REVIEW: The Alma Inn at Harwich
PUBLISHED: 10:36 18 September 2018
Stephanie Mackentyre continues her tour of Essex's best dining venues and this time stops off at The Alma Inn on Harwich's King's Head Street
WHEN a chef recommends a place to eat, that’s surely the best recommendation you can get. The Alma Inn and Dining Rooms had come up in conversation with several chefs recently, so I felt like I had to check it out.
In the very heart of Harwich town centre, not surprisingly The Alma Inn has been a centrepiece of Harwich life since the 1850s, serving ale to the citizens, sailors, soldiers and farmers who would pass through the doors. The restaurant part of the pub is split across two rooms with a further walled courtyard offering tables to enjoy on milder summer nights.
The whole place is both dog and family friendly, and on the night we visited was clearly popular with both locals and visitors. We sat indoors in the room at the very back of this Camra real ale pub, its tables and chairs an eclectic mix. Part of the charm was the no frills interior filled with an assortment of curiosities.
Ancient glass bottles hung from the ceiling, mounted antlers protruded from the wall alongside old-fashioned ship’s port and starboard lamps. The whole room was made cozy by the dark wood panelling and ornate wall paper.
Visitors are treated to food seven days a week, with regular music and quiz nights and special steak and Community Meal nights. However, we’d come to check out the fresh local fish, which is prominent on the menu. Harwich lobster is sold by the weight, there’s local beer battered fish and Harwich crab too.
We began with extremely lean and tender slices of duck breast with crumbled stilton and pieces of walnut on a bed of sliced peppery salad leaves, and for my partner, the whitebait — a generous amount simply tossed in smoked paprika and pan fried, it was crisp, tasty and served with a slightly spicy mayo, bean salad and cous cous.
The Alma Inn is easily found just a stone’s throw from the quayside. Although there’s no parking, they do have six bedrooms, including a suite, all with private shower rooms.
To go with my starter I spied they had a local plum gin, made with fruit from a local farm and served on ice with a dash of local Fever Tree tonic – too tempting not to try.
Main course had to be the local Harwich Dover sole for me. It came simply pan-fried with butter and cracked black pepper. And for my guest the Harwich crab, dressed and served with chips, bread and butter and more of the cous cous and bean salad. That was a slight disappointment as he would have preferred an alternative accompaniment, having already had that for starter.
We scanned the dessert menu feeling already rather satisfied with our first two courses. A half dessert and coffee option suited us perfectly, choosing a mini portion of homemade chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream for me and baked banana cheesecake for my dining partner.
Both served with a smooth cup of coffee, we were already checking our diaries to see when we might make a return visit.
Table Talk with Robert and Emma Bird
Where do you live and what do you do? We both live in Mistley and I’m in double glazing. I manage a company which supplies windows to builders.
What did you choose from the menu? Nachos to share, then I had the Lobster and the banana cheesecake for dessert.
Why were you at The Alma Inn? It’s our wedding anniversary and it’s our first time here.
Describe your dining experience: It was very, very nice. I love seafood and I also liked the ambiance and the paraphernalia on the walls — it’s olde worlde and interesting to look at.
What could they do better? I wasn’t sure about the cous cous!
Worth visiting again? We’re back again on Saturday. A friend of ours has invited us to celebrate his birthday and we are going to meet for dinner here.
What was the best part of your visit? The chance to try something new, really. I’d never tried lobster before, so that was nice, and the service was really good too.
Useful to know
The total bill for Stephanie’s review meal came to £64.75 for three courses for two people with drinks and coffees. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and wine editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
Book a table
The Alma Inn
25 King’s Head Street, Harwich, CO12 3EE | 01255 318681
Three more places to land a great fish supper
We say: Not far from Harwich and also near the quayside, The Thorn has plenty of character. Once a coaching inn, it still offers a great meal and a chance to stop overnight. The menu offers local skate and organic vegetables from just up the road.
We say: Rustic with a capital R but probably the freshest fish you’ll ever try. Located on the banks of the Blackwater Estuary at Mersea Island, you can’t book here, so just turn up and put your name down on the chalk board. It’s worth the wait though. Enjoy locally-caught seafood platters and of course world-famous Mersea oysters, simply served with bread and butter.
We say: With a host of fabulous fish options, including some local Leigh cockles and oysters, fish lovers will be hard-pressed not to find several of their favourites on this menu.