Dining out at...Le Bouchon Brasserie and Hotel, Maldon
PUBLISHED: 19:56 01 June 2015
OFFERED the opportunity to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the water following some fabulous French cuisine, I was buoyant with excitement as I drove towards Maldon. Le Bouchon has its own car park and is just off the Maldon Road and therefore very easy to locate. The lunch menu also boasts a trip along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation (weather permitting) and it was all the excuse I needed to dine with them this lunchtime. I'd booked the day before and expressed my interest in their boat trip. I had no less than three call backs organising and confirming the trip, which was encouraging before I'd even arrived. The restaurant is elegantly decorated in creams and taupes with high-backed cloth chairs for comfort, linen cloths, cooling palms and fresh, red roses on each table.
A selection of breads were offered as I enjoyed a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. My starter was the house salad, a glorious mix of baby leaves, croutons, prawns, avocado, asparagus, stilton and pine nuts with a balsamic dressing. You’d assume, being principally French, the restaurant would be an advocate of nouvelle cuisine-sized portions, but this is certainly not the case. Although the presentation was splendid, I found I was already full and I hadn’t yet started on my mains.
Main course had to be the moules marinere - available as a starter for just £4.95 with crusty bread or as a main course for £10.95 with aioli and triple- cooked chips in a bijou frying basket. Some of the tables in the restaurant were prettily laid up ready for afternoon tea, which I imagine would also be a real treat. There is even the opportunity to hire the whole hotel and restaurant as the hotel boasts 12 boutique style bedrooms, a Bentley for your VIP guests and a 12-seater boat as part of their Exclusively Yours package.
My mains arrived with enough mussels for at least two people, a delicious traditional marinere sauce and wonderfully crispy chunky chips. The wine list is perhaps not for the feint hearted, but a brilliant selection for the connoisseur starting from £59.50 per bottle. However they do offer a selection of wines by the glass from only £5.95 per glass if you’re not quite ready to push the boat out.
There were a good number of diners joining me this Thursday lunchtime with a mix of business men, ladies lunching, groups of friends on larger tables socialising and families getting together.
Desserts included traditional French dishes such as tarte au citron and crème brulee, but I opted for the orange blossom panacotta served with poached rhubarb and orange. It was a creamy cloud of loveliness, with the piquant slices of orange and rhubarb to bring you back to your senses. I completed my lunch with a pot of decaf tea ready for my 50-minute trip aboard the Elver. You pay the fair (£10) to the skipper once on board, then sit back and digest both your dinner and the waterside vista to the Heybridge Basin and back again.
Useful to know
The total bill came to £36.28 for three courses and a pot of tea.
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.
Table Talk with diners Richard Ambor, his wife Rose and their friends Bob and Chris Seals and Tim and Sylvia Green.
What do you do? I’m retired.
What did you choose from the menu? I chose onion soup to start and then the belly of pork followed by the cheese board.
Why were you at Le Bouchon? We were celebrating Bob Seals’ birthday.
Describe your dining experience in a sentence: A sophisticated, yet relaxed atmosphere, good service levels, with a varied and affordable menu.
How would you rate ther value for money? The value for money is excellent. Prices are not much more than for many pub meals, yet the quality, ambiance and sophisticated presentation of the food is far superior. There are also many deals such as early evening menus and coupons.
Worth visiting again? We visit Le Bouchon quite regularly, and will continue to do so.
What was the best part of your visit? Being able to share an enjoyable lunch with friends in the knowledge that the food and service were going to be more than acceptable.
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Le Bouchon Brasserie and Hotel