The Bell at Horndon on the Hill is one of my favourite pubs in Essex and is somewhere we’ve been to numerous times, ever since my brother and I were younger. My dad booked a table for Sunday lunch to celebrate my birthday three weeks ago – unfortunately on the day, he couldn’t come along due to his health. Regardless of this, we all had a lovely meal and while it would have been nice for him to join us, it definitely didn’t put a dampener on the day!
The pub is a former 15th century coaching inn and inside, it’s still very traditional, with two bars, an open fire and Georgian features. We sat in the restaurant area which is a lot better in my opinion, it’s perfect for occasions or an intimate affair and away from the bar, so you don’t have all that background noise. The Bell have a different menu every day, which adds to its appeal – and it really takes advantage of fresh and local product. Expect to see Prior Hall pork and Essex wood pigeon on the menu. Herbs and vegetables are even grown on-site; similar to how it used to be. On Sunday of course, you can expect to find a traditional roast dinner, although there’s plenty of other options available.
I decided against having a starter and instead dug into the freshly baked bread and bowl of olives and pickles. My mum chose the salmon to start: smoked salmon wrapped around a crayfish parcel and served with avocado foam and caviar. I have to admit I got food envy when it arrived, but not only was it presented beautifully, mum said it tasted amazing too!
Everyone opted for a roast dinner, with two of the group choosing sirloin of beef and the rest of us going for the loin of pork. Pork is probably my favourite roast meat and the portion size certainly didn’t disappoint – there were two thick slices of pork on the plate, along with some crackling, sage stuffing and apple puree. The mustard gravy was really good, if only there was more of it. We shared roast potatoes (which were perfectly crispy) and seasonal vegetables (cabbage and carrots). I managed to eat all the meat, but left half a potato – clearly saving myself for dessert.
The dessert menu was plentiful and pretty much everything caught my eye, you can tell I have a sweet tooth! Eventually I settled on the white chocolate parfait (which admittedly, I had spotted first) which came with a milk chocolate tear, frozen raspberries and white chocolate sauce – definitely not one for the diabetics amongst us! There were so many little elements, I didn’t know where to start so began with pouring the sauce over the raspberries. The white chocolate parfait itself was so creamy and not at all sickly. By contrast, the dark chocolate cup filled with thick truffle-like milk chocolate was quite rich and I couldn’t manage any more than half. The chocolate coated raspberries were beautiful, especially once they had thawed slightly; I loved the mix of tart and sweet.
Everyone chose different desserts so it was good to see a variety – even if I was too full to sample them all. Robert really lucked out with his rhubarb, apple and raspberry eton mess, which came served in a giant wine glass. We didn’t stay for coffee, as back at home it was just the right time for tea and birthday cake.
The service was good, as it so often is and it was also great to see one of the members of kitchen staff who has been there for years! He has a face you’d instantly recognise and while we don’t know his name, he looks exactly the same as he did 10-15 years ago! Sunday is definitely one of the busiest days and if you’re a party of more than four, I thoroughly recommend booking in advance.
It was a shame dad couldn’t join us but I’d loved spending time with the rest of my family at one of my favourite places. There’s always next year!
Love, Lucy xx