Written on: 05/02/2007 by Piehead (1 review written)
The Cock Inn is tucked away in the tiny hamlet of Beazley End, in the Essex countryside somewhere between Braintree and Saffron Waldon. Beazley End is little more than a couple of 1960's houses and the Inn itself, and it is not on a major thoroughfare to any other villages or towns, so it is unlikely that any passing trade would find its way to the Inn if it were not for the publicity that it has received from the TV series "Jamie's Chef".
Indeed, it made us wonder why the pub was selected for the venture, since any chef (no matter how talented or established) would struggle to draw trade to such an unlikely location. The Essex countryside is filled with undiscovered gems of villages, such as Finchingfield and Blackmore. Unfortunately, Beazley End is not one of them. The Inn itself is an authentic old English pub, yet it somehow lacks the charm of its oak beamed counterparts that dot the countryside around north Essex. There is nothing essentially wrong with the inn, but it has the air of an establishment that has been left behind by decades of under-use and under investment. It has the feel of one of those pubs that used to be for locals only and has been left in the red carpeted and tasselled lampshade world of the 1970's. Although some efforts have been made to update the d cor to a more stylish rustic feel (such as polished floor boards and new lampshades), the furniture and fittings still leave something to be desired. All this, however, is maybe to be expected since the project is still in the early days, and development is still possibly ongoing, and at this early stage the establishment will be looking to stand or fall on the reputation of its food rather than its d cor. Being a prot g of the multi-talented Jamie Oliver, the quality of the food can be expected to be high.
We had booked in for Saturday lunch, and on arrival, we were greeted by friendly staff, served with a drink and allowed to take our time in the small bar area before moving to our table at our own leisure. We were able to see through to the kitchens from the bar area, which is a nice touch, since the pubs main attraction is possibly the presence of the star of the TV series, young????
The choice of food is displayed on blackboards in the dining area. One black board displays a choice of pasta dishes described as "Big Al's Fresh Pasta", featuring standard classics such as "seafood linguine", "spaghetti carbonara", and "penne arrabbiata". Also featured on this board are a selection of home made ciabattas with various fillings, such as "Sliced local pork with the best salsa" (touches of Oliver's trademark language possibly?).
The other blackboard was bought out from the kitchens and featured the day's specials. This board featured items such as "Sicilian lamb stew with couscous and pine nuts", "graduate burger with homemade chutneys and chunky chips", "rib-eye steak with red wine butter, peppery watercress and Florentine potatoes", and a selection of other dishes, featuring such items as seared tuna, local ham, fresh sea bass, and a few pub-grub classics such as fish and chips.
The menu had the distinctive feel of an establishment that was trying to use local produce and build up local links where-ever possible. One criticism I would have of the menu is that there seemed to be a lack of starter size dishes or appetizers of any kind. We ordered garlic bread to start, as this seemed to be the only small plate available.
The garlic bread was ciabatta sliced lengthways and soaked in olive oil and garlic, and topped with garnish and grated cheese. It was well presented, fresh, and very flavoursome.
For main I had ordered the rib-eye steak with red-wine butter, water cress and Florentine potatoes. When the course arrived I was presented with a steak on a bed of watercress, but no potatoes were in evidence. I sought out the waitress and enquired about the potatoes, and she went to the kitchens to enquire. On return she told me that on Saturdays the steak comes with chunky chips, and provided these. I will have to give them the benefit of the doubt!
The steak was well presented and well cooked, and the ingredients were obviously all very fresh and all high quality. However, the red-wine butter did not seem to be present. The steak was instead flavoured with garlic and olive oil, which was nevertheless very tasty with the fresh watercress. The chunky chips were very chunky, consisting of a potato cut into four wedges. Again, they were well cooked and seasoned, but they were perhaps a little on the large side.
My dining companions went for the burger and the lamb stew. The burger was made from high quality meat, and it was accompanied by some excellent chutney and salads. The lamb stew was very authentic, consisting of a braised lamb shank. Although the meat was possibly a little on the fatty side (which is not necessarily a bad thing for a stew, but may have benefited from longer cooking).
For desert we selected a fig frangipane tart and a chocolate brownie. The frangipane tart was well executed, with delicate flavours and superb fresh figs. The chocolate brownie was cooked to perfection, with just the right degree of chewiness, and an excellent lemon cream, which balanced the richness perfectly. The meal was finished with freshly prepared coffee.
It is obvious that at this phase of development the venture is concentrating on getting the food right first. Apart from a few menu adjustments, it seems that the food side of the venture is well on its way to reaching success. All of the dishes obviously used very high quality ingredients, and where possible were sourced from local suppliers, and were very well executed and presented. This is perhaps to be expected from a pupil of Jamie Oliver.
The establishment itself requires quite a few finishing touches before it is the finished article, but the signs are good that with continued investment and development this venture can reach the necessary level to be considered a successful member of the Jamie Oliver stable. I still worry about the isolated location, but with the publicity that the TV series draws in, this may not be such a concern.