Having grown up in Essex, a mere 30mins drive from the quay-side village of Mistely, I’ll admit I hadn’t thought that there was much appeal to driving out there other than to look at some views of Harwich port across the estuary. I stand corrected. Mistley has some real delights to it. Besides being right on the water it appears to be home to one of the largest flocks of swans I’ve ever seen, which when seen en masse are really quite a spectacle. It’s also the home of The Mistley Thorn restaurant which D had read rave reviews about before booking us in there for Sunday lunch recently.
Arriving 10mins early for our 1pm booking and with a tiny baby in tow we walked into an almost empty restaurant. Thankfully there was a distinct lack of eye rolling at the baby, and a genuine warm welcome to us. Settling in the middle between formal and informal, Mistley Thorn has a relaxed atmosphere although you get the impression they take their presentation seriously. I was just hoping they take their food as seriously.
On a Sunday you have a fair range of choices, which I don’t always find helpful. There was the A La Carte menu, the specials menu and then a fixed price Sunday lunch menu. Being forever awkward, presented with too much choice I naturally erred toward a starter from the A La Carte and a main from the fixed price menu. Less is more for me when it comes to choice.
Scanning the extensive menu options I noticed a Smoked Salmon Rillette. Unsure what that was I asked our waiter who had to go off to ask someone else. He returned several moments later to tell me it’s “a salmon and cream cheese type of thing. It’s very nice”. Not quite the explanation I was hoping for but I took him at his word and ordered it, more for the pure curiosity of it. It turns out it’s a salmon pate, so in a way he was right about it being a ‘salmon and cream cheese type of thing’, and fortunately he was right about it being nice. Served on toast with a salad drizzled in honey mustard dressing it was really rather tasty. D’s courgette summer salad was also a hit.
For mains I opted for the hake fillet served on roast potatoes, peas, leeks and bacon with a salsa verde. Overall it was an enjoyable dish. There were a couple of issues with it for me personally however which let it down, firstly the fish skin, although crispy around the edge, was mainly wet and soggy. Also, there was a rather large pool of oil swimming around the plate when I got below the fish and mountain of peas, which was off-putting. I failed to notice any leeks with it either.
D’s squid dish was unfortunately a bit cold by the time he got around to eating it (thanks to an Edie interruption), other than also falling fowl to being overly oily he enjoyed it.
On a slightly off-tangent note, I was somewhat confused about the half effort in the ladies toilet where they provided a baby’s change mat but no surface on which to use it, so I was left changing Edie on the toilet floor underneath the sinks. I tend to think either don’t provide anything or go the whole hog and have decent changing facilities.
All in all if they had been a bit less heavy-handed with the olive oil bottle (and for someone who drowns most things in oil that’s really saying something), and given the staff a better idea of what’s on the menu I would have been giving Mistley Thorn a huge thumbs up. As it is, is was a good meal and certainly provides reason enough to detour to Mistley if you happen to be driving around that part of Essex.