“ Martello Inn,Marine Parade,West Martello Bay,Clacton-on-Sea.CO15 1NW. Tel: Tel: 01255 425739 „
My fiance and I decided to go out for dinner tonight as we had a bit of good news to celebrate. Neither of us are the type to go to a 'posh' restaurant and I'm finding spicy food a little difficult at the moment so we decided that a Carvery would be just the thing. The nearest of these establishments to us is the Martello Inn Toby Carvery, situated on Marine Parade, Clacton (that's the seafront to you and me). Although we only live about quarter of an hours walk away we decided to use the car and there were plenty of parking spaces in the attached car park and parking is very reasonable at only £1 for two hours. Even better this fee is deducted from the bill when you use the Carvery, so parking really didn't cost anything. I've been to the Martello Inn a few times before, once in it's current incarnation as a Toby Carvery and more than once while it was part of a different chain (I think it was a Beefeater but I'm not sure and only ever drank there). The interior doesn't seem to have changed all that much during the transformation, is quite dark and seems to be a little mock oldie worldie with fake beams on the ceilings. Personally I think it looks quite old fashioned but I'm sure some people like it. On arrival at the Martello (as it's simply known by the locals) we had to speak to a greeter, who I am assuming was some sort of manager, so that we could join the queue for a table. Unlike many restaurants there's no way of booking in advance so there's no way of being able to guarantee what time your meal will start. We arrived at about 6.30pm and were told that a table for two should be free within about 25 minutes. With all that time to kill we decided that a drink would be in order and made our way to the bar and then I think we turned invisible. We waited ten minutes to be served and watched people who arrived after us being served while we were completely ignored and we weren't the only ones. Finally, after a few loud and sarcastic comments, a very surly barmaid asked if she could help us and snatched the money out of my partners hand. As far as prices goes the £2.90 for a pint of Stella was a little steep, but on a par with many of the pubs in the area. Being unable to drink alcohol (as the designated driver and pregnant) I plumped for a St Clements which was tasted gorgeous and at only £1.50 a pint was a lot cheaper than in may pubs. Something else that didn't impress me was that although a sign was clearly posted stating that under 21's would not be served alcohol and that there was a 'challenge 25' policy a group came in where they didn't look a day of 17 and this group was served alcohol without needing to show ID. With drinks in hand we decided, as it was such a nice day, to go and sit on the patio. As we passed the greeter I told her where we were going so that she would be able to tell us when our table was available and I commented on the poor service at the bar. What a difference in service, she couldn't have been more apologetic and immediately went to speak to the bar staff. From that moment on we couldn't have received more attentive or friendly service from the staff we came in contact with. The patio area, itself, is quite large with plenty of picnic style tables, but considering that this is also the smoking area there were very few ash trays. I must admit the Martello is very well placed to simply sit and relax while having a drink or two. The patio area overlooks the blue flag beach and there are some stunning views of the coast. During the day you can often watch water sport enthusiasts taking part in such things as kite surfing, and during rougher weather the sea looks spectacular. But the combination of high tide and even quite gentle winds can create large waves that come of the sea wall and there is a chance of getting sprayed. Although we'd been told we would have to wait 25 minutes for a table it hardly seemed any time at all until we called back inside. I'd only managed about a quarter of my drink, and I'm guessing altogether we waited 15-20 minutes (mind you 10 of that was at the bar). The table we were shown to would have actually seated four, so there was plenty of room for us to spread ourselves out and even though I thought that we might have be asked to share it with other customers , this didn't happen. After explaining that we could go up to the carvery as soon as we were ready, the greeter asked if we wanted any more drinks, which my fiancé did and his drink was on the table by the time we returned with our food. The Martello works just like any other carvery that I've been to, you join a queue and then make your way past a serving area, it sort of reminds me of school dinners. The queue did move quite slowly, especially when the carver ran out of beef and the kitchen took so long to bring more out that he decided to go get it himself. On the day of my visit there was a choice of three meats, turkey, beef and gammon and as I was feeling particularly hungry I decided to have all three. Personally I felt that the portion of beef was a little small (I do like my meat) but when I asked for some more I was given an extra slice. Along with the meat I was asked if I wanted a Yorkshire pudding, I said yes, of course. After being handed my plate with the yorkie and meat on it I moved along to the vegetables, and there was a huge range to choose from. Now I'm pretty fussy when it comes to veg and don't like cheese so I didn't help myself to all that many different types, but my plate was still full almost to the point of spilling over by the time I was finished. The final stage was the gravies and condiments, again there was a nice selection, with three different types of gravy (including vegetarian) and almost every sauce I could think of. I did notice a few little problems with the serving area, for example there was only one person carving and serving the meat and he did look very hot and a little stressed. Also the serving spoons and tongs in the vegetable section were very hot to the touch, I could only just manage without burning myself, and dread to think what would happen if a child should touch them. Finally the containers holding the gravy looked very grubby, there were drips dried on the outside and a skin on the surface of the inside, they definitely looked as if they could have done with cleaning. At last, plates in hand, we made our way back to the table ready to eat our meals. And I hit on another small problem, there was no salt on the table and so we had to ask the people sitting on the table next to us if we could use theirs. But that was only a small problem I suppose. The meal was actually rather nice, the meat was cooked beautifully, all the different meats almost fell apart, it was that tender and the only slight niggle was that the gammon was a little on the salty side. The roast potatoes were well cooked if a little on the rubbery-side, personally I prefer my roast potatoes crispier. The new potatoes were perhaps a little undercooked as was the broccoli but at least they were obviously cooked from fresh rather than being tinned or frozen. The cabbage, however, was cooked just how I like it, with plenty of crunch. I didn't have the cauliflower cheese, but my fiancé told me it was perfect, but he found the carrots were over-cooked and a little soggy for his taste and he ended up leaving these. The Yorkshire pudding was just right, crispy and yet nicely soggy when it soaked up the delicious beef gravy, and as for the cranberry sauce, all I can say is wow, I want to know where they buy it. All in all the meal was more than acceptable, it filled me right up and if it hadn't of I could have gone back for as many more vegetables as I wanted. At no point did we feel rushed while we were eating in fact we only saw the waitress the once when she asked us if everything was alright and if we wanted any desserts. Although there was a selection of deserts available, neither of us had any room for them so we passed on these and simply asked for the bill. And this was the crowning moment of the night, I was expecting to pay about £15 for the food plus extra for the drinks, but because we had arrived before 7pm it was only £5 each for the food (after 7 it costs £7.50 and Sundays £8.50). Although major credit cards are accepted I paid by cash and this was dealt with quickly and efficiently. I always think it's a bit of a cheek when restaurants automatically add service charge, but no such issue here, service charge is not added, which meant I was more than willing to leave a tip. As my fiancé hadn't finished his drink we decided to go and sit outside again for half hour or so, and here we came across another problem. There is a very large sign by the entrance stating that dogs are not permitted within the patio area (excepting assistance dogs) but there was a very large dog loose in this area and none of the staff seemed inclined to tell the owner to put it on a leash let alone remove it from the area. You may think this sounds a bit daft, but I am very nervous of any dogs let alone ones nearly as big as me and it did make me want to leave and stopped me from staying for another drink. Being in the condition I am, I find myself needing to use the toilet quite often and I found myself using both sets more than once. This was a somewhat off-putting experience as neither set was particularly clean, there was toilet paper on the floors and as I approached one set there was a funny, damp smell, that turned my delicate stomach a little. There was, however, toilet paper in all the cubicles, and plenty of hot water and soap to wash my hands with and an effective drier. Along with the Carvery itself the Martello Inn serves pub food at what seems to be fairly reasonable, if standard prices, but I've never sampled any of this. There is also free wi-fi (powered by Cloud) available, which again I've never accessed, tea and coffee is also available, which I've never drunk. Along with the standard meats, there are special carvery nights where different meats such as lamb are served and even nights when you can get a curry, but I've never sampled these so I can't comment on them, or the starters and children's meals. Although I'm not disabled myself, there was a gentleman at the next table in a wheelchair at the next table and he was offered help with collecting his meal, there didn't appear to be any issues with access and disabled toilets are available. Children are welcome at the Martello and they have their own menu, but there are no play areas to keep them entertained. So finally am I recommending the Martello Inn? Well, all in all, I guess I am. I did enjoy most of my meal and left feeling extremely full while spending a comparatively small amount of money. No, the night wasn't perfect, the service at the bar was atrocious and some of the vegetables weren't cooked to my liking. But my complaint about the bar was dealt with very quickly and it must be difficult to cook vegetables that are going to be to everybody's liking. So as I definitely believe in the maxim that 'you get what you pay for' I must say that my meal was worth every penny. Added to that it's was quite romantic sipping our drinks while appreciating the coastal view.
This Toby Inn is set near a Martello Tower hence where it gets its name from, (a Martello Tower for those who don't know is a round tower that is 12m high with two floors. It housed 1 Officer and about 15-25 men, it was used as a defensive fort during the early 19th century). The Inn itself is really lovely as it overlooks Martello Bay, which on a lovely sunny day is wonderful! They have large glass doors which open onto a very large patio area which can hold 200 plus seating.This Inn was refurbished in November 2008 and turned into a Toby Carvery then. Whenever we go there for a meal we usually sit in the pub side rather than in the restaurant, as you can sit by the windows and look out to sea, with a large fan overhead keeping it cool while you eat, (not that its not cool in the restauant, we just like the views!). There are some views from the restaurant as well. We normally just have the Carvery (which for us is plenty!) as they do not serve starters or desserts in this part. The carvery itself is FANTASTIC VALUE and the food is superb! I can honestly say that whenever I've been (which is quite often !) the the choice is huge, you start with a large yorkshire pud then move onto the meats which consist of Turkey,Beef and Gammon . Next onto the veggies (which I swear are fresh without a frozen pea insight which makes a complete change to certain chains)there are usually nine to choose from. I have had various selections in the past, mainly there are cauliflower cheese,carrots,brocolli,parsnips,peas,onions,peppers and tomatoes,new potato's,and lovely roast potato's as well. They have bowls of stuffing on the side,then you move onto the gravy table with a choice of different gravies I'm never sure what to have, apart from the normal beef gravy there are country gravies,veggie gravies, also they have cranberry jelly wholegrain mustards and wide choice of different condiments to choose from! They also serve up a really delicous vegeterian dish of Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne which my daughter has had on a number of occasions( I'm tempted to have it myself one day, but as soon as I get in there and smell the roasts I give in to them !).You order the veggie dish first and when it is ready they will inform you so you can all go up together as it is left at the carvery.You can also have all the veggies,yorkies ect with the veggie dinner as well. Here are the Times and Prices as follows; Carvery Mon - Sat 12pm -5pm £5.00 Mon - Sat 7pm - 10pm £7.50 Sunday all day £8.50 The sunday roast has more to choose from as it serves Roast Pork as well. There are 9 different desserts to choose from plus 2 puddings of the season. They do a thing called the bottomless custard jug, which means if you can finish it all they will retop it for free! It also does Real Ale as well as the usual beers, they are Adnams Broadside and Shephed Neame Spitfire. I hope you get the chance to vist this Toby Carvery as it is great to go to after a walk around the seafront gardens (where each one is set around a different theme) which are really lovely! A lovely part of Essex !