A quiet Wednesday night with Champions League semifinals on TV is arguably not the best night to judge the performance of the Anchor Inn, Nayland, an ambitious gastropub, one which prides itself on prime home-made produce from their kitchen garden, its own smokehouse, bakery and much, much more. Or actually, maybe it was. The kitchen was certainly not at full stretch – in fact we were the only people dining there, so far as I could tell, but at least it gave us the opportunity to test their attention to detail.
Nayland is a chocolate box village some 5 miles from Colchester in the direction of the market town of Sudbury – the heart of rural Essex, luscious green English countryside in all directions. The Anchor nestles by the river Stour in what must be a perfect location for sunny days, and at these times it is quite easy to imagine the place overflowing with customers. Even for a drink, given a fine wine list and plenty of interesting real ales. The latter included a mild called ‘Sticklegs’ (I will write on British beer names another time) and a very well kept and refreshing Green King IPA.
The food experience is to the Anchor’s location what terroir is to a good wine. Not a London restaurant but very specifically an Essex gourmet paradise in which one could enjoy, for example, a smoked platter containing excellent fish, meats and cheeses with a dressed salad and home-baked roll. A generous portion for £7.15, and impossible to imagine any finer raw materials. My guest greatly enjoyed the baked mozzarella and aubergines, reclining on a splendid tomato coulis and graced with kitchen garden salad leaves, much as Caesar was graced with a laurel wreath. She declared this to be delicious and left nothing to chance, nor on her plate.
Mussels and sirloin steak with fat chips and blue cheese sauce followed on. All first rate, though I wish in hindsight I had had the dressed crab with curry mayo. Maybe that will give me an excuse to return?
In short, this is a fine dining experience in a splendid location, served with friendly aplomb by keen and helpful bar staff. Not festooned with an array of Michelin stars, but thoroughly good at what it does and in how it uses the benefits of said Essex landscape. Two happy diners will probably return! 😀