Dining Out At
Reviewed by Stephanie Mackentyre
The King’s Head at North Weald
The aroma of wood smoke greeted us from the open fire to the left of the solid oak door entrance. The King’s Head is one of the most ancient pubs in the county, built from old ship’s timbers, with some parts dating back 450 years. As we’d arrived with our dog we were welcomed into the bar area at the front, rather than the restaurant. In the bar there are cosy corners with comfortable chairs, but take note you are unable to book for this area (only the restaurant) as it’s on a first come first served basis only.
This year they are offering to take away the stress and hassle of cooking your own Christmas dinner with a three-course menu at a reasonable £59.95 per head. They are also offering to enhance your meal with six different drink packages to accompany your festive spread. After choosing drinks, we started with a prawn and lobster cocktail for my guest served with a lobster mayonnaise, and for me a classic — scallops with seared chorizo, served with hot garlic butter and three strips of rustic granary bread to soak up the delicious juices. Both dishes arrived swiftly and were attractively presented.
Although we couldn’t sample the Christmas fayre, we did try the turkey roast. Main courses took a while longer, but when they did arrive the turkey was succulent and the vegetables, parsnips and thyme-cooked carrots were particularly good, as was the gravy served in a mini gravy boat on the side. Homemade Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and stuffing wrapped in bacon with a serving of cabbage on the side completed the dish.
It was unseasonably warm the lunchtime we dined so I think the volume of customers caught them out and hence there was a bit of a lag between our final two courses. The staff, although perhaps a little overwhelmed by the numbers of customers that day, we found to be extremely friendly and welcoming.
Hanging out there for longer than anticipated wasn’t exactly a chore. They are clearly quite a forward-thinking company (owned by Vintage Inns) as we noticed several clever concepts on the menu. Not only the drinks packages for Christmas, but also roast duo and trio offerings, popular sharing platters and extra sides of Yorkshires, cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes, plus to start you can order mini puddings served with strips of beef and beef dripping gravy just to tide you over while you order your main meal.
Talking of mini puds, they also offer sweet ones to enjoy with coffee, which we both ordered. Toffee milk pudding for me, the caramel from a banoffee with the crumbly biscuit base, and for my guest a ramekin of rhubarb crumble with custard – the very best part of his meal, apparently! The coffee arrived first, which was smooth and steaming. We’d both drained ours by the time our puds arrived.
If you can’t squeeze in on Christmas Day, there is a threecourse menu on Boxing Day plus a special party package for New Year’s Eve complete with glasses of fizz and entertainment.