I’m a sucker for a saag paneer & I think I’ve completed my quest in finding the best. The dish here from Balti Night was rich & creamy, with the biggest chunks of paneer I’ve ever scooped up (my mouth is salivating thinking back on it!) With each mouthful, I wanted more.

I would doubtlessly say that Balti Night has claimed top spot for my favourite Indian takeaway, it’s a shame that they’re based in Braintree & I’m Chelmsford, or I’d be ordering lots more! These guys work tirelessly & it’s clear to see why they’ve received so many awards & why their shop is as busy as it is.

Thank you so much to the guys here for inviting me down & for allowing me to review them – I will most definitely be putting my order in when I’m next in the area & I know that my friends will sure as hell be ordering again in the very near future!

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DUSK // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Mid-July saw the opening of one of Essex’s hottest, most prestigious restaurants, which we were thrilled to be invited to. The evening promised glamour & sophistication, which it undoubtedly delivered.

Upon arrival, you get a feel for what the restaurant is going to offer – the cars parked to the front of the restaurant say it all & leave little to the imagination.

The venue itself boasts various different rooms/lounges, including a main dining area, a function room, shisha lounge & bar plus grounds overlooking the stunning Bentley Golf Club. We were lucky enough to be given a guided tour around the venue, & each & every aspect of it is simply stunning – certainly somewhere you could hold a wedding party reception, or perhaps a work-do Christmas party. Once shown around the premises, we were led to an outside decking area, overlooking Bentley Golf Club, to enjoy more drinks & delicious canapes. Each of the canapes we tried were outstanding, our favourite of the selection were the chicken tikka bites (which a few of the staff also told us were their favourites).

We were also lucky enough to be treated to a three-course meal & drinks (please be aware that the venue does not sell alcohol, however there are no objections to bringing your own). The menu was set, so the only choice to be made was chicken or beef – you had the options of butter chicken or roast beef for mains.

The menu offered a starter of prawn, green apple & lemon cappuccino, mains of either honey lemon roast beef served with baby yorks, twice fried chips & summer berry gravy or butter chicken with rice & freshly baked naan, & a trio of desserts which was made up of chocolate delice, lemongrass brulee & almond croquant & pistacho ice cream.

All aspects of the meal were incredible – the food was mouthwatering, & the presentation second to none, even down to the cutlery, everything was perfect & aesthetically pleasing. The ingredients used are certainly some of the best – the prawns were some of the best I’ve ever had – the starter consisted of just 3, however they were plump & juicy, just the right amount for a starter dish. The beef was also cooked to perfection, sometimes beef can be a tough one to crack & can often be quite chewy or laced with fat, however this was melt-in-the-mouth. My Mum went for the beef dish & she loved it. I went for the butter chicken & have to say, I think this was probably the best butter chicken I’ve ever tried. The dish itself was not the typical mild butter chicken, but had a fiery twist to it – a real winner. Desserts were also a huge success, they were not something we would typically pick off of a menu however both of our plates were cleared, so there’s not much else to say on that front. As the food was to such a high standard & ever so tasty, I would certainly return to see what the rest of the menu offers.

Thank you to Dusk for inviting us along to their launch & a huge, huge thank you to each & every member of the team who did everything they could to make the evening what it was. We loved every second of our evening & would quite firmly state that the food here is probably one of the best we have yet reviewed!

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GRAND TRUNK ROAD // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A while back, we were approached by a marketing agency who offered us the chance to dine at Grand Trunk Road, a restaurant located in the heart of South Woodford. Naturally, we were delighted with the request & soon found ourselves booked in. A couple of weeks passed & soon enough, the arranged date came round.

At first glance, the road where the restaurant is located seemed quiet & as if there wasn’t a lot going on, neither (from the outside) did the restaurant look very busy which put a little doubt in our minds, however this was all about to change. The door opened to reveal what is definitely a hidden gem.

The restaurant was at full capacity with not an empty table in sight, proving that it really is what’s on the inside that counts. The restaurant was dimly lit, giving the place a real chilled out feel and a really pleasant tone – perfect for an evening of cocktails & gorgeous modern Indian cuisine.

Upon arrival, we were kindly greeted & shown to our table, then presented with the drinks menu. I had already decided that I wanted to go for a cocktail – it was just a case of making the difficult decision of which one. I chose to go for Calcutta Night Rider, a vodka based cocktail, & lethal if I may say so! As with all cocktails, this was so easy to drink & I could’ve definitely drunk them all night long! My Dad played it a little safer than myself & went for a Cobra beer.

Once our drinks had arrived, we made our food order, & then indulged on a Poppadom Basket complete with chutneys. The poppadoms were light & crispy, just as they should be & the different chutneys were full of flavour & left a sweet taste in our mouths. We chose to share a starter from the Grill & Tandoor section of the menu & our starter of choice was the Bangali Basket – a medley of different fish dishes, comprising of a grilled King Prawn, salmon, seafood cake & seared scallop. Each sample of fish was fantastic, not a single bit went untouched. The component that stood out for both my Dad & I was the salmon, it was genuinely the nicest & probably best cooked salmon the pair of us have both ever tried. The fish itself was of good quality, very thick & meaty-almost, & the flavour was just spot-on. If I’d had known how good the salmon was going to be, I would’ve chosen this for main course. All of the other components making up the fish starter again were of very good quality & more than satisfied the tastebuds. This leads me onto the mains, where we each picked a separate main but shared rice & bread. For mains, I opted for Amritsari Butter Chicken & Dad the Kabul Ka Hiran Tikka (Venison), & we shared Zaffrani Pulao Rice & Missi Roti. One thing that we liked about the menu & the dishes was that it wasn’t your typical Indian with the usual suspects, but a much more modern & with a twist Indian cuisine.

My main of butter chicken was thick, rich, creamy & pleasantly mild. It didn’t look a lot size-wise but once I started to get through it, I quickly started to feel myself feeling full. I did however manage to finish the bowl! In hindsight, I think we would’ve been better off having a rice each as I found I had a lot of sauce left with nothing to accompany it. Overall for me, this is without fail something I would have again. To say that Dad enjoyed the venison would be the understatement of the century – I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone as thrilled as he was to see a venison dish at an Indian restaurant! To be fair, this is not something I’ve ever seen before, so I loved that Grand Trunk Road’s menu was slightly unusual. Dad described the dish as cooked to perfection & highly recommends it to anyone that visits the restaurant.

Following from our mains, we indulged in some delicious desserts. I went all out & even went for a dessert cocktail too, so I took pleasure in devouring a slice of almond & orange cake which was perfectly light & fluffy, & offered subtle citrus-y hints with a sweet crunch, washed down with a full-bodied & very potent espresso martini. Dad went for a classic slice of chocolate cake, which was luxuriously rich & fit for a king! As with the rest of the meal, not a single mouthful of either desserts were left. They were each very different from each other but both heavenly.

We both rated this restaurant very highly, & Dad went as far as to say that this was by far the best Indian restaurant he has had the pleasure of dining at, which is very bold statement. I certainly loved it here too, & would definitely recommend giving this place a visit – I think if you were to visit you would be captivated by what the restaurant has to offer.

Thank you very much to each & every member of the team at Grand Trunk Road who made our evening what it was, & a special thank you to Chef Sharma who took time out of his working day to come & speak with us, & give us an in-depth insight into his career of which he is so passionate about, & last but certainly not least, thank you to Plus 1 Communications for setting this opportunity up for us.



GIGGLING SQUID // NEW MENU PREVIEW

Early last week, we were given the fabulous opportunity of previewing Giggling Squid’s new menu. This was certainly an offer that we simply couldn’t say no to. I’d always heard great things about this restaurant but just had never got round to actually visiting, so when I received an email offering us a place at the preview, there was only ever going to be one answer, and that answer was YES!

The evening was one of the more formal evening’s Essex Foodies had been to, however it was very insightful & interesting to find out more behind the restaurant & business itself, as well as future plans & developments.

The purpose of the evening was for Giggling Squid to show off their new menu & what they had been working on – & it did not disappoint. Their menu is hugely extensive & really does spoil you for choice, although we were very lucky as we got to sample pretty much all of the starters. As you will see from the below photos, there was plenty on offer.

The menu itself was extensive & left nothing to be desired – you’ve got dishes for those that prefer something slighty more plain, & you’ve certainly got dishes for those that are a little more adventurous! Giggling Squid also offer a fantastic & very fairly priced lunch menu which comes in at around a tenner (per person) for a Thai tapas lunch – perfect if you want to get to try dishes.

When it came to mains, each guest could choose a main dish plus a side – I opted for crying beef with a side of noodle & bean sprouts. I was very pleased with my choice – the food was simply fantastic! It was cooked to perfection & certainly satisfied my tastbuds. All of the other mains looked amazing too & I think I would be right in saying that there was definitely a little food envy in the air!

The food was beyond expectation – both in flavour & presentation. Not only was each dish was powerful & bursting with flavour but also looked fantastic too (personally I think noodle-y type dishes are not always photogenic & can be difficult to get decent pictures of). Because the food was so tasty, I would most definitely recommend & would 100% return.

Desserts were also exceptional – we shared a few between the table & everyone enjoyed what they tried.

There was also one other thing that really stood out on the evening which deserves a mention & that was how busy the restaurant was & stayed. We visited on a Tuesday evening & the restaurant was bustling & didn’t die down at all. Even by the time we left (around 9.30pm), the restaurant was still packed. To me, this is a huge achievement & proves that Giggling Squid isn’t lacking in demand. I feel that nowadays restaurants during the week tend to depend heavily on set menus to bring in custom – Giggling Squid is a whole different kettle of fish.

Thank you to all at Giggling Squid for inviting us along & allowing us to sample the new menu – we loved it! We will definitely be back again in the near future, make sure you check them out too!

PETTY 4S // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A couple of weeks ago, Essex Foodies very politely received a message on Instagram inviting us to come along & visit this brand new restaurant in Canvey. With the restaurant being so new, there was very little to go by (no website, nothing on Tripadvisor), so we were pretty much going in blind, other than what we had seen on Petty 4s Instagram page (all of which looked incredible). Our visit did not disappoint, & our review will show you exactly why.

We visited Petty 4s on Friday evening, so a nice little treat at the beginning of the bank holiday weekend. Upon arrival, manager Leah showed us to our table & advised that we would not be choosing from the menu, but rather sampling a few dishes from the menu so that we could get a feel for it all.

To begin, we enjoyed some homemade sourdough bread with butter. The bread was exceptionally good, & extremely more-ish, we tried to resist asking for more as we didn’t want to get too full before we had even started but we soon gave in!

For our starter(s), we enjoyed crab ravioli followed by garlic chicken. In all honesty, I was a bit nervous with the crab as when I have tried it before, I’ve not liked it. I’ve found it to be, as silly as it sounds, too fishy. I still gave it a go, & was very pleasantly surprised! Everything at Petty 4s is made from scratch, so the pasta had been freshly made & the crab had been brought it fresh from Billingsate Market (alive!) & prepared by Chef Alfie in the kitchen. The ravioli was absolutely lovely & would definitely be something I’d order in future.

Next up was the garlic chicken. A simple dish very well presented, as you can see.

The chicken was nice, & I did enjoy it, however it wouldn’t be something I would necessarily order (just personal preference). I did really enjoy the bed of spinach & sweetcorn which it came on – an unusual combination of flavours that worked.

Next up on the menu was steak… (woohoo!) I absolutely love steak & will quite often order one if I go out for dinner, so I was very excited to try it Petty 4s-style.

The steak was cooked medium-rare & was served with fondant potatoes, caramelised onion & parsnip puree, all of which were fantastic. The steak itself was melt-in-the-mouth & left nothing to be desired. I would certainly order this for myself, & would definitely recommend it.

Following on from our steak main, we enjoyed two different desserts – lemon posset & chocolate cake.

The lemon posset was lovely, light & refreshing, almost a palette cleanser after our main meal. The portion size was just right, & I especially loved the modern/trendy bowls that the dessert was served in. If you ever happen to be in Canvey along the seafront, I would definitely recommend popping in & getting yourself this over an ice cream!

And finally.. The chocolate cake!

The chocolate cake was delightful! It was rich, sticky & the right taste to finish off our meal. I generally find chocolate cakes a bit too rich, however this was just right, thanks to its small portion size & serving of ice cream.

My Mum & I were delighted with everything that we tried, & both agree that we would definitely visit again (especially after their Sunday roast was mentioned). The service was fantastic, & the staff couldn’t do enough for us.

Thank you to all at Petty 4s, especially Leah & Alfie, for inviting us & looking after us, we had a fantastic evening, & left with very content tummies!

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ZIYARET // RESTAURANT REVIEW

A little while back in January, Essex Foodies were invited along to what has now become one of my (& my Mum’s) favourite places to eat in Chelmsford. As you read on, you will find out why.

Conveniently located close to Chelmsford train station is this gem of a Turkish restaurant, serving absolutely delicious & fresh dishes. The dishes we enjoyed included mixed olives & bread with dips to begin –  I have to say, the bread & the dips of which were served were absolutely exceptional, everything was flavourful, tangy & tasty. We then followed this with our starters which included tiger prawns & special hellim-sucuk. The prawns served were huge! To me this makes a huge difference, as there is nothing worse than ordering prawns & for them to arrive shrivelled up. The hellim-sucuk (halloumi & Turkish sausage) is one of my favourite Turkish dishes & this did not disappoint, the halloumi was lovely & fresh, not rubbery & the sausage was flavourful – lovely & spicy. Following from our starters, we feasted on the yogurtlu lamb shish & the chefs special king prawns as well as a side of rice. Both of the dishes were again lovely & flavourful, well presented & both generous in portion sizes, especially the shish. Everything we had was ever so fresh. Personally, I would say if you are looking for a meal on a budget, this restaurant would be worth checking out as just a main alone would definitely fill you up! After we had enjoyed our main courses, we devoured a couple of pink gins served with elderflower tonic & fresh fruits – even the drinks tasted so lovely & fresh. On the last leg of our food journey, we enjoyed the desserts coppa rossa & tiramisu – both of these were ice cream based desserts so were not too heavy after a filling meal. The tiramisu wasn’t the standard sponge cake, but a tiramisu inspired ice cream instead. I like the idea of this as sometimes cake after a meal is a bit of a no-no & can end up leaving you feeling uncomfortable. The coppa rossa was yummy! Mascarpone flavoured ice cream served on a bed of digestive crumb – almost similar to a cheesecake but again, not as heavy. All of the food we ate here was absolutely lovely. Turkish is one of my favourite cuisines so discovering this place has definitely found me a new favourite place to eat!

It’s also worth mentioning that these guys also have a great lunch time menu, which can be served up within minutes! We would like to thank Ziyaret for welcoming us to their restaurant, for their exceptional service & for the wine that they also gifted us with. We will most definitely be back in the near future! Thanks again for the invite @ziyaretchelmsford

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ZUMBURA // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Earlier on in the year (January), I had the privilege of trying out this tiny restaurant nestled in Clapham Old Town. What a delight! The food here is made without using any cream or butter, which have to say, makes such a difference to how you feel after the meal. For the first time ever after a curry, I wasn’t bloated or uncomfortable – this is definitely the way forward!

There was a lovely menu to choose from, some things recognisable but made with a twist. The various dishes my Dad & I enjoyed included the cod fillet & calamari to start, lamb chops, lamb curry & tiger prawn curry for mains with sides of paneer masala & khatte bhaigan (baby aubergines). All of the food was superb, and thanks to it being so nice & light, you could fully enjoy it! Following from our food, we were brought a selection of ice creams – all of these were so lovely! In particular I really enjoyed the berry flavour. I would highly recommend giving this restaurant a visit, especially if you are a fan of more natural, healthier meals. Definitely a hidden gem! Thank you to Raju, @binodbaral_ & the team @zumburaclapham for the invite & for their hospitality.

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NEW PAVILION // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Back in February I was lucky enough to be invited along to this lovely restaurant in Maldon, which has recently been taken under new management. On arrival, the building looks like a pub & is very large, however inside is a cosy little restaurant with an extra seating area to the rear – so definitely not what I was expecting (not a bad thing! I was pleasantly surprised).

Onto the absolutely gorgeous food! Personally I thought the menu was quite limited, however sometimes I do prefer this as you can be a bit spoilt for choice. Regardless, there were plenty of dishes on the menu that I would pick. For our starters, my mum & I enjoyed the beef carpaccio (one of my absolute favourite dishes – so glad to see this on the menu as not a lot of places offer this) & the anti-pasti board which included your typical bread, balsamic vinegar, olives, sundried tomatoes, meats & cheese. Both starters were very tasty & generous in size. As mentioned before, I love beef carpaccio so this was a roaring success! I wish that more places offered this dish, actually. For our mains we enjoyed a dish from the specials board which was a chicken & bacon linguine – this was lovely, albeit a little bit rich. Again, this was plentiful & generous in size. For my main, I enjoyed the cod which was served with spring onion mash & spinach in a tomato sauce – beautiful! The dish was nice & light & didn’t leave me feeling stuffed. Both mains were more than enough so you could probably get away with not having a starter)… Which leads me on to dessert (of course we had 3 courses!!) We indulged in the lemon tart & eton mess – both desserts were lovely & light, & very fresh in flavour thanks to the fresh fruit. Everything we ate here was lovely, & was really well presented as you can see from the photos.

This is not somewhere I would’ve visited as I’d never heard it of until recently – however I am glad to have found this restaurant! I’ve also heard they do a fantastic Sunday roast – watch this space! Thank you to the team New Pavilion for having us & for looking after us, we look forward to seeing you again soon!

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MIDDLETONS STEAKHOUSE & GRILL // RESTAURANT REVIEW

Back in January, I was given the opportunity to dine at & review one of the newer restaurants in Chelmsford, Middletons Steakhouse & Grill. As a keen foodie, I had of course already eaten here a couple of times, this was when the restaurant launched their soft opening (offering 50% off the food bill for the first two weeks of trade). If there’s one thing I love, it’s steak, and if there’s one thing I love even more, it’s discounted steak! Both times I had visited previously were fab & food was superb, however on this particular visit, there was something missing, the food didn’t appear to be as up to scratch as it had been. Review will reveal all –

Onto the food – to start, my Mum & I chose the prawn cocktail & the creamy garlic mushrooms. We both liked our starters, they were good in size & both came with bread, however I found my prawn cocktail be quite bland in taste, in particular I thought the sauce lacked in flavour. The mushrooms were nice enough, however nothing stood out. For our mains we opted for the classic mixed grill with a side of onion rings, & the beef wellington with a side of dauphinoise potatoes. I did really enjoy my main, the potatoes were lovely & creamy, really tasty, & the mixed grill was also nice & very generous in size, however we found the meat to be quite chewy which was disappointing, & the onion rings were heavily burnt, leaving the majority of them inedible. In all honesty, I was quite surprised by the quality of the food on this visit as my previous visits had been outstanding – maybe this was down to different chefs working, or maybe it was just down to preference, I’m not too sure. I personally think Middletons is one of the more expensive restaurants in Chelmsford, so with this, I expect quality, unfortunately on this visit, I didn’t think this met expectations.


Desserts! Desserts were absolutely fab – I’m not a Bailey’s fan however I had the Bailey’s white chocolate cheesecake & was converted! The cheesecake was really tasty, & was served with ice cream, so was not over-indulgent. My mum had the Middleton’s Sundae (which I also ate a bit of!) – this was again really lovely, the ice cream genuinely tasted so nice & fresh, & again, as it was ice cream, wasn’t too heavy or over-indulgent.
All in all, we weren’t particularly satisfied with this meal, which I did make Middletons aware of before posting this review, however, saying this, my visit hasn’t put me off at all, as my experiences here before haven’t been bad. I look forward to visiting again to see if there has been any improvement.

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