Dining out at... The Old Windmill in Chelmsford
PUBLISHED: 10:57 23 September 2013 | UPDATED: 10:57 23 September 2013
SET in the heart of the Hanningfields, yet just 10 minutes drive from the A12, this pretty inn has been serving food to travellers since 1799. In 2011, the current owners refurbished the building, while retaining all of the features which make it so unique.
This month I was looking for a dining destination ideal for visiting with small children in buggies or elderly relatives, both of whom need easy access and no steps to encumber them. Often this means a loss of character in the building, but at the Windmill I found this was definitely not the case. There are wide doors and a disabled loo plus baby changing facilities, and you can even wheel straight out onto the terrace and lawn with wooden children’s play area if you wish.
Inside there are plenty of polished oak floors with Persian rugs under some tables to add warmth and styling. Exposed beams add character to the building while the staff offer a genuine, warm welcome. The large pub restaurant does have dining on a lower level too and I was bemused to see someone using crutches, gingerly navigating down despite there being plenty of room on the accessible floor. There are board games to borrow and even spare reading glasses for those of us who regularly leave home without theirs!
Food is served from noon to 10pm and the menu was surprisingly diverse; I chose to begin with laab gai – Thai warm chicken salad with lime, mint and coriander. Other more traditional choices were available including spinach soup and duck pate. I was asked whether I wanted my starter medium or hot – I chose medium, but had to leave most of the fresh green and red chillies on the side. However, it was a fabulous fusion of zingy spicyness and one I would choose again. There are also smaller main courses for those with less appetite, as well as a children’s menu, so it is ideal for all the family.
For main, I chose one of the dishes from the lighter menu – roasted pepper, chorizo and camembert quiche with homemade potato salad and a dressed green salad. Had my schedule allowed, the lamb kofte kebabs, slow-roasted lamb shoulder or even steak and ale pie would have been my choice. But I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the quiche, it was one of the best I’ve tasted and just a perfect portion size to satisfy.
I noticed while I ate that the restaurant already attracts a diverse clientele; including a group of ladies who lunch, family groups plus parents with a newborn in a pram and another couple with two labradors under the table. None disturbed the ambiance, as the latter were happily napping.
The cream and sage green walls added to the inn’s sense of repose and the fresh flowers all around the building were a nice touch. I completed my lunch with Belgian waffle and honeycomb ice cream, crumbled pecans and warm toffee sauce, which tasted as delectable as it sounds.