Where I ate:
Alec’s, Navestock Side, Brentwood
Owned by Alec Smith (formerly of Smith’s Brasserie), Alec’s bar and grill is synonymous with quality and fine dining – and I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve eaten there, especially when it’s practically on my doorstep. We went as a family to celebrate my parents’ birthdays, brother’s graduation and it’s nearly a year since I started my job!
The restaurant itself is huge and open plan, and I know it was a Friday night, but it was so busy – there wasn’t an empty table. We were taken to our table, which wasn’t in the main dining area, until my brother spotted his friend working and we were moved to a better table, next to the outdoor courtyard. This was lovely as the sun was still shining for most of the evening, but the restaurant itself was very light and airy. The tables for two were intimate enough, while, I found we had plenty of space at ours. At this point, I’m going to apologise that this post is text heavy and there are no pictures – I wouldn’t dream of whipping my phone out and snapping my food at a place like at Alec’s! You’ll just have to take my word for it...
What I drank:
Strawberry daiquiri, followed by a couple of glasses of Muscadet
I began the meal with a cocktail as I knew we’d be sharing a bottle of wine and I panicked, saw the cocktail menu open on one page and noticed strawberry daiquiri – one of my favourites. It was the nicest I’d ever had, with the right amount of ice and plenty of blitzed strawberry. The wine menu was incredibly extensive and could be purchased by glass, carafe or bottle with prices ranging from £18 to £90 (gulp!). The wine coolers hang from the walls which I thought was really cool and a good idea; it’s remarkable how the staff knew which bottle belonged to which table.
What I ate:
Crispy soft shell crab on baby gem with sweet chilli sauce to start, followed by seared tuna on pak choy and a spicy lemon dressing, with crème brûlée and berry Viennese finger for dessert
As soon as I saw the menu, I knew what I was going to have, but I’m still surprised I managed all three courses – especially as no-one else ordered a dessert. I began with the soft shell crab which is something I’ve only ever had at a Chinese. I think I had four crabs in total, all in a light tempura batter, on a bed of wilted baby gem. The mixture of soft crabmeat and crispy batter was incredible, while the chilli sauce was quite hot, but a lovely accompaniment. I definitely made the right decision – although my brother had the sticky beef salad (in mooli rolls) which looked yummy.
The menu is predominantly fish and seafood, with a couple of tempting steaks and a lamb dish and although I really wanted the fillet steak, I opted for a lighter option – the seared tuna. I rarely have tuna, especially tuna steaks and I love their simplicity and freshness. There were two large pieces of tuna on the plate, so it was a meal in itself, although I had some side salad as well as the pak choy. The tuna itself was perfectly cooked and pink and luckily this time, the chilli accompaniment was more citric than hot – but it all worked well. We also ordered chips for the table, but I didn’t have any of those.
Overall, I was very impressed with the food; the only thing I felt let down by was the service. It began well and efficiently, but it seemed to go downhill the moment we stopped ordering drinks. Once the wine was gone, everyone just stopped drinking. We were left waiting far too long for desert, almost to the point I wasn’t going to order – I just can’t resist a crème brûlée though! And when we asked for the bill, we waited 25 minutes, before my brother asked his friend, who then brought it over immediately. I think this stopped it from being the perfect evening – but I can definitely say it was the best meal I’ve had at a restaurant.