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Thorn Mistley

Charles Campion lunches in Constable country

The 18th century building that is home to the Mistley Thorn has been through a few different incarnations over the years. This coaching inn has always been central to the village and was once owned by Golding Constable (John the painter’s dad). John Wesley preached in an upstairs room, and the infamous witchfinder general, Matthew Hopkins, used the same room as a courtroom. Village rumour also suggests that it was once a bordello and more recently – and prosaically – it has served Mistley as a post office.

44 FIFTH MARCH 2012 When Sherri Singleton – an ebullient

Californian chef and restaurateur – and her partner David McKay – a university aca- demic – took over the Thorn in 2003, it was in a sorry state and needed a sustained programme of refurbishment. Now it is a testament to the soothing nature of Farrow & Ball colour ways and comfortable good taste. There is still Adnams bitter available for locals who drop in for a drink, but they are heavily outnumbered by diners and the occupants of the eight elegant bedrooms. As the estuary of the river Stour and Mistley Quay can be seen just across the

road from the Thorn, it is appropriate that the menus all lead with fish. It’s also good to see a sustainable fish policy put into practice and good use made of very fresh, locally caught fish. The lunch specials in- clude dishes like seared diver scallops with celeriac purée and crisp pancetta (£7.25 as a starter, £13.40 as a main); smoked had- dock chowder (£6.25); seared local gurnard fil- let with green sauce, sautéed potatoes, and purple sprouting broccoli (£10.95), and seared or- ganic salmon fillet with a rosemary potato cake, spinach and whiskey cream (£12.95). Searing is in vogue

“It’s also

good to see a sustainable

here, but it is a cooking technique that allows the quality of the fish to shine through. A whole lemon sole is grilled and then served with an Essex take on agro dolce – caramelised garlic, Volpaia vinegar and smoked paprika – leaves and hand-cut fries. A nice fresh piece of fish cooked accu- rately and given a boost by some strident flavours. Or perhaps the seared local wild

fish policy put into practice and good use made of very fresh, locally- caught fish”

sea bass fillet with Capezzana olive oil, pre- served lemons and cavolo nero (£12.95) appeals? Another fishy treat is Sherri’s Cioppina (£12.25) – a fish stew made from sustainable fish and to a Ligurian-by-way- of-California recipe, and very good it is too – rich enough to satisfy but not so heavy that it bludgeons the fresh fish. And take a good look at these prices – they make a mockery of the received wisdom that fresh fish is always pro- hibitively expensive and that it is impossible to sell fish to the British unless it is battered and wrapped in paper. The meaty offerings

also rely on local ingre- dients and among the starters you may find a ham hock terrine with

piccalilli and a pea shoot salad (£6.95), or arancini (£5.95). The mains include grilled Ragmarsh pork sausages, with mash, on- ion gravy and braised red cabbage (£6.95); a steak sandwich (£9.95), and ribeye steak with hand-cut fries and tempura onion rings (£9.95). The steaks are from Red Poll


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