The Mistley Thorn: ‘Make sure you try the oysters - I can't stop thinking about them'
- Credit: Danielle Lett
Over the past 18 months, we’ve all become well-accustomed to reaching for our phones and browsing a handful of food delivery apps.
But being able to dine out again really is something. And while takeaways serve their purpose, you simply can’t beat eating in a restaurant.
The weather last Sunday was better than forecast, and I thought it was the ideal time to head out and explore some unchartered terrain.
I’d not seen my mum in a while, so it was an ample opportunity to head out and grab a late lunch. She lives in Suffolk, and I live in Essex, so meeting in Mistley was a perfect halfway point for us.
And over in Mistley is where you will find The Thorn – an historic hotel and restaurant that overlooks the River Stour. Just a stone’s throw away from the train station and situated on the village’s high street, it's easily accessible for anyone looking to leave the car at home to indulge in a few glasses of wine. However, free parking is also available around the village.
As we approached the restaurant, we both admired how nice the exterior looked. The calming blue hue really felt inviting, and perfectly matched the area’s gentle estuary backdrop. The pavement in front had a few chairs and tables spaced apart for anyone who wished to dine al fresco, watching the world go by. We chose, after so many months of outdoor eating, to head indoors.
As you enter the restaurant, the overall atmosphere is very chilled and mellow – perfect for a quiet Sunday lunch. The building was built as a coaching inn in the early 18th century, and it was nice to see that historic wooden beams and exposed brickwork had been kept.
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As we sat down and pawed through our menus, the waitress came over and took our drink orders. The restaurant’s wine menu was certainly expansive to say the least. Double-sided and split into sections, there were 52 types to choose from. I knew I’d be there all day, so asked for a recommendation to pair with seafood. Our waitress expertly took me through a few options before suggesting a full-bodied 2017 Chardonnay (£6.75) for myself, and 2018 Italian rosé (£4.75) for mum. That was really appreciated, and her knowledge paid off as we both felt our wines paired well with our dishes.
Another plus point for the wine menu is that each one is numbered, so anyone not confident reading out Italian or French names could simply order a 27 or a number 13.
Anyway, back to the food. Scanning the menu, I knew in the back of my mind what we had to get for starters.
“We should get the oysters,” I piped up. A vertical sign that read ‘OYSTERS’ hung out the front of the restaurant, and was definitely an invitation we needed to try them. And, as someone who considers themselves a seafood fiend, it would be rude not to.
For starters, we ordered three grilled Mersea rocks with miso butter (£6.95), alongside the charcuterie sharing plate (£17.50). The latter consisted of country terrine, potted pork rillette, a selection of Dingley Dell cured meats, an apple and radish remoulade, picked cucumber, and sourdough toast.
The oysters were incredible - I cannot rate the miso butter highly enough. Dare I say, I’d even take the trip back to Mistley for the oysters alone. The charcuterie sharer was pleasant enough – and we both appreciated the use of locally-sourced meats. A particular highlight of the board would have to be the sourdough toast and pickled cucumber.
Onto the main courses - the part of the meal I was most looking forward to.
Main plates are divided into two parts on the menu - ‘land’ and ‘sea’, and of course my eyes went straight to the sea section. As I said earlier, I’m a massive seafood fan, and the roasted mixed shellfish plate (£17.95) was calling my name. Mum went for the roasted Suffolk beef (£16.95), which came with a Yorkshire pudding, roasted rosemary potatoes, seasonal vegetables, red wine gravy, and fresh creamed horseradish.
My seafood main was plentiful, and the plate was certainly stacked high with shellfish which was drizzled with garlic and white wine. However, there were only three prawns, two of which were overcooked. There were two scallops which were tasty and cooked to perfection, while the rest of the plate was clams and mussels. Ideally, I’d have liked more prawns, but the menu assured me the shellfish was caught that day, so props for freshness.
Incoming unpopular opinion, but I’m someone who can take or leave a roast dinner (mostly leave, if I’m honest, with the exception of Christmas dinner). My mum however adores the tradition, and said she enjoyed hers overall. She ordered her beef medium rare and it was cooked exactly that, albeit a bit fatty. Her favourite part was the vegetables, and she said the Yorkshire pudding was delicious. I tried a couple of bites of the beef, one dipped in the creamed horseradish, and one dipped in the gravy. The gravy was exquisite.
After burning calories over a long-overdue natter, we decided to indulge in dessert. Neither of us have massive sweet tooths, but if I see cheesecake, I just have to order it. It’s one of the few desserts that I’ll go out of my way to have, and boy am I glad I did.
The pud (£6.25) – entitled Sherri’s Mom’s cheesecake – was thick, moreish, and came drizzled with a toffee sauce and nut praline. It was honestly heavenly, and I’d have gone back for more if it wouldn’t have put me in a food coma. Whoever Sherri’s mom is, she makes a cracking cheesecake.
Mum ordered the twice-baked Callebaut dark chocolate cake (£6.95), which was served with a side of espresso mascarpone. This too was incredibly delicious, and the espresso mascarpone proved to be the perfect accompaniment. Not too rich, not too strong, not too sweet – just right.
The clock soon rolled around to 6pm, and after settling the bill (which with extra drinks came to £92.75), we both left pretty satisfied.
The Thorn proved itself to be a quaint and incredibly friendly dining experience – the staff could not be more helpful and welcoming. It is definitely worth making the trek into the Stour Estuary for. Just make sure you try the oysters – you won’t regret it.
Goodness knows what else they put that in that miso butter, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.