Homeward Bound: Vertigo Bar and Lounge, Hornchurch, Essex

Cocktail crazy happy hour!

Cocktail crazy happy hour!

As Club Captain of local Romford based badminton club Wychelm BC, I am always keenly on the lookout for potential spots for social events, so that members can cluster and catch up off court as well as on. When elegant Hornchurch watering hole Vertigo Bar and Lounge expanded to include a brand spanking new first floor restaurant, complete with three course set menu as well as a usual menu, I decided to check out the options and see how viable it would be for a large group of people.

The three course set menu offered a competitive price of £15.50 for starters, mains and desserts, with three options under each category. With traditional meat, fish and veg options covered and a decent price to boot, I booked a table for 10 people and emailed in our pre-ordered food list with ease. As Friday night drew nearer, I must say I was looking forward to seeing for myself this much talked about, yet vaguely hidden away venue. Tucked behind the imposing roundabout island housing Italian favourites Ask and Wildwood, Vertigo really has its work cut out for it to tempt attention away to its small, three storied establishment.

Inside Vertigo

Inside Vertigo

Proudly serving modern British cuisine, Vertigo’s staggered floors really help define this bar as suitable for everyone. As you enter, you are faced by a sleek wooden bar, splashed with trademark green and accents of polished black, seating areas scattered cosily along the right hand wall. Ascending the stairs, you then come across the first floor restaurant. Ceiling to floor windows along the outside of the building afford you a view across Hornchurch’s high street, letting in maximum amounts of the dwindling spring sunshine and trying to accentuate feelings of space in this somewhat pokey venue. We also had the option of hitting the top floor terrace if we wanted, but it was still too cold for all that in my opinion.

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

With happy hour in full swing when we arrived at 7.15pm, I saw it as an ideal opportunity to make a start on the incredibly long and appetising cocktail menu, with a selection of classic favourites, as well as some house specialities to tickle your fancy. With cocktail prices at around £7 – £8, I wouldn’t say they were unreasonable, but two for the price of one is always preferable. I kicked my night off with girl’s fave Cosmo, with the orange zing brought to life by a segment of peel briefly licked by a lighter flame, paired with a gin based Bramble – a British blackberry flavoured hit that oddly reminds me of a refreshing autumn. The cocktails were very boozy and strong and presented with an imaginative flair that I loved. Later on in the evening I sampled a Vertigo creation of a Tickled Pink, complete with Tequila Rose, Razberi Stolichnaya, red berry puree, vanilla syrup, lemon sherbet and double cream. It was decadent, feminine and super tasty, superbly ticking all of my boxes.

Lamb Hotpot

Lamb Hotpot

Granted, the food selections were not plentiful, but I was still confident enough that there would be something for everyone. For my starters, I had chosen the butternut squash and carrot soup, home to a pinch of scattered croutons mixed with larger chunks of carrots amidst the grainy texture of the sweet soup. It was a very small bowl, and to be honest, I could have eaten all of it just by mopping with a couple of ovals of rustic bread placed at intervals across the tables. Nonetheless, the flavours were delicious and it did the job of whetting my appetite. Calamari was also a popular choice for starters, although the streak of avocado salsa steaming across the side of the plate seemed to put people off.

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake

I had chosen lamb hot pot for my main course, and I confess, I was looking forward to getting stuck into a plateful of tender meaty goodness. When it arrived, it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting, but I enjoyed the wholesome and juicy flavours that the dish delivered. In a white ramekin style dish was the actual hotpot, tender lamb segments swimming in rich gravy, hidden beneath small circular slices of crisp potato. Balanced on the side of the ramekin was a single chop, divinely dribbled with a red wine sauce and also propped up against two large bundles of carrots and green beans. I loved the taste of this dish, the combination of hearty flavours a real shout out to classic British cooking, however, the portion size was a real disappointment as it meant the course was over a lot quicker than it should have been! Quite a few members commented on the size of the dishes, so I know that it wasn’t just me being greedy!

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

The mushroom risotto was also out in full force, skewered by a shard of thin crisp bread and once again served with vegetables. A sample forkful revealed it to be a very creamy and oozy concoction that had plenty of earthy mushroom tones to bring the whole dish together. Only one person had opted for the fish pie, mounted with mash and accentuated by a chunk of fish next to the pie ramekin. Once again, a softer and creamy dish than the hotpot, but equally tasty to devour.

Tickled Pink Cocktail

Tickled Pink Cocktail

I’m glad we went for the three course option of the set menu and not the two course, as to be honest, I think we all needed that extra round of food to completely fill us up. Dessert really brought the race home though, as I had the chocolate brownie cheesecake. The majority of the cheesecake was a thick layer of dark, sticky and robust chocolate brownie that was lightened slightly by the thick creamy topping. It was served with a couple of strawberry halves and a  small jug of pouring cream, that further acted to alleviate some of the richness of the powerful chocolate flavours. The cheesecake was so rich that it was incredibly filling – especially when eaten with bits of ice cream nicked from other people’s plates! It was a truly lovely dessert though, and I often feel that a meal cannot be successfully concluded without a decent dose of either chocolate or custard.

Elegant interior

Elegant interior

On the whole I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and it was evident from the style of the dishes, their presentation and flavour quality that Vertigo are out for the kill with this high class menu. Three courses for £15.50 is also a very agreeable price, although this is maybe reflected in the disappointing portion size. What I found interesting, is that I checked their website again before writing this, and the same set menu, has now gone up in price to £16.50 and half the dishes have changed completely or been adjusted. The website now also claims that it isn’t available on Friday or Saturday evenings. We attended on a Friday evening and I liked our version of the menu better, so I’m very pleased that we nipped in before they fine-tuned what they wanted to serve. Catering for everything from coffee mornings to cocktail parties, Vertigo is still a great venue to add to your repertoire, although it is probably better suited to small groups due to its limited floor space.

Calamari starter

Calamari starter

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