A series of reviews about Essex pubs.
by Machair1 on July 11, 2013
Most people associate Cornwall with Pasties, but I bet they don't think of Essex and immediately associate it with Huffers! Yet Huffers are to Essex what pasties are to Cornwall, and where better to find them in than The Compasses?- one of the loveliest pubs in the Essex countryside. If you are curious to know what Huffers are read on, and if you want to sample one then leave plenty of room - they are very filling!A Pub With History!-------------------------The Compasses in the village of Littley Green, just a few minutes away from the City of Chelmsford, is a beautiful traditional pub with a wonderful and rich history. It starts right back in 1811 with a gentleman called William Ridley who married a lady called Maria Dixon. She was the daughter of a mill owner from nearly Hartford End, and following their marriage they became the owners of the mill. Many Essex pubs following that time were housed in buildings in what were historically bakeries supplied by the mill, and even today some of them have the original ovens still there. In 1814 Maria gave birth to Thomas Ridley, and the brewery "TD Ridley and Sons" was named after him. Thomas carried on the family business and following his marriage to Lydia Wells, who was from a Chelmsford brewing family, he built his own brewery which was on the bank of the river Chelmer, only a mile or so away from where the Compasses is today.Ridleys brewery expanded, and by the time Thomas passed away in 1882 it had many Essex pubs to its credit, and their hallmark was to supply beer in wooden casks. This continued for over a hundred years, but in 2005 the family sold the brewery, and also by then its 73 pubs to Greene King, and the historic brewery closed. However in 2008 the Compasses Inn went up for sale and Joss Ridley, a direct relation of the original founder, bought it, and by 2011 his brother Nelion had started brewing again. So here we have a pub steeped in history that has returned to its routes of yore and I can tell you the place is magical.A Lovely Location.-----------------------Just the drive to it is a treat. Nestled in the Essex countryside, but so close to the city, this pub is reached by beautiful lanes that in summer look gorgeous as they are bordered by fields. These grow up either side and frame the drive with stunning views. The pub itself is beautifully decorated in hunter green and white outside with lovely fresh hanging baskets, and offers a warm welcome to all who enter - I love it!No Football!---------------You won't find football on wide screens here, but you may be treated to live music on Monday nights when "bring your instrument along" occurs, but the rest of the time it is a simple understated place to unwind, meet friends, enjoy the crackle of the fire, and what I love - take your dog, as dogs are welcome all over the pub with no restrictions. You can play darts or snooker but it's all low key, most come to relax or to refuel after a long walk in the countryside.The inside of the pub is actually quite small, but extends either side of the bar as the pub is long width ways rather than length ways. The bar is inviting and friendly, and there is always a smile to greet you. To the right of the bar is the menu board where you can choose from a variety of pub meals that are home cooked and delicious, and all reasonably priced. Centre stage are the Huffers!- yes your wait is over let's look at these wonderful plates of sustenance!The Huffer- Not For The Carb Counter!--------------------------------------------------A Huffer was, in days gone by, about half a loaf of bread that Essex farmers would take with them when they left to work in the fields for the day. These Huffers would be stuffed full with lots of fillings, and today these can be enjoyed in the pub as living reminders of a tradition long gone by. Today these Huffers are essentially giant baps that are shaped as triangles, and when you have eaten one of these you are going to be stuffed for the rest of the day- make no mistake these are enormous, and you can have them filled with anything on the menu board from cheese and pickle to roasted vegetables, or various fillings - all locally sourced. When my son comes home from university we love to take him over there for a Huffer- he is well over 6 feet tall and easily accepts the challenge as a change from student food!Of course you don't have to have a Huffer there are always choices that include "Beer Battered Cod" - I haven't sampled these as being vegetarian they are off limits, but they are frequently ordered and friends I know tell me they are superb. Meal prices range form £4 to £16 with everything in between, and there are daily specials that are ever changing and some delicious desserts too! Service is always first class and always timely and with a smile.At the weekend the pub gets busy especially at lunchtime on Saturday, as food is served between midday and half two. There is food again in the evening, and on Sunday food is served for longer hours. I like to go in the week, as it is slightly less crowded, but I do go on Saturdays, and in this case I will go early or late to avoid the rush. Of course in the summer the pub has a lovely garden to enjoy, but winter is slightly more tricky if you go at peak times.Accommodation Too!----------------------------The pub has recently extended into providing top quality accommodation in the five rooms they have, and reading on trip adviser these have an excellent reputation, and visitors are delighted with the standard of the rooms and the service they have received. Obviously I can't comment on this, as living nearby I don't need to use the rooms, but I am sure they are right because everything about the place is positive in my opinion.For ale lovers you could just think you had woken up in heaven, as the pub has a cellar which is temperature controlled, so pints are pulled straight from the barrels. There is always a good choice of ever changing locally brewed ales, as well as Bishop Nick - brewed by Nelion!The pub has been awarded "Essex Pub Of The Year" again for the second year running, and it is no surprise to me that this is the case. It is a traditional Essex pub that is situated in a beautiful location with a history that dates back to a time when life was considerably quieter, and electronics were only a vision- and as for the Huffer- it's fantastic - a carb filled giant that reminds us all of long days out in the fields. Highly recommended.Details from the website:The Compasses InnLittley GreenChelmsfordEssexCM3 1BUTelephone: 01245 362308email: firstname.lastname@example.orgOpening times:Mon - Wed 12:00 - 15:00 & 17:30 - 23:30Thu - Sun 12:00 - 23:30Food times:Mon - Fri 12:00 - 14:30 & 19:00 - 21:30Sat 12:00 - 16:00 & 19:00 - 21.30Sun 12:00 - 17:00 & 19:00 - 21.30They also say"Being a pub, we do not take bookings for food unless you are in a group of 6 or more. Please contact us by phone or email and we will be happy to help you with your enquiry.We are located 15mins from Chelmsford and 20mins from Stansted Airport and have ample car parking"Summary: A brilliant Essex pub!
by Machair1 on October 17, 2012
The Viper Mill Green, near Ingatestone, Essex------------------------------------------------- ------------------Visiting one of my favourite pubs in Essex this weekend, when my son came home from university for a couple of days, reminded me that my IgoUgo review was far too overdue on this little gem that nestles in amongst woodland in the beautiful Essex village of Mill Green. I think no-one could fail to be enchanted by a name like The Viper but for a snake obsessive like myself this floods me with temptation. Don't get me wrong I don't really like snakes but have a fascination with them, so you can imagine my delight last month when a grass snake slithered across the road in front of my car. It has been quite a year for snakes as an adder did the same in front of my daughter's car in Wales earlier this year, but you won't find real snakes in cages in this gem of a traditional English pub- just a name to excite you!It is said that the pub has this name as the area was once a snake infested woodland, and I am sure today that a gentle stroll along many of the wooded trails may reward you a rare sight of a basking adder! However my aim is always to turn up for lunch and I am always so happy to see the pub in all its glory. Yellow is my favourite colour and the doors are painted in a bright sunflower shade, and the pub sign has a snoozing viper to conjure up the rather exciting atmosphere. There are sash windows outlined in black which together with the yellow doors makes for a very striking appearance.This pub was used during the war as a sorting office for letters sent home from the troops serving with regiments in distant lands. Its address was simply "The Viper, England" so you can see it has a long history!The Viper is very popular as it is often used by cyclists and walkers, and as a result there is a massive front garden with plenty of wooden seating, and turning up around mid-day on a Sunday you will often see groups congregating there with maps and compasses. Care has been taken to lovingly tend flower baskets so that the gardens are very pretty indeed, as the frontage also has beautiful upstairs window baskets and climbing flowers all through the summer months.Inside there are three bars one of which is allocated for those with dogs and muddy boots, and in the winter each has its own roaring and crackling fire. I love the fact the dogs are welcome -indeed the pub has its own little dog who occasionally ventures out to greet folk as they enjoy their pub grub!The bar is upon you almost as soon as you enter as this is a small and intimate pub with a cosy atmosphere. Think lots of rustic oak and boards depicting tempting ales all with the viper theme. Viper-brand V.I.P.A and Jake The Snake are offered as well as many local beers from Suffolk.Food can be ordered at the bar and a board with the daily specials hangs in full view as well, as daily offerings on a menu to be found on the tables. The food is really good and it excels if you are vegetarian as we are. Last Sunday we had the choice of two pies which was excellent as well as many other options. I opted for chestnut pie and my son had the vegetable, and we were given a wait time of about half an hour as they were cooked from scratch so I was more than happy to wait. All the food is very reasonably priced at £6.95 for a full meal complete with vegetables, and certainly I have always found the portions to be generous and the vegetables to be beautifully cooked. The soups are especially good and very generous, and the mushroom in particular is excellent at £4.95 with fresh crusty bread and a massive portion. Sweets are available to order from a board that you ask for, but so far I have never tried these as I am always too full, but I have seen many enjoying these with a choice of many traditional English favourites including spotted dick -my favourite! There are all the usual sandwiches and jacket potatoes and simple alternatives as well as a traditional ploughmans.The service is always so friendly in here and on arrival at the bar you are made to feel very welcome indeed. The tables are very varied in style with some traditional ladder backed chairs and some with more rustic stools. The only negative I would say is that the overall floor space is quite limited for a wheel chair, but I am sure people would be very amenable and move chairs around if you were disabled as the atmosphere is just so warm and friendly.I also like the fact that there is local art work on the walls, and this is available to purchase including some that feature the pub itself which is quite an amazing sight. Additionally at night this place looks stunning with its lighted front which illuminates the flower baskets and the sign in all its glory. It is well worth going after dark just to see the pub after sunset.The toilets are quite basic as you might expect for a building of this age, but are always kept spotlessly clean and tidy.The pub only takes cheques or cash - no debit cards which makes it very unusual in today's fast moving financial world, so it is worth remembering if you are going with a large crowd.The summertime sees the provision of an outdoor BBQ and grill which serves burgers which is ideal for walkers and cyclists that may prefer to remain outside. There is also an annual beer festival.All in all this is what you would call a real pub. Don't go there expecting to watch Manchester United on a 42" screen because you won't find that here!I think my advice would be to get there early as parking can be a bit tricky as most of the spaces are over the road at the entrance to the woods, and they can get filled up with walkers. It can also be quite muddy there too as the car park isn't tarmaced.I adore this place, I go there to unwind with frequency. There are very few houses around so it is an ideal location to escape for a couple of hours. I love simple pub food which this is, and I also appreciate value for money and this excels in this in all aspects. Last weekend we had two rounds of soft drinks and three Sunday lunches - (one course) and it was £25 which is excellent, and furthermore the portions were so generous I didn't need much tea! The food is always very hot too and presentation is excellent.This has to be my favourite pub in Essex and one that I highly recommend if you like a taste of tradition in a picturesque setting.The Common, Mill GreenIngatestoneEssexCM4 0PT Summary: Absolutely brilliant Essex pub!
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