Restaurant review: The Square & compasses, Fairstead

AS I drove through the pretty villages of Hatfield Peveral and Terling, it was a joy to take in the picture-postcard views, writes Stephanie Mackentyre.

Victor Roome and his partner Susan Poole took over the Square and Compasses in a tired state. ‘It was literally stuffed full of taxidermy,’ says Vic with a laugh. There were more than 60 stuffed animals and birds inside, all dusty and yellowed, which had to be disposed of. The tobacco-stained walls of this 17th century inn have now been replaced by fresh sunshine yellow paint and the whole establishment has been very tastefully and respectfully renovated, retaining its original black beams and inglenook fireplaces. There’s ten dining tables plus a sophisticated, private dining room on the first floor for a further 14 people. Weekends it’s advisable to book in advance as there is now a loyal following.

The building itself was built in 1652, originally as two farm cottages. In 1829 it gained a license to sell ale for two and a half hours each day, to the farm workers as they came off the fields. In 1902 it became a public house and it’s still surrounded by rolling fields which today draw walkers and cyclists exploring The Essex Way via this timeless village.

‘We wanted to find a place which was good for the heart and mind, at the centre of a village community’

The front of the building has a white picket fence with a raised decked area for dining in warmer months. Directly across from the front of the inn is a freshly-painted, traditional red phone box. ‘With the help of the parish council, we managed to get it listed to preserve it as a village landmark and we’ve turned it into an information point,’ Susan explains proudly. John Wilcock is head chef, ably assisted by Craig Loveridge, and he produced a magnificent lunch.

We began with 21-day-hung fillet of local beef carpaccio served with fresh rocket leaves and a piquant caper dressing. The marbled slices of beef had just a hint of paprika to release its fabulous flavours. Main course was a man-sized portion of pan-fried local ox liver; three pieces which just melted on the tongue topped with home-smoked crispy bacon and three kidneys too. The meats sat on top of mashed new potatoes and the dish was garnished with sprigs of thyme and surrounded by a rich red wine gravy. Dessert was an attractive arrangement of merlot-poached pears, hot-pink raspberry sorbet bursting with fruitiness and a homemade lime cheesecake; light, creamy zestiness in every bite. ‘Sometimes I can’t quite believe this place is ours,’ adds Susan.

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The Square and CompassesFuller Street Fairstead Chelmsford CM3 2BB01245 361477

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