An Essex Rose that will grow on you

In these difficult times you might be forgiven for thinking it would be a waste of time and money to open a gastro pub, but Edward Halls, owner of the Rose and Crown, Great Horkesley, sees things differently, as Anne Louise Hall discovers

In these difficult times you might be forgiven for thinking it would be a waste of time and money to open a gastro pub, but Edward Halls, owner of the Rose and Crown, Great Horkesley, sees things differently, as Anne Louise Hall discovers

The Rose and Crown is a delightful country pub situated on the Suffolk/Essex border village of Great Horkesley, and it offers a little more than you might expect.

A few short moments after stepping in from the cold, guests will become aware of a gentle hum. Follow the buzz to the right of a sparkling well-stocked bar and descend into an exquisitely simple dining room where tall glasses and shining cutlery add a tantalising glimmer to the comfortable arrangement of tables and chairs.

A mix of plush leather complements perfectly the occasional cream and chocolate floral brocade. Contemporary styling contrasts elegantly with original oak beams and red brick walls. An authentic, intimate space opens before you; sophisticated and understated with an air of order and uniformity. There is an immediate sense of anticipation as just a glimpse of other diners’ meals hints at the creativity and originality that is to be found on the menu.

To ‘a foodie’, a menu is poured over as though it is an entrant to The Booker Prize. I do not wish to read what I am about to eat. I want my menu to tell me just how my life will be enhanced by the experience I’m about to have. I want the beginning, middle and end to hook me, excite me, keep me chewing and sipping until the bitter buttery end.

I want to be so affected by the words on the page and the emotions they invoke, that I take an age to decide what to choose for each course. So many restaurants have a beautiful setting, well trained staff and that quintessential English country feel, but many fall short when you pick up the menu. This is not the case at The Rose and Crown:

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"Stunning Castelvetrano olives, souffl� of Cropwell Bishop Stilton, pan seared fresh scallops, risotto of wild mushrooms, local wild sea bass, Braxted Hall lamb…"

Just a few words that spoke volumes to me. Language alone is enough to get my mouth watering and this menu lets me know I am dealing with a passionate cook who understands about local sourcing, appropriate culinary process and top quality fresh produce.

His menu reflects the English seasons. He cares about what he does, and the time he has taken to consider how he puts the menus together shows he respects and cares about his customers.

If he can deliver what is promised on this wonderfully unpretentious menu (which I am pleased to say has black text on white background – perfect for my ageing eyes), then he will have justified all the awards I notice he has already won for this relatively new venture.

And the meal does not disappoint. My Stilton souffl� just melts in the mouth, yet the flavour packs a punch; how clever!

Next the lamb, light enough to still be skipping through pasture but rich enough to bury its head in the warm red cabbage and sultana chutney, upon which it is served, rolls over and submits to my taste buds.

My companion for the evening demolished his platter of scallops so quickly I was not convinced he actually received it until I witnessed the tell-tale dribble on his chin. To be truthful, he did not manage most of his Gressingham Duck; but that was because I could not resist reaching across the table romantically, dazzling him with my smile and then pilfering the lot. I just loved the parsnip puree.

I am not usually a dessert kind of a girl, but in the interest of research I decided to go the extra mile. The waitress did not hesitate when I asked her for a recommendation:



Honestly if I could put it in lights I would. I now have a new food fantasy that cannot be revealed in these pages.

Towards the end of the evening Edward Halls emerged from the kitchen looking as though he’d wrestled a bull into the oven. This man cooks.

Crisp new whites would not have convinced me; I’ve seen them before. He moved from table to table, chatting to and charming his guests, happily discussing his recipes, his business and his hopes and dreams for the future.

I was not surprised to learn he had trained with top chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing but I was impressed at his CV since leaving their employ.

Whether he cooks for royalty, the military or Joe Public, Mr Halls enjoys a challenge.

I shall be returning to The Rose and Crown very shortly. There was much to choose from and I suspect many more awards to be claimed.

Losing out to The Bildeston Crown in last year’s EADT Suffolk Food and Drink awards best restaurant category hit Edward Halls hard.

Not one to be thwarted though, Mr Halls’ passion is driving him forward. Onward and upward, he intends to be around for the long haul.

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