So we're back in Essex. One of my favourite boutique hotel and restaurant groups - Milsom's. The family owns and manages some gorgeous properties dotted throughout Essex and Suffolk. All are unique but each has one thing in common - high standards, outstanding food and tastefully-decorated, comfortable bedrooms.
We're staying at The Pier in Harwich. Great not only for its seafood but for its proximity to lots to do and see - you can literally pick oysters up on the beach around the corner if you so desired or drive the twenty minutes to Frinton - a gorgeous, uncommercial beach with coloured beach huts dotted along the promenade - we luckily hit the hottest weekend of the year and even made it into the sea.
The Pier started life as a restaurant but then became much more. Having visited before alone, we returned en famille to see the refurb and eat for too much good food.
You might wonder why people even come to Harwich. It's not exactly tourist central. In fact, many cruises go from the port which means call for luxurious accommodation for nights before is high.
The refit to the main building has given them a cool bar with massive outdoor seating area facing directly onto the water and harbour outside.
Now upstairs, no formal restaurant but a buzzy brasserie set over two floors, one part modern and slightly industrial and the lower carpeted, relaxed-chic, leading in to the piece de resistance - a balcony for dining al fresco and boy did we make use of it on this scorching weekend.
Our first night we dined inside. Having stopped en route from London at a factory outlet, we sat back and relaxed, feasting on fresh oysters and lobster. For the kids, a plain piece of fresh, grilled fish was not a problem for the baby and a duck and watermelon salad - winning combo- followed by a juicy burger kept Alexander happy. We didn't drink much but the wine list is sophisticated yet not too pricey with great choice by the glass too. Desserts couldn't be missed. The ice-cream and especially sorbet selection is impressive. I couldn't say no!
We retired to the Mayflower Suite, their most luxurious room, easily big enough for the four of us with lots of space. Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the harbour make for the most spectacular view with our very own telescope to spot the boats. The Mayflower was as I remember it - all muted colours with some really great pieces of furniture - mirrored side tables a fave! Being directly on the water it's also nice and quiet!
With the day starting promptly at 6.30 (that's late for our nine month old!) , we head back across the road for breakfast. The bedrooms are cleverly situated in a separate building from the restaurant and bar. Directly across the road but away from the hustle and bustle. The usual hot food menu, including the usual favourites also had some more exotic combinations like avocado, coriander and lime on rye with a poached egg and huevos benedictos - chorizo, avocado and salsa. That's the great thing about foodie hotels! Importantly, service was impeccable - bottles and dummies sterilised, food for the baby coming out first and nothing was too much.
We headed around the corner for a stroll to the local beach, not the prettiest but nevertheless a lovely walk. Plus my little one had a ball picking up stones and shells.
Just enough time to head back to the hotel and drive the 20 minutes to Le Talbooth. This, their flagship restaurant deep in chocolate box Constable country in the village a Dedham. Possibly the most scenic Sunday lunch you could imagine. Out under the awning, away from the searing heat, sitting by the river watching canoes go by and marvelling at the beautiful flowers.
This restaurant has a reputation of its own. Always full and serving seasonal British dishes in a fine dining environment. Not stuffy however and especially good for families if you can get a table outside. The children's menu is a breath of fresh air. Real food for mini-adults. None of the usual bland and unexciting pasta or burgers. We whiled away the afternoon not wanting to leave but the little riverboat cruise offered by their jetty - a boat just big enough for our knowledgeable driver and us, was too much of a draw for our four year old. In fact, once on board sailing through the tranquil greenery in the shade of the trees quickly made me want to book a narrowboat holiday!
We eventually leave and arrive back to a wonderful sunset. Forcing ourselves to dinner, sitting out on the balcony, this time, apart from the food, our waitress Jess was the star of the show. At least for my four year old who fell instantly in love with her!
Our last day we set off to the beach at Frinton. Just twenty minutes away; golden sand and brightly coloured beach huts. No noisy pier or tacky rides. We walked into town, picked up some sandwiches and set up our tent for shelter. A gorgeous day, even the sea was warm! We lucked out big time this weekend in every way!