THE Blue Strawberry in Hatfield Peverel has long enjoyed a superb reputation.
Its new sister venue, the Lion Inn, at Boreham, deserves exactly the same.
Sumptuously decorated in a modern style, complete with open kitchen and black top bar, it combines affluent surroundings with a relaxed, informal atmosphere.
Perhaps more importantly, its superbly varied menu does not come with the sort of hefty price tag such cosy opulence suggests.
The standard menu is accompanied by a series of specials, which on our visit included everything from skate wing to half roast Gressingham duck stir fry with egg noodles.
However, I plumped for the comfort of deep fried calamari (which tasted reassuringly fresh) with a chilli relish, while my partner tried the prawn and crayfish salad, which contained more plump crustaceans than lettuce.
For my main course, I went for the much-maligned burger. Fast food joints and cheap supermarket special offers have besmirched the reputation of this potential culinary treat, but at the Lion Inn it was delicious.
Imaginatively served on a wooden chopping board, the Aberdeen angus beef, cooked medium to perfection, melted in the mouth and it came complete with fries and a small salad.
I should perhaps have swapped the fries for the venue’s renowned homemade chips, cooked in duck fat.
My partner went for one of the two homemade pies on offer, the chicken, bacon and leek, which had melt-in-the-mouth pastry and a rich, sumptuous filling.
For dessert (making us guilty of gluttony) I went for the comforts of homemade rice pudding, which was a creamy delight, while the mini lemon possett somehow managed to be both rich and palate cleansing at the same time. I will certainly go back, and it is well worth the short dash down the A12.