“ Address: The Viper / Mill Green / near Ingatestone / Essex „
The Viper Mill Green, near Ingatestone, Essex
Visiting one of my favourite pubs in Essex this weekend, when my son came home from university for a couple of days, reminded me that my Dooyoo review was far too overdue on this little gem that nestles in amongst woodland in the beautiful Essex village of Mill Green. I think no-one could fail to be enchanted by a name like The Viper but for a snake obsessive like myself this floods me with temptation. Don't get me wrong I don't really like snakes but have a fascination with them, so you can imagine my delight last month when a grass snake slithered across the road in front of my car. It has been quite a year for snakes as an adder did the same in front of my daughter's car in Wales earlier this year, but you won't find real snakes in cages in this gem of a traditional English pub- just a name to excite you!
It is said that the pub has this name as the area was once a snake infested woodland, and I am sure today that a gentle stroll along many of the wooded trails may reward you a rare sight of a basking adder! However my aim is always to turn up for lunch and I am always so happy to see the pub in all its glory. Yellow is my favourite colour and the doors are painted in a bright sunflower shade, and the pub sign has a snoozing viper to conjure up the rather exciting atmosphere. There are sash windows outlined in black which together with the yellow doors makes for a very striking appearance.
This pub was used during the war as a sorting office for letters sent home from the troops serving with regiments in distant lands. Its address was simply "The Viper, England" so you can see it has a long history!
The Viper is very popular as it is often used by cyclists and walkers, and as a result there is a massive front garden with plenty of wooden seating, and turning up around mid-day on a Sunday you will often see groups congregating there with maps and compasses. Care has been taken to lovingly tend flower baskets so that the gardens are very pretty indeed, and the frontage also has beautiful upstairs window baskets and climbing flowers all through the summer months.
Inside there are three bars one of which is allocated for those with dogs and muddy boots, and in the winter each has its own roaring and crackling fire. I love the fact the dogs are welcome -indeed the pub has its own little dog who occasionally ventures out to greet folk as they enjoy their pub grub!
The bar is upon you almost as soon as you enter as this is a small and intimate pub with a cosy atmosphere. Think lots of rustic oak and boards depicting tempting ales all with the viper theme. Viper-brand V.I.P.A and Jake The Snake are offered as well as many local beers from Suffolk.
Food can be ordered at the bar and a board with the daily specials hangs in full view as well as daily offerings on a menu to be found on the tables. The food is really good and it excels if you are vegetarian as we are. Last Sunday we had the choice of two pies which was excellent as well as many other options. I opted for chestnut pie and my son had the vegetable, and we were given a wait time of about half an hour as they were cooked from scratch so I was more than happy to wait. All the food is very reasonably priced at £6.95 for a full meal complete with vegetables, and certainly I have always found the portions to be generous and the vegetables to be beautifully cooked. The soups are especially good and very generous, and the mushroom in particular is excellent at £4.95 with fresh crusty bread and a massive portion. Sweets are available to order from a board that you ask for, but so far I have never tried these as I am always too full, but I have seen many enjoying these with a choice of many traditional English favourites including spotted dick -my favourite! There are all the usual sandwiches and jacket potatoes and simple alternatives as well as a traditional ploughmans.
The service is always so friendly in here and on arrival at the bar you are made to feel very welcome indeed. The tables are very varied in style with some traditional ladder backed chairs and some with more rustic stools. The only negative I would say is that the overall floor space is quite limited for a wheel chair, but I am sure people would be very amenable and move chairs around if you were disabled as the atmosphere is just so warm and friendly.
I also like the fact that there is local art work on the walls, and this is available to purchase including some that feature the pub itself which is quite an amazing sight. Additionally at night this place looks stunning with its lighted front which illuminates the flower baskets and the sign in all its glory. It is well worth going after dark just to see the pub after sunset.
The toilets are quite basic as you might expect for a building of this age, but are always kept spotlessly clean and tidy.
The pub only takes cheques or cash - no debit cards which makes it very unusual in today's fast moving financial world, so it is worth remembering if you are going with a large crowd.
The summertime sees the provision of an outdoor BBQ and grill which serves burgers which is ideal for walkers and cyclists that may prefer to remain outside. There is also an annual beer festival.
All in all this is what you would call a real pub. Don't go there expecting to watch Manchester United on a 42" screen because you won't find that here!
I think my advice would be to get there early as parking can be a bit tricky as most of the spaces are over the road at the entrance to the woods, and they can get filled up with walkers. It can also be quite muddy there too as the car park isn't tarmaced.
I adore this place, I go there to unwind with frequency. There are very few houses around so it is an ideal location to escape for a couple of hours. I love simple pub food which this is, and I also appreciate value for money and this excels in this in all aspects. Last weekend we had two rounds of soft drinks and three Sunday lunches - (one course) and it was £25 which is excellent, and furthermore the portions were so generous I didn't need much tea! The food is always very hot too and presentation is excellent.
This has to be my favourite pub in Essex and one that I highly recommend if you like a taste of tradition in a picturesque setting.
Although the postcode is Chelmsford the pub is just as accessible from the Brentwood area.
The Common, Mill Green
Also to be published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278.