Mistley Thorn

Essex, East Anglia, United Kingdom Book from

Historic pub converted into a popular restaurant with smart rooms in a scenic Georgian port town
What do Vincent Price and Mistley Thorn have in common? Well, Mistley Thorn stands on the site where the notorious Witchfinder General held his witch-hanging trials in the 1640s, and Vincent Price played him in the 1968 movie. But perhaps the real sorceress in the story is Sherri Singleton, a can-do Californian who refurbished the rundown pub and turned it into a smashing restaurant. It has garnered rave reviews for its seafood and has a buzzy bar that the locals love. With its spacious, contemporary bedrooms (a couple with fine views of the Stour Estuary), the Mistley Thorn makes a delightful lure to this corner of East Anglia.

Mistley itself was destined to become a spa town and several structures still bear the distinctive Georgian designs of Robert Adams - the circular water basin opposite the Thorn with its graceful metal swan is one of them. Swans are symbolic here - you need only to stroll along the estuary edge to view a bevy (and that’s the correct term) of these beautiful birds.

Highs

  • Comfortable rooms with kingsize beds and ensuite bathrooms. We loved the river view from our top-floor room
  • Reputable restaurant with fresh seafood and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients
  • Small, lively bar that draws a local crowd, especially for the oysters and prosecco!
  • Friendly staff in both the restaurant and hotel; when Sherri is around she makes an effort to chat with guests
  • A wonderful on-site cookery school with regular classes and a tempting gift shop

Lows

  • Some of the bedrooms are above the bar/restaurant and sound can travel up if it's a busy night (although everything winds down by midnight)
  • The inn faces a road but traffic is minimal
  • Mistley is a small town with only a few shops and pubs - and a train station
  • The cookery school building is situated across the road, but this means bigger rooms

Best time to go

Late spring and summer are best for warmer, drier weather (although not guaranteed!). The restaurant has a cosy feel in winter and the menu changes to suit the season.

Our top tips

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. Next door, the kitchen and wine shop holds much temptation. We spent a small fortune trinkets, including some beautiful handmade matches!

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 12
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Standard River View Double

Rooms

We found the rooms to be warm and welcoming with original dark oak beamed ceilings, duck-egg-green wainscoting and hand-knit burgundy throws over the kingsize beds.

Despite the limited ceiling height in our second-floor Premium Room (#7), we felt very comfortable and relished the sun-drenched views of the Stour Estuary from our window. Most Premium Rooms have a similar view. Some of the Standard Rooms are quite small, they are still charming; Room 6’s river view makes it particularly good value.

The Annex holds Premium Rooms 9 and 10, plus Standard Room 11. Located above the cookery school, they reflect Mistley Thorn’s simple yet stylish vibe. Premium Room 10 has a kitchenette and can be booked with Standard Room 11 to create a mini apartment.

Situated to the rear of the original building, Little Thorn Cottage has its own kitchenette, 2 bathrooms and a double bedroom (though it sleeps 4 comfortably). There are no river views, but we felt it made a great base for exploring the area.

Sherri's been over from the States long enough to know that a kettle with tea and coffee is a must. Bottles of mineral water and biscuits are also a nice touch. Spotless bathrooms have REN products waiting by the bathtub/shower. Premium Room 5 has a double-ended bathtub and shower.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Ipod dock
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • WiFi

Eating

By early evening, the bar at the Thorn usually has a sprinkling of local residents who come for a chat over a glass of prosecco and a plate of oysters (native and Pacific) on the half-shell. We didn’t hesitate to join them and felt rather sophisticated, especially when Sherri came behind the bar and reminisced about her days catering on film sets in L.A. From movies to Mistley…

The restaurant is open for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner; special dining events are often held, too. Emphasis is on locally sourced ingredients and fresh seafood. Our starter of griddled diver scallops with pea puree mint and lemon was spot-on. The Adnams beer battered local fish main was delicious. Non-briney types and vegetarians are not overlooked, and when it comes to the puddings, words cannot describe Sherri’s yummy key lime cake. On Thursdays, the 'Moules Madness' menu is particularly good fun: choose from marinière, Thai-style or mussels in cioppino.

At breakfast, cereals and fresh fruit are laid out buffet-style; you can also choose to order a cooked full English breakfast, kippers or organic smoked salmon with eggs. Homemade muffins and eggs benedict make an appearance at Sunday brunch, which is open to the public.

Sherri also runs popular cookery workshops at the Mistley Kitchen in her own house beside the Thorn. And a short walk away, in Manningtree, is her other restaurant Lucca (an Italian specialising in tasty pizzas). Other options include The Crown at Stoke by Nayland and The Sun Inn in Dedham.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Gaze at the wonderful neo-classical structure of the Mistley Towers, once part of a large church and now one of 2 remaining Robert Adams' Georgian designs
  • Stroll along the Stour Estuary to the bird sanctuary - you can toss bread to white and black swans, ducks and Canada geese
  • Also along the river is the town of Manningtree, which has a number of small art galleries and Sherri's second Italian restaurant, Lucca
  • Venture further to the Wrabness Beach, about 10km from Mistley and the only sandy beach on the Stour
  • Sketch the watery landscapes of Dedham Vale which so inspired Constable
  • Gardening enthusiasts will love Belth Chatto Gardens and The Place for Plants - both are nearby and offer oodles of horticultural inspiration. A little further away is Helmingham Hall Gardens - also well worth a visit
  • Spend an afternoon at Snape Maltings in Aldburgh. This historic collection of buildings now houses independent shops, antiques suppliers, art galleries and eateries
  • Take part in a Mistley Kitchen cookery workshop, including instruction from Sherri (or from Badu Thobhani for the Indian course), ingredients, recipe sheets, a fabulous sit down lunch and wine - enquire about dates
  • Set sail on Victor, one of the oldest remaining Thames sailing barges, which is now moored at Mistley and available for charter

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming

Kids

Children are welcome; cots and extra beds can be provided. There are toys, books and crayons to keep kids happy. The restaurant has highchairs and a tasty children's menu (no frozen nuggets!). The cookery school sometimes hosts kids cookery classes, too.

Family friendly accommodation:

Split-level Little Thorn Cottage has a private entrance, a double bedroom, and a lounge that can sleep 2. With a kitchenette and two bathrooms, it's a very practical option for those with little ones. In the annex (above the shop and cookery school), Premium Room 10 and Standard Room 11 can be booked together, ideal for a family. Room 10 has a kitchenette and the external corridor can be closed off, creating a mini apartment. Premium Room 2 has a double sofabed; all rooms have space for an extra bed or baby cot.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors are available on request.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and toys are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Creche/Kid's Club:

A children's menu is available in the restaurant.

Kids Activities nearby:

Jimmy's Farm (of TV fame): nature trail, gardens, farm shop (20 minutes' drive).

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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