A visit to a 12th century castle wouldn't be complete without a visit to a 16th century pub for lunch. Castle Hedingham is a picture postcard town in Essex; all flowers and beams and narrow winding streets. The Bell Inn blends seamlessly into the postcard. Its a warren of timbered rooms and bars with rustic fireplaces and solid wood floors.
The menu is simple and to the point. Pies, fishcakes, Ploughmans etc., all the basics are covered. They trumpet their pie and fish suppliers along with locally sourced free range produce. Although this is the current trend and everyman and their dog are on the 'seasonal, local' bandwagon, I get the impression that the Bell Inn would be doing this regardless of the fashion statement.
To the food: Dr. Dave made the choice of the day with the steak and ale pie. These are bought in from a local supplier and this is no bad thing. Whoever had a hand in this pie knew his stuff. Deliciously melting steak in an rich flavored gravy served with schoolboy sides of mashed potato, broccoli and mushy peas. I had salmon & broccoli fishcakes which were just above average, however, the homemade tartare sauce and potato salad were superb. They had a 'young eaters' section from which Mia had a pizza and Ceci and mac & cheese; extra points for the local cheese on both!
A wonderful place, friendly staff, surroundings second to none. If you want a true English pub experience minus the yobs, drunks & chavs, you'd be hard pushed to top this one!
The Bell Inn, 10 St. James Street, Castle Hedingham, CO9 3EJ