Take a rundown estuary-side pub in beautiful Essex, add an enthusiastic Californian with a can-do attitude and you end up with Mistley Thorn, a cossetting B&B with a smashing restaurant and a buzzy bar. The pub is now a staunch feature on the county’s foodie scene and has also established itself as a delightful UK getaway, mainly on account of the warm welcome from American owner, Sherri.
Not only is Mistley Thorn a gastronomic delight, it’s also an outdoor enthusiast’s haven. The Stour Estuary affords excellent bird-watching and the nearby Essex coast has some great beaches, we particularly like the sandy stretch at Wrabness. Mistley itself is a charming town with numerous examples of beautiful Georgian architecture, including the elegant Mistley Towers. Nearby you’ll find Manningtree with its numerous art galleries and a host of gardens for the horticulturally inclined.
Rooms: There are 2 spacious Suites and 9 tastefully decorated bedrooms (divided into Premium and Standard categories) at Mistley Thorn, all of which have kingsize beds (some can become twins). All rooms vary in size and outlook – we suggest plumping for a view of the Stour Estuary, which you’ll find in Standard Room 6 and all Premium Rooms (bar Room 5). But whatever you look out at, you can be sure that the interiors will be beautifully designed with original dark oak beamed ceilings, muted duck-egg green wainscoting, or burgundy hand-knitted throws over the beds. You’ll also find all of the usual accoutrements: WiFi, tea and coffee facilities and a dock for your iPod. Bathrooms have tempting REN toiletries, and Room 5 has a particularly spoiling double-ended tub.
Food:Dinner at Mistley Thorn brings to mind 3 things: Prosecco, oysters and friendly locals. We happily enjoyed all of them during our visit, as well as the warm chatter of owner Sherri behind the bar. The oysters set the gastronomic tone at Mistley where the menu is dominated by fresh, sea-based delicacies such as griddled diver scallops with pea purée or Adnams beer-battered fish. The proximity to the veritable feast of Essex’s shores also gave rise to ‘Moules Madness’ – a Thursday tradition where diners descend to enjoy the shelly sea creatures cooked in various delicious ways including Thai-style or perhaps a more traditional French version with frites. If all this has you ‘hooked’ you can also take part in one of Sherri’s popular cookery workshops that she runs from her house next door. It’s worth noting that, despite the reverence of the ocean’s bounty, both lunch and dinner have a number of options for vegetarians and those less inclined to seafood.
A buffet-style breakfast of cereals and fresh fruit is provided for hotel guests, who can also enjoy a number of cooked options including full English. Homemade muffins and eggs Benedict make an appearance on Sundays, when the public are also invited in for brunch. If you want to head further afield for meals, there are plenty of options nearby, particularly of the gastropub variety, we suggest The Crown at Stoke by Nayland, or The Sun Inn.
Top Tip: Were we to visit again, we’d stay 2 nights and take a cookery class with Sherri in the Mistley Kitchen. The hands-on workshops can cover anything from Indian seafood to French bistro, and if the restaurant is anything to go by, the food will be utterly delicious.
i-escape guest review: “We particularly liked being able to enjoy a lovely place to stay in AND have our dog (very well behaved) stay with us. Also good that there is somewhere to park. All in all a very pleasant stay.”
Benjamin, United Kingdom (18.03.14)
i-escape gift: a free room upgrade, subject to availability at the time of stay