When my sister invited me and my fiancé down to her new seaside home turf for a casual dinner out, I was intrigued to see what venue she would select. We just wanted somewhere cheap and cheerful, with a comfortable and cosy atmosphere where we could kick back and catch up. She opted for local gastro-pub The Trading Rooms, an award winning ale hotspot that offered a mix of traditional and modern pub dishes on their menu.
Part of the East Anglia Pub Company, The Trading Rooms has a very traditional yet elegant interior, boasting a multitude of polished dark wooden surfaces, from the floors and banisters to the tables and bar. Creamy white walls ensure that the overall effect isn’t too dark and overbearing, with scenic sepia pictures continuing the upmarket feel. There is an array of table sizes and shapes to suit every group, whether you and friend fancy nabbing a small circular table with two hard chairs for a natter, or whether like us, you grab a large rectangular table, with squidgy sofa one side and hard chairs the other. The upholstery was done in striped tones of deep red, so nothing outlandish. The table arrangements were well spaced out, and also split onto various different levels, making it feel like you really did have your own patch of the pub. Behind the bar, which reigned supreme in a semi-circle in the centre, were mirrored walls, giving a simplistic modern touch. It had a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and seemed to appeal to a wide variety of people – The Trading Rooms is definitely not tarred with the ‘old man pub’ brush. Whilst banking on old styled décor done well, it still managed to create a fresh feel.
With no menus present on the table, we had to ask for some at the bar when we ordered our drinks. To start, we decided to be sociable and share a small plate of nachos. Before they arrived, we were presented with complimentary bar snacks, small rounds of crunchy bread topped with a mix of neatly stacked ingredients. I sampled one with pate and half a grape atop it and also a tuna piled one balancing a segment of cucumber. A nice classy additional touch that was a yummy prelude to the meal.
The nachos were very rustic and simplistic but still hit the spot nicely. What I found interesting was that the sauces and chips were presented separately, so we had a shallow bowl of chips, with cheddar melted endearing over the crisps. On a different small side plate were three small dip dishes housing the sour cream, salsa and guacamole. I haven’t seen nachos presented this way before yet I think it was a good idea, as it transformed it into more crisps and dips with the bonus of cheese. This allowed us more freedom to just have whatever sauce we wanted with each delectable dunk and we didn’t have to worry about making a huge mess either. The salsa and guacamole were both mild in flavour, which was good, as my other half isn’t a fan of spicy, but the combination of the sauces provided a good mix of textures. The sour cream was smooth and sloppy, the salsa chunky while the guacamole was more pureed. Nice and simple but hit the spot.
Since we were near the Southend seafront, I decided that I should tuck in to the fish and chips for my main course. It’s not something I usually have, but then again you always assume that fish bought near the seaside will be even more delicious because of the good supply of local produce. Granted, we had to wait awhile for our mains, which the friendly staff apologised for, but I was impressed when my plate arrived. Plonked on top of a pile of nicely browned chips was the large fillet of fish. The batter did look slightly overcooked and was rather crispy in spots, but the white fish meat flaked nicely when forked and was a decent thickness. The chips were medium thickness and really moreish once I started munching on them with lashings of my favourite tomato ketchup served in small side pots. Also with my fish, was an oval side dish with mushy peas. Again, a gloopy pureed texture but with a soft, slightly creamy taste that I enjoyed (which is always good as I actually dislike peas). I was also provided with tartar sauce which is a classic combo with fish, although to be honest I couldn’t really taste much flavour in this particular dip. It was flecked with herbs but didn’t have a very strong taste. Despite the fish clearly being overcooked, it was still an excellent meal in my book, especially as it is a dish that I have so rarely. The portion size was massive and definitely filled me up really well. Price wise, it was also reasonable at nearly £9. Dan also went for the fish and chips, while Jess opted for the gourmet burger, complete with fried egg and blue cheese to boot.
I had finished my glass of rose, so Jess and I decided to check out some of their cocktails for something a bit different with dessert. They didn’t really seem to have a cocktail menu as such, so we had to use the ingredient instruction list to make our choice from. They had a decent selection and we chose the Raspmapolitan in the end – a classic Cosmo but using raspberry vodka instead of your bog standard one. It was light, fresh and fruity and a fabulous girly shade of pink, served in large martini glasses. While at the bar, we also ordered desserts – a list of very traditional British classics. Wanting to hit my chocolate cravings, I had settled for the chocolate fudge cake, served with scoops of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce. Dan joined me in the chocolate fest but Jess instead chose the apple crumble with a side of custard.
Again, we had to wait quite a while for our food, which makes me wonder how many customers actually order their dinner here (not many if you have to hunt for the menu). When it arrived however, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. Granted, at the end of the day, it was nothing fancy, but it served and dressed well and was just what I fancied. The slab of cake was also huge, with a fudgy centre line and crust. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream acted as the ideal accompaniment, and with the whole plate covered in a decorative zig zag of chocolate sauce, there was plenty for me to dunk my cake in to. It was beautifully done and totally pushed me into the realms of being completely stuffed. Jess’s crumble arrived in a round dish, the custard in a separate small jug, which logistically is rather difficult – how do you pour something into an already full, round dish?
On the whole, I really enjoyed my evening at The Trading Rooms. There menu offered plenty of choice, and I was stumped for choice on a couple of occasions, which is always the best position to be in really. As well as a range of salads, pasta, meat and fish dishes, they also proudly offered pub classics, which is always nice. What is also good is that although they were advertising, honest, homemade food prepared fresh every day, they are compromising on price and making it still very reasonable and on the cheaper end of things, which makes them more accessible as an eating venue. It wasn’t out of this world or anything over flashy, but it was simple food, with a splash of seaside style and a try hard attitude. Maybe still a work in progress but a fantastically relaxed atmosphere and lovely décor make this a pub to bear in mind.