Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to be invited to The Royal Hotel in Southend for a late morning/early afternoon of nibbles and cocktails – thanks to the lovely Penny. I had seen her mention the newly-refurbished bar and restaurant on her blog and social media and was really excited to see what the fuss was about. I was the last to arrive, but thankfully I met a couple of other fabulous Essex bloggers in Danielle and Donna, who were super friendly – and the conversation ended up flowing as well as the drinks!
I hadn’t been to Southend for years, which is mental considering it’s only 20 minutes by car or train. Gone are the days of driving down the promenade at Christmas to see the lights, before stopping for hot chocolate and hotter doughnuts – in fact, my last trip to the seaside town was to see Barnet play at Roots Hall! Needless to say, I had no idea where The Royal Hotel was situated, but now I do, there’s no doubt I will be back (and hopefully on a regular basis!).
The historic listed building has been wonderfully restored to its Georgian glory by Matt and his team – and it was a big refurbishment that took place – but it really is impressive, particularly once you step inside.
The upstairs houses the Ballroom Restaurant, which has beautiful high ceilings with ornate coving and period decor. There was a wedding reception later on in the day, so we heard a saxophonist playing and the tables were laid out so nicely, with some gorgeous flowers. The views out to the pier were also amazing and Matt pointed out the prime position for views – which ironically was not at the end of the window!
Downstairs is the bar and lounge, where the ambience is a lot more casual, but still luxurious, in keeping with the decor and features. The seating, cosy and intimate. The bar was very well-stocked, but I loved our table in the lounge, which was perfect for just whiling away the hours. Despite the elegance, there certainly wasn’t that air of stuffiness that you can sometimes get – and luckily The Royal Hotel is the kind of place you could take your best friend, your mum or even your Nan!
It’s hard to believe that the building used to house local ‘raves’, as it really is beautiful – and I don’t think my photos really do it justice!
The Royal Hotel pride themselves on their cocktail menu – and rightly so. With an extensive selection, despite featuring the classics you’d come to expect, the majority of the concoctions have been thoughtfully created in-house by incredible mixologist, Dave, so are unique. We were lucky enough to sample three of these – and boy, were they good! Numerous additional visits will be needed just to get through them all! In fact, it’s where The Royal Hotel excels – using ‘Molecular Mixology’ methods, which combines science and craziness. Think The Alchemist or Lab 22!
First up, we tried the Earl of Grey : a mix of pear & gooseberry vodka, with earl grey infusion, lemon juice and basil, finished with basil leaves and cracked black pepper. It was ideal for the time of day (before midday!) and would be the perfect cocktail to sip while brunching, with the blend of fruit and tea. The sign of a good cocktail is one that doesn’t categorically taste like alcohol, so in that respect, this was a favourite.
Next, we sampled Mrs Kensington : Hendricks gin, with elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and pressed apple juice, as well as cucumber and mint. This was served over crushed ice and decorated with cucumber and edible flowers. The sun was shining, so this was a winner and would also be suited to garden parties, picnics or barbecues during the summer months. It was so light and refreshing, with a really subtle floral taste.
Finally, we got to see science in the form of a specially-created Easter cocktail – which resembled an egg and combined two of my all-time favourite cocktails. A pina colada foam represented the egg white; while the yolk was a pornstar martini jelly, which popped with the little stab of a straw. Like the perfect egg, it was runny and mixed to create the most summery, fruity cocktail. It was heaven – and apparently took Dave 48 hours to produce... well worth it, though!
The Royal Hotel caters to all palates and budgets, with a wide selection of food and the choice of dining upstairs or downstairs. From three course a la carte menus in the Ballroom, to bar snacks and platters or sandwiches in the lounge – there’s even afternoon tea.
We were treated to a couple of the savoury platters, before trying a sweet treats board, consisting of some of the afternoon tea delights. The platters were perfect for sharing and would be an ideal choice for groups of friends catching up over cocktails, as you can just graze and drink! A lot of the nibbles had been given an innovative twist: the Scotch egg had a smoked salmon filling, rather than sausage meat and was divine. There were also wild boar sausage rolls, filo prawns with chilli dipping sauce, gorgeous breaded chicken strips (which I’m adamant contained bacon or Parma ham), mixed olives and so much more. We were all in agreement that the vegetables crisps were lush and complemented the cocktails well.
Onto the sweet and wow – I need to return for afternoon tea. It’s reasonably priced by the way (£18pp, with upgrades to a glass of prosecco or bottomless fizz). The cakes were divine – and wouldn’t be out of place in a London hotel – from the classic cherry bakewell tart, to the carrot cake topped with frosting and the elegant macarons. We also had a pina colada-inspired shot glass treat, which was topped with toasted coconut and pineapple chutney. Everything was incredibly light, so we never felt as though we were really indulging! At this point, I was so glad I hadn’t had breakfast!
Amazing hospitality by Matt and Dave (thank you both, so much); wonderfully thought out cocktails; an impressive array of food; beautiful decor and perfect surrounds. Afternoon tea is definitely first on my list, followed by more cocktails and nibbles. And then maybe a date night dinner.
Thank you as well to Penny for organising such a fabulous and successful event. And of course, Danielle and Donna for being great company!
Love, Lucy xx
*The food and cocktails were complimentary, but thoughts and images are my own.