REVIEW: The Maldon Smokehouse
PUBLISHED: 12:33 03 September 2019
Stephanie Mackentyre visits a hidden gem by the River Chelmer as she continues her tour of Essex’s best eateries
I had been told that The Maldon Smokehouse was a hidden gem - well, it was certainly hidden! Down at the very bottom of the tiniest of lanes, you could be forgiven for thinking you'd taken a wrong turn.
Nestled beside the Blackwater Estuary is the original smokehouse which has evolved into a restaurant-cum-bird hide with a separate room for a small party and an aptly-named beach house with views of the wildfowl on the water, plus tables outside along the river bank.
If you check out TripAdvisor you'll find another 210 people who've not only eaten there already, but taken time to leave a good review. Unless your party is of eight or more you can't make bookings.
When we arrived for an early lunch on a Saturday, the beachhouse was already full and so we headed for an elevated table and chairs in the hide, which even provides its own binoculars.
The menu is predominately a mixture of smoked meats, fish and cheeses, as you might expect, although there are vegetarian options including smoked humus, coconut and tomatoes and a vegan-friendly vegetable pil pil (with garlic, chilli and olive oil).
Its style of dining is wonderfully rustic, with kitchen roll at the ready on each table and the taster board platter we chose, at a rather reasonable £45 for two to share, came with a 'bucket of bread'. The presentation might be simplistic, but the taste was superior.
Slices of smoked ham, beef, duck and chicken were served with smoked stilton, Applewood smoked cheddar and brie with a host of delicious smoked fish: mackerel, homemade smoked salmon pate, smoked salmon, crevettes and prawns.
The bread bucket was full of six hunks of three varieties of wonderfully fluffy, freshly-baked warm bread. This unctuous platter was complemented with a delicious salad of rocket, sundried tomatoes, olives and a balsamic dressing. Served on a large wooden bread board, it was a feast for the eyes as well as our stomachs.
Despite our best efforts there was still cheese and meat left over and so our friendly waitress helpfully offered to box it up so we could enjoy the rest for our supper.
The premises isn't licensed, but you are encouraged to take your own wine or beer and just while away the afternoon grazing on smoked goodies as you sup your chosen tipple and enjoy the unique surroundings.
As much as honeycomb cheesecake and chef's brownie sounded right up my street, I couldn't fit in another morsel. We called it a day but noted it down as a must visit again, and soon!
Useful to know
The total bill came to £51 for a sharing platter for two people plus 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 Jo Sapstead and her husband Darren
Where do you live and what do you do?
We live in South Woodham Ferrers and I'm an administrator for a charity.
What did you choose from the menu?
We had the sharing platter of cheeses, meats and fish with breads. We couldn't eat dessert after all of that!
Why were you at The Smokehouse?
A friend had recommended it to me the week before. We didn't even know it existed before my friend told us about it.
Describe your dining experience in a phrase:
A rustic place with a completely different kind of atmosphere, and its very friendly.
What could they do better?
Nothing at all. It is what it is, which is what makes it different. We didn't know about taking our own alcohol, but that's good to know for next time.
How would you rate the value for money?
We thought it was really good for quantity and the quality of the food.
Worth visiting again?
What was the best part of your visit?
Being able to sit outside to enjoy our lunch. It was such a nice atmosphere with a lovely view.
Book a table
The Maldon Smokehouse
Cromwell Lane, Maldon, CM9 4LB, 07759 572569