BACCHUS had been on my list of things to do in Southend ever since a foodie friend from London gave a sparkling report of breakfast there following a house party I had thrown.

Every time I passed, which was often as it is at the end of the road where I work, I stared longingly at its black and white awning and felt the twinge of regret that I had been too hungover to leave my bed on that October morning, two and a half years ago.

It was only when my date suggested a reccy ahead of a sophisticated hen party there did I finally pick up the phone and book, so I was weighed down with a large pot of slow-stewed anticipation when we finally crossed the threshold.

As we skirted the screen that shields the restaurant from the coffee and tea counter, I felt as if I’d stepped into the dressing room of a rich, eccentric aunt, possibly one who had retired from a career in opera but surrounded herself with keepsakes from her glory days.

Soft, but decadent jazz was playing, instruments hung from the ceiling and cocktail dresses and feather boas were slung around the room.

The menu was as idiosyncratic as the decor and among the great-value mid-week set meals, the “petite fish and chips” starter tickled my fancy. It turned out to be two small pieces of battered white fish served on a grand total of four chips, with minted pea puree smeared across the plate.

It was interesting, beautifully presented and tasty, but my date’s more conservative choice of Asian chicken wings turned out to be a better choice. They were full of flavour and the refreshing oriental salad offset the sticky chicken.

Regular readers may remember I am a pork belly loyalist and, unfortunately for those who like life spiced with variety, the gratifying dish proved so enticing my date opted for it too.

The crispy pork and crackling splinters was sweetened by the apricot stuffing, apple puree and honey glaze and it was scrumptious, but an overly critical aficionado such as I may feel the portions were a little ungenerous and it was a less memorable interpretation than that of some other local chefs.

Nevertheless, by the time it came to dessert we only had room for one between us.

Luckily we agreed on the “NewYork” baked blueberry twirl cheesecake.

Again, I had opted for one of my favourite dishes, but this course compared favourably with others. The cake was baked individually and the addition of blueberry and pear compote and vanilla ice-cream gave it a carefully crafted feel.

The waiters, one of whom confessed he had only just joined the establishment, were attentive throughout and the merlot we chose was fine.

I had built up sky-high expectations over a long courtship, but I felt satiated after a night of indulgent gratification at Bacchus.


Two-course set meal £16.95, three-course set meal £19.95

Starters: Asian chicken wings, petite fish and chips

Mains: Crispy pork belly with honey glaze x 2

Side: Green beans £3.95

Dessert: New York blueberry cheesecake