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From Under the Cork Tree

(Fall Out Boy) – Le Bouchon Brasserie – Maldon

Bouchon, of course meaning ‘cork’.

We’d been invited to lunch, a surprise lunch for a friend’s ‘significant’ birthday.

Le Bouchon occupies the site of the former ‘Benbridge Hotel’, Heybridge, an elegant and recently refurbished Georgian building on ‘The Square’, yards from ‘The Causeway’ and the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. It’s also just a few yards from the ‘Bengal Tiger’ that I reviewed last November.

We arrived in good time, parked in the car park behind the hotel – there’s ample parking – and headed through to the bar.

Bar - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.comThe bar itself is chic and comfortable, there are comfy sofas and high stools.

Table setting - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

The middle clock was correct!

The walls are decorated with vintage advertising prints and an impressive selection of clocks. The large flat screen TV was showing photos of exotic cocktails, but I imagine it could be a pleasant enough venue to watch the footie. There’s a comprehensive cocktail list, a gin list (very trendy) some draught beers and lager, and some local bottled brews.

Lunch was served in the Orangery, a bright, airy room with glass roof panels that not only let in the Light, but allowed us to witness the torrential, June rain outside.

Orangery - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

The room seated our party of around thirty comfortably.

Table setting - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

The lunch menu was interesting, starters were “Pan seared sardines with baby artichoke barigoule (nor me) and orange slow braised fennel”, or “warm Essex asparagus with baby rocket and mature Montgomery brulee”.

Essex Asparagus - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

I enjoyed the Asparagus starter (I don’t do fish), tiny fresh asparagus tips with a subtle but rich mousse that was more savoury panna cotta than brûlée, delicious with warm, freshly baked bread.

The mains were “red wine butter plaice, wild garlic, crushed purple potato, watercress and pomegranate salad”

Red Wine Plaice - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

or “Crispy pork belly, carrot puree, black pudding, dried apple and mustard sauce” – served with seasonal vegetable that thankfully did not include broccoli.

Crispy Pork Belly - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

For my main I enjoyed the roast pork belly – I said I don’t do fish. The Pork was beautifully tender, with a fine, crisp crackling, a sliver of dried apple, and a generous portion of what all who tasted it declared to be the finest black pudding that any of us – on my table – had tasted. Ever.

I enquired as to the source of the black pudding and was told that they make it on-site, which is both impressive and disappointing, as I was hoping to source some for home.

We weren’t staying at the hotel, but breakfast could be interesting, particularly if it includes that wonderful black pudding.

Dessert - Le Bouchon, Heybridge @ Tolfalas.com

I digress, for dessert I enjoyed the chocolate pudding, served with vanilla ice-cream, and we later enjoyed coffee and birthday cake – made by one of my fellow lunch guests. My wife, who doesn’t drink tea or coffee, asked the waiter for a hot chocolate and was initially refused, but the waiter returned shortly afterwards with a glass that she declared delicious.

Service throughout was polite and unobtrusive, and everybody had a splendid time.

Having, as I mentioned earlier, tried the nearby ‘Bengal Tiger‘ and found it lacking, I would be happy to return to Le Bouchon. I also learned that the owners are shortly to open another venue slightly closer to home, so that will be worth investigating.

If the accommodation is as chic as the dining, then Le Bouchon is an asset to Maldon/Heybridge, and frankly, we’d love a reason to stay!

Rating: ★★★★½

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