Friday 10th November
Andrew went to work in London as usual. I packed the car and drove to Gladwin’s Farm where we are staying in the Melford suite, which is a medieval barn conversion for a few days to celebrate Andrews birthday early.
This has a four poster bed in the mezzanine floor overlooking the rest of the suite, and it’s own private jacuzzi. It’s about 2¾ hours drive and I arrived in time to unpack and relax for a while before picking Andrew up from Colchester train station. The train down to here takes half an hour less than his usual journey home.
I drove him back to the farm and we changed in time for the taxi to drive us to The White Hart where I’d booked dinner.
This is a 15th century coaching house, now a restaurant owned by Michel Roux. It has a 2 rosette rating, deservedly so, as the entire meal was stunning. I had goats cheese soufflé then steak, Andrew had gravadlax then lamb, all excellent, our puddings were both exquisite. We shared a magnificent bottle of Baron de Rothschild Los Vascos 1992. Coffee and petite fours followed.
We bought one of their Christmas puddings, then we returned to the Gladwin’s to retire for the night.
Saturday 11th November
I was up bright and early and pottered about till Andrew awoke. We decided to go to the sea as it was a lovely sunny day, despite being cold. We set of to Frinton by the Sea first, somehow ended up at Walton on the Naze, where we walked the length of the very long pier, then had a stroll along the beach. Then headed back to Frinton and lunched at the Oakwood Inn.
Drove to Clacton next, out of season it’s lovely. They have renovated the old gardens which run parallel to the beach with some help from the heritage lottery fund and they are so pretty even in winter. There are Chain Plot, Memorial, Sunken Rose, Sensory, Sunken 1920’s, and Mediterranean gardens. All very different and extremely well done. They’ll look lovely in full bloom in the summer, I was rather impressed. We walked along the pier again here, then walked along the beach for a while.
Set off back to the farm as it was getting dark, to have a soak in the jacuzzi before getting ready for our evening out. The taxi collected us about 6.15p.m. as tonight the restaurant is about 12 miles away in Stratford Saint Mary. It is Le Talbooth another restaurant with 2 rosettes, which also holds the title “most romantic place to dine in 2005.” I was right in my expectations of this place, from the stunning canapés to the coffee and truffles everything was exquisite. The smoked duck breast was the best I’ve ever tasted, Andrew’s ravioli of tiger prawns was awesome too. The venison and duck that followed were sublime. The Henschke wine was the perfect accompaniment. Our sticky toffee pudding and lemon posset a delight. We retired to the lounge for espresso and wonderful little petite fours served from a little oak chest. A wonderfully relaxing evening.
Sunday 12th November
We had breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, then drove to Flatford Mill to have a look at the area where John Constable painted. The mill is a research centre, the Granary a B&B and Willy Lott’s cottage are privately owned, so we just walked around the area, which is very quaint and pretty.
We then drove towards Mersea Island and wandered around the Marina looking for somewhere to lunch. Set off to other side of the island and found a cafe where we ate fish and chips before walking along the coast path until it was too dark to stay any longer.
Back then to Gladwin’s and relaxed till it was time for dinner. Went to the Crown at Stoke by Nayland as the taxi driver had recommended it. This is a very good pub, we sat watching the roaring fire, Andrew enjoying a beer or two. We had smoked duck and onion tart for starters, roast beef and ham hock, followed by banana bread with a creme brulee crust - excellent! Andrew had the most amazing home made horseradish sauce with the beef, for which they kindly gave us the recipe when we asked. Our last evening already, but I am sure we will be back.
Monday 13th November
We departed at 10am on the dot as requested and went into Colchester for a wander. We walked around the town centre which has some lovely quaint old buildings. Eventually found the old castle which is now a museum, several parties of children queuing so we gave it a miss, maybe next time. Found Strada an Italian restaurant we’d tried and enjoyed very much in London and had an excellent lunch there and set off for home immediately afterwards. It was a wonderful weekend, which we’d be happy to repeat in summer.