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Le Talbooth (Colchester)

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The Talbooth Dedham, Dedham, Colchester, Essex, CO7 6HP
Tel: 01206 323150

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      25.04.2002 22:54
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      A beautiful (if pricey) experience

      I adore eating out and staying hotels. I think it all stems from the fact that my first job when I left school was as a kitchen porter in a hotel, from which wonderful role I was promoted (?) to chambermaid. at various times I have worked in all areas of hotels and catering so I really appreciate enjoying it from the guests’ side.

      Having stayed in various places around the country from the humble B&B to very pleasant three star hotels I decided to surf around the web for various hotels and eateries in the Essex area. I happened across a beautiful website about the Talbooth group. I wandered round, I clicked, I drooled, I fell in love. Located in Essex mainly on the edge of Dedham, run by the Milsom family there are four establishments in the group: the Talbooth restaurant, the Maison Talbooth hotel, Milsom's hotel and restaurant and the pier at Harwich, this latter offering two seafood restaurants and fourteen bedrooms on the quay in old Harwich.

      We decided to book up for one night in the Maison Talbooth with dinner at the Talbooth. Taken from the hotel by courtesy car to the restaurant we were introduced to the waiter and shown through the reception area to a large lounge with intimate groupings of sofas, chairs and low tables. As we perused the large menu we nibbled on homemade crisps, delicious large olives and an assortment of nuts. Our chosen wine was brought promptly to us so we could sip while we drooled over the extensive selection of food available. The lounge area is large and very well laid out, the feeling being that choosing the food is as much a part of your evening as consuming it. Having ordered, we relaxed and nibbled and sipped taking in our surroundings. The Talbooth is a large old timbered building that has been run by the Milsom family since 1952 and they have done a wonderful job of providing perfect surroundings for a special meal. The whole atmosphere is very relaxed and the clientele varied from older retired pe
      ople to the hooray henries … and us! The dress code is smart/casual so ties are not obligatory, but I wouldn’t advise holey jeans and shorts.

      When out starters were ready we were taken through to the main restaurant, our wine being carried for us on a tray. It was stunning, beautifully lit with soft sparkly lights and enough room between tables that we could feel totally private. We began with Seared home smoked salmon (£7.75) Confit duck leg (£8.50), apparently the duck leg was delicious, but I was so enamoured with my salmon that I forgot to demand my usual “just a little taste”! The salmon was served with a tortilla omelette, soft poached egg and hollandaise sauce. The tortilla omelette was light without being too fluffy, the egg cooked to perfection and the hollandaise clearly homemade. A perfect starter that took the edge off my appetite but didn’t fill me up and spoil my chance of fitting in a pudding.

      For main course we had decided to share a Roast rack of lamb (for 2 persons) (£36.50) under an herb crust, served with Provençale vegetables, redcurrant and rosemary jus. Three waiters and waitresses served this from a trolley by our table. At the Talbooth you are asked how you would like your meat cooked. This pleased us no end, as we prefer our lamb pink and many places it is served ‘as it comes’. The lamb was spot on, tender, pink and melt in the mouth. The jus was the ideal accompaniment as it complemented the lamb’s fresh flavour without being overpowering. All the vegetables were cooked exactly as I like; cooked but still with a crisp bite to them.

      For dessert we chose winter berry clafoutis (£7.75) with honey and lavender ice cream and “Chocolate, Shokolade, Chocolat” (£7.75) White chocolate tart, lime sorbet and chocolate mint marquise with white and dark chocolate sauces. Two plates of heaven J I don’t like ice cream very much as I find it too cold, but the i
      dea of honey and lavender was too tempting to resist. It was a kind of cake come tart with the freshest berries, not too sweet and not too sharp and I melted the ice cream all over it so it was like a warm sauce. The chocolate dessert (and I know there a few of you wondering why I didn’t have that!) looked delicious but a little too rich for me at that moment. I plead guilty to pinching the last spoonful though!

      The staff could not be faulted; this restaurant has deservedly won awards for service and food, including a Moet et Chandon award and various rosettes and stars. As I say, not one of the staff could be faulted, they were always ready to serve whilst being discreet, but we were most impressed by the wine waiter. This young lad was the best wine waiter I have ever seen, even in my years working in catering. We did not once, ever, reach for the bottle to refill our glasses, he topped us up regularly and so unobtrusively we barely noticed him and did not need to break our conversation. One of my only bugbears with the posher restaurants is when our glasses are low and we reach for the bottle a waiter will hop in and take it from our hand. NO!! Either, keep an eye out and fill us up before we get too low, or if we have picked the bottle up, leave us be … it is annoying and embarrassing!

      At the end of the meal we were both too tired to manage coffee so we adjourned back to the lounge area with the last of our wine while waited for the courtesy car to return us to the hotel. Fortunately none of the sofas were free as I am sure I would have nodded straight off and had to be carried out.

      I can’t remember the exact price of the wine but I would guess it was about £20.00 a bottle as the whole meal came to a little over £100.00. Yes, I know, major ouch! But as a once in a while luxury and the pleasure it brought us and the memories we have, it really was value for money. A totally perfect night, with perfect food, perfect
      service and perfect company.

      If you can afford it and get to it the Talbooth cannot be recommended enough for a magnificent night out. If you can’t, do visit the website and let your imagination run riot, then if the opportunity ever arises and you do get a chance to visit, I can promise you, you will not be disappointed.

      http://www.talbooth.com

      I have also visited the Pier at Harwich many times now as it is just around the corner from our favourite little restaurant The Bear and it is so nice to be able to enjoy a good dinner and not have to worry about getting back home!

      The Pier is just as good as Le Talbooth in its own way, any of the Milsoms establishments are completely wonderful and truly offer the best service and excellent value for what can seem like a quite scary expenditure!

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