Charlotte Smith-Jarvis enjoys a luxurious seafood supper at The Pier, Harwich.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Pier, Harwich, lobsterThe Pier, Harwich, lobster (Image: Archant)

East Anglian Daily Times: The Pier, HarwichThe Pier, Harwich (Image: Archant)

After a trying and stressful week I couldn’t quite wait for my date night with hubby Jarv at The Pier hotel in Harwich last Friday.

With the kids bundled off to grandma, bags packed for our ensuing weekend away visiting family on the south coast, and decked in our glad rags, we made the 30 minute journey from south Suffolk across the border to old Harwich.

Think what you will of this historical port. Because if you haven’t visited the old town, your visions are almost certainly skewed.

Beyond the docks and ferry boats and the cargo ships is an ancient mariners village of winding streets, architectural gems and mysterious folklaw.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Pier, HarwichThe Pier, Harwich (Image: Archant)

Perched opposite the town’s pier (hence the name) The Pier hotel and restaurant has in recent months reopened followed a very extensive refurbishment scheme, which did away with the two eateries of old, bringing in the Navyard bar on the ground floor, and The Pier restaurant on the upper level.

The Navyard is a nod to scandi-chic, with an understated, slightly industrial décor, and an flipping impressive drinks list, including a huge gin library and Fiol prosecco cocktails.

Sip on the above, or a few artisan beers, while working your way through the menu of small eats – from blistered pardon peppers with Maldon salt, to organic gravadlax and smorrebrod sandwiches of rare Denver steak, onion and smoked salt, or burrata, beetroot, manuka honey and mustard dressing.

We’ll save that for another time however, as it is the upstairs dining suite that drew us in for the night.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Pier, HarwichThe Pier, Harwich (Image: Archant)

A sweeping staircase leads into the open dining room, separated into various areas and nooks, with the best spot having to be anywhere along the elevated front terrace.

It’s clear the designer has tried to bring a touch of the sea inside here, but without any tack at all. It’s a sophisticated look that combines a cheeky anchor print carpet, brass, leather, fishermen’s pendent lighting, and a colour palette of caramel, taupe and caffe latte.

Armed with a glass of the summer selection wine (a ripe biscuitty, musky Viognier Sauvignon Blanc) and a local beer, we went through the menu with our lovely waitress, who was exceptionally knowledgeable about all the specials and dishes from the main menu, letting us know where the fish was landed and more.

While we took a few minutes to decide, we nibbled on the mini loaf of crispy warm sourdough, which was thick and chewy with a wholesome crust and open textured dough. Delicious.

We took our cue from our server’s recommendations for the night.

From the starters menu (which included a classic prawn cocktail, Norfolk mussels, crispy duck and watermelon salad), we opted for smoked eel fillet and pate, and salt and pepper squid.

These were both pretty, but unfussy, plates of food. The smoked eel had a gentle hum of smoke that didn’t detract from the distinctive eel flavour. And the pate was smooth and well balanced, with a good amount of wafer thin toasts to swoop it up. The vinaigrette and horseradish on the plate cut razor sharp through the fish to bring it alive.

The baby calamari were a triumph too, and were prepared by a kitchen that clearly knows how to cook seafood. The teeny tiny ringlets and tentacles were coated in a crisp, light-as-air batter with a savoury flavour that didn’t smack of oil, as these things can. They could have done with much more salt and pepper over the top for my liking, however this was easily remedied at the table.

I really like the smear of black garlic aioli that came with the calamari too. It was aromatic and not too sharp, delivering a whispering breath of allium, rather than a big fat kiss that would send vampires running. On par what I’ve eaten in some of Seville’s top tapas bars.

For the main course we continued to steer our ship in a fishy direction, bypassing dishes of grills, Dingley Dell pork schnitzel and more to enjoy the fish pie-luxe and Harwich lobster Thermidor.

The lobster, we were told, was caught overnight off the Harwich coast, and was freshly ‘dispatched’ (you know what I mean) to order. I mean, really, can you get fresher than that?

I don’t think so, and the taste was sublime – every bit as luxurious as you’d expect. I could taste and feel the freshness of the lobster as I ate it. The flesh was sweet and firm, but juicy and tender too. And the sauce was well-judged and more of a light, mustard-fuelled veloute, serving to work with the shellfish, not against it. I’ve had Thermidors before with sauces so thick the lobster was practically glued together, but this really isn’t the case here.

Do remember to order a side order to go with it as the price on the menu is for the lobster alone. I chose salty, skinny fries to dip in the sauce, and they were the ideal decadent partner in crime.

With this I can recommend the English Garden cocktail I tried, fusing Sipsmith gin, apple schnapps, elderflower and Fiol prosecco. The fine herbal notes of the gin, sweet sharpness of the apple and fizz of the prosecco were perfect with lobster and something a little bit different if you want to veer away from the cliché of lobster and Champagne.

Jarv’s fish pie was, he said, the best he’s ever had. Underneath fluffy swirls of mash, the single serve dish concealed lots of bite-sized pieces of lobster, hake, scallops, prawns and salmon, each cooked excellently. As with my main course, the sauce wasn’t clammy or cloying, but was more of a veloute with a touch of creaminess.


From the desserts list my hubby tucked in the Belgian chocolate brownie, which wasn’t as sweet as it initially appeared, and actually had been made with a very rich dark chocolate which made it all the more grown-up – especially with its accompaniment of pistachio ice cream.

I ordered the steamed lemon sponge pudding, which arrived ‘dry’ with a pot of lemon curd syrup to drench over the top and rehydrate it. This was a clever idea, and the sponge really did spring to life and become sticky and soft under the liquid, but for my taste it needed a bit more lemony zing to make it pop. There was a good lemon curd and ginger cream on the side, and those sherbet flavours needed a bit more prominence to make them sing. Still a good dessert though.

We’ve stayed at the hotel here before and adored The Mayflower Room with its sea views and telescope at the window for spying on the passing boats. We’ll definitely make the effort to come back and stay again, perhaps having lunch in the restaurant, and whiling away a few hours in the bar in the evening over plates of nibbles. It sounds like bliss.

If seafood floats your boat I can wholeheartedly recommend this place for the absolute freshness and provenance of ingredients, and for the coolness and vibe of the eating and drinking areas.

Contact: The Pier, Harwich, 01255 241212,