It’s a tradition in our house that we go out together as a family to celebrate birthdays – usually on a Sunday for lunch. Last year, my dad booked a table at one of my favourite Essex pub/restaurants: The Bell at Horndon-on-the-Hill. This year, we weren’t able to get in there, but instead, mum booked a table for four at their sister restaurant: The Ostlers, which is conveniently next door. When I say four, it was my mum, Robert, Ashley and me.
Whereas The Bell is your typical Georgian pub with burning log fires, low ceilings and wooden beams; The Ostlers is much more modern. The bar area is open and the restaurant, light, airy and spacious. We sat at the back of the restaurant, where there was plenty of natural light coming through the large French doors... it was almost like being in a conservatory, without the heat or stuffiness.
The menu on a Sunday is different from during the week or a Saturday and is your typical Sunday roast, with a selection of meat and fish options, but just one vegetarian offering. We all decided to skip starters, but while we were looking at the menus and making our minds up, were brought a slate of fresh bread and butter. The bread of the day was ale, while the butter was dill & garlic. It was lovely: the bread was still warm and the butter, although a little on the salty side for my palate, was so flavoursome and simply melted on the warm dough.
Despite choosing pork the night before at Bob Bob Ricard, I opted for it again – this time, roast loin with apple puree, sage & onion stuffing and crackling. The pork was so tender and with three slices, there was plenty of it. The crackling I could take or leave, but I loved the stuffing – it was beautiful. My mum and Robert had leg of lamb, with mint jelly; Ash chose the chicken crown with creamed leeks. We had two portions of vegetables between us, which were more than enough. The roast potatoes were really good, probably one of the best I’ve had in a restaurant – just not as good as mum’s – but there just needed to be a little more gravy.
Surprisingly, we all had room for dessert – I think I must have ordered the largest and sickliest sweet on the menu. I had never had baked Alaska before, it doesn’t feature on menus often and it’s not the kind of thing you just whip up at home. I love meringue though, so I had high hopes... I was defeated! The centre contained tutti frutti ice cream, which was lush; the sponge base was light and soft; the addition of nut brittle and popping candy added texture and surprise. However, there was too much meringue for me. I picked at the peaks, but ultimately it was too much – well look at the size of it!
The service was good, up until the point we wanted to order coffee and get the bill. I was ready to go after dessert, probably because I was carrying a large food baby and needed a nap. There was a large party of about 10 or 12 on the table next to us, so the slowness was totally understandable. This certainly hadn’t put me off though and I’d definitely return. I thought the food was on par with The Bell, but atmosphere was livelier and I just loved the light, contemporary feel of the restaurant. Thank you to mum for treating us all, too.
Love, Lucy xx