The Bay Horse: review

Last night, I went for dinner at The Bay Horse in Chelmsford with my Dad and the bf (Alex). I had been once before when it first opened a few years ago and left hungry after three courses, due to the tiny portions. You may be thinking why on earth did she go back? Well, in my books everyone/everything deserves a second chance. Sadly for The Bay Horse, I wasn’t impressed and it’s unlikely I’ll be going back, which is a shame because in its heyday (before becoming a restaurant) it was one of the best watering holes about.

Before we get down to the food, there were a few issues that really upset me during the night. For starters, there were three of us and only two other tables in; we were there for nearly THREE hours. We were shoved in the furthest corner, where no-one (there was only one person working!) could see us, while the few locals propping up the bar were being plied with a steady supply of drinks. Not cool.

Secondly, this building is a stunning Grade II listed Tudor beauty; every time I looked up all I could see was the fact the beautiful beams had been painted. The historian in me was crying inside all night. I don’t know whose idea it was, but it was a bad one, rendering all character destroyed (as if the “modern” style wasn’t soulless enough). Thirdly, as designated driver I wasn’t drinking. A Lemonade was £2.50 – I wasn’t impressed. In terms of atmosphere, not much to report; it was also too dimly lit (apologies in advance for the photos) and there was a cold breeze all night.

The food

To start, I ordered the Crab and Lobster fish cakes (£6), Dad had the soup (£5.75) and Alex plumped for the ham hock gratin (£6). Everything was nice, until Alex found a hair in the fish cake I gave him to try. Not the best start, however it was taken off the bill without having to ask. There was also no butter to go with Dad’s bread, which was quite frankly baffling.

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On to the main event, Dad and I both opted for the seabass (£11.50 – see above) with pancetta, kale, parmentier potatoes and a red wine sauce. This was actually good and came with a fancy smear of celeriac puree too. I was dubious about the red wine sauce but everything worked really well together. However, Dad’s bit of bass was tiny; it must’ve been a fillet cut in half. I ended up giving him some of mine to make up for it. Alex’s steak (£17.95 for a sirloin) on the other hand was good, from a local butcher, cooked well and the chips were excellent. Homemade ketchup was nice too, tasted like a Bloody Mary. Again, nice but nothing special, at least it was a generous portion.

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Still hungry, Dad and I opted for dessert. Ultimately we ended up regretting this as it meant being there for even longer. Luckily, Dad’s dessert was really tasty, though in my books Key Lime Pie should ALWAYS have meringue on top. Otherwise it’s just a lime tart (which this was). The fancy lime sherbet was good and the coconut ice cream was delicious. If you can’t tell, I had food envy. I on the other hand, as a crème brûlée devotee, went for their white chocolate and raspberry offering. It was nice; great crack on it but not enough raspberries to counteract the sweet white chocolate. I was disappointed about the lack of vanilla too. The shortbread biscuit was too sweet and dry and don’t get me started on the pointless redcurrants on the side – what a waste.

Rating:

All in all, okay, but I won’t be going back in a hurry, especially not for the price: £84 in total and that’s with a dish knocked off.

Food: 6.5/10
Service: 5/10
Value: 5/10
Atmosphere: non-existent
Overall: 6/10 (I think I’m being generous)

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