Restaurant review: The County Hotel, Chelmsford

A dining delight at The County Hotel, Chelmsford...

Lunch with...The County Hotel, Chelmsford

When I last visited Graham McGregor, general manager at The County Hotel in Chelmsford, the idea for a smart patio area with olive trees was only at the conceptual stage, writes Stephanie Mackentyre. Now the established olive trees make this dining delight an even more attractive oasis.'We have plans to double the size of the patio area next year and enclose it to create a private courtyard area,' Graham explains, demonstrating how things don't stand still in the restaurant trade for a second. Inside, the restaurant d�cor has changed too, with new orange, lemon and lime fabric on the chairs and warm cream wood panelling on the walls, both complemented by the striped linen curtains to give the whole room a refreshing, Mediterranean feel. In the kitchen, head chef Stephen Cansell calls the shots. 'Our menu is now 80% local provenance foods, our meat comes from the Rare Breed Meat Company and our fish is caught by our own fisherman from Wivenhoe, his daily catch is cooked and on the plates within 24 hours.' The County's vegetables too are now all seasonal and supplied by three local farms. 'This method gives us great tasting, fresh produce with exceptional attention to detail,' adds Stephen. One local farmer picks only the exact size of courgettes Stephen requests. Stephen designs the inspired menus with a Mediterranean flavour. Graham and his team have focussed their energies on reducing The County's C02 emissions in the past 12 months, embracing the theories of eco-catering. 'We've reduced emissions by 40%, which is not only wonderful for the environment but has helped us to reduce our overheads significantly,' says Graham. These cost savings have been used for a 2010 development plan. 'We hope to bring on board a new annex to house more premium bedrooms to add to the 17 we already have, a brand new gym with steam room and modern conference facilities too.' The great strides made by the team have been rewarded, they are finalists in the Essex Tourism Awards in two categories for 2009 (Sustainable Tourism and Best Large Hotel) and hear the results later this month. Stephen brought us his starter of locally cured beef carpaccio with rocket and pine nut. Sliced thinly and marinated overnight in herbs and spices with just the edges seared, its colours made a dramatic beginning to our lunch. Lamb cutlets were next, three oh-so-tender and pink cutlets served with a red current reduction, chunky skin-on wedges and baby char-grilled courgettes. Our dessert was heavenly, honeycomb parfait.

The County HotelRainsford RoadChelmsfordCM1 2PZ01245 455700

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