Dining out at Mehalah’s at Oysters and Ale
PUBLISHED: 06:00 23 March 2016
We sent Stephanie Mackentyre to review Mehalah’s at Oysters and Ale, Mersea Island and she was pleasantly surprised
The unusual name of Mehalah, an old Hebrew word meaning a powerful but tender and affectionate woman, is rather apt as the restaurant is owned by Heather Haward (of The Company Shed fame).
However, the restaurant’s name was actually inspired by the title of a dark and tragic novel written by the Reverend Sabine Baring Gould, the Rector at East Mersea from 1871 to 1881.
Don’t let the simple exterior put you off. Inside it’s full of charming, rustic chic and you’ll be impressed with the mainly seafood menu, with plenty of nods to local suppliers.
We began our meal with prawn gratin for me and mussels stuffed with herby, garlic breadcrumbs and salad for my partner, all washed down with a glass of Mehalah’s own white wine from the Mersea Island Vineyard. This local wine was deliciously dry with a hint of elderflower. Grilled local oysters were also on the specials board for starters as was a Thai spiced sweet potato soup.
The restaurant is just a short stroll from the Cudmore Grove Country Park which overlooks the East Mersea Flats beyond. A great location to enjoy the great outdoors after what seems like months hiding away from inclement weather.
For main course, my partner swapped fish for pigeon breast with a redcurrant and red wine sauce served with a mustard mash and, for me, I couldn’t resist the sea bream with ginger, onion and soy sauce served with beans and carrots and sautéed potatoes. The pigeon breast with it’s richly flavoursome sauce was delightful and my sea bream, simply pan fried without any flavouring would have been superb, but with the addition of the Asian twist was outstanding.
The tables and chairs are an eclectic mix and covered with vintage lace table cloths. There’s also a small display of local pictures, crafts and preserves to peruse while you mull over pudding. There’s a choice of homemade cakes if you just want to pop in for coffee and you can also enjoy these for dessert. Or you can go for something from the traditional puddings menu. Treacle tart and apple and cinnamon crumble, both served with individual vintage jugs of creamy custard, finished our lunch off perfectly.
Useful to know
The total bill came to £55.80 for three courses for me and my guest with drinks. 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 diner Joan Spenceley and her husband David who live in Enfield, North London.
What do you do? We are both retired.
What did you choose from the menu? For this visit we just had the seafood sandwiches, but we’ve eaten here many times before and it’s always good.
Why were you at Mehalah’s at Oysters and Ale? We’ve been holidaying on the island for the past 10 years and we are currently planning to move there permanently.
Describe your dining experience in a phrase. Very friendly and welcoming, and the food is always good. The seafood platters are wonderful.
How would you rate the value for money? Very good, because the food is always so fresh.
Worth visiting again? Oh yes, without a doubt.
What was the best part of your visit? It’s the ambiance for me; it’s just so lovely there. The staff are always very pleasant and treat us very well.
Book a table
Mehalah’s at Oysters & Ale
East Mersea Road, East Mersea, CO5 8TQ, 01206 382797, www.mehalahs.co.uk
Open 10am - 5pm Tuesday - Sunday
Three more places offering the great outdoors on their doorsteps
The Shoulder of Mutton
Halstead Road, Fordham, Colchester, CO6 3LL, 01206 243487, www.shoulderofmuttoncolchester.com
We say: It’s set on the banks of the River Colne and surrounded by woodland walks. You can even take your dog into part of this pub.
Wivenhoe House Hotel
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, 01206 863666, www.wivenhoehouse.co.uk
We say: Surrounded by glorious parkland yet a stone’s throw also from this old Roman town.
The Henny Swan
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We say: With views of the River Stour you can step onboard a boat after lunch and in half an hour you’ll be by the Granary in Sudbury. (April to October weekends only)