The Magic Mushroom Review

From the outside, The Magic Mushroom, situated just outside of Billericay, looks like a small set of country cottages. Yet as you wander through the door, it soon becomes apparent that a whole new world awaits.

With wooden beams running across a smart open bar and an expansive dining area, you’d be forgiven in thinking that some trickery is at play. However, surprises such as these are just one of the selling points of this firmly established restaurant.

The main show though is the food and head chef proprietor, Darren Bennett, has been working steadfastly at the stoves for some time now and throughout his tenure, his passion and imagination has continually shined through.

Having forged a close relationship with his suppliers, his menus often change, in close connection with the seasons. When something unexpected arrives at his backdoor, like a brace of pheasant for instance, Darren simply dips into his vast repertoire and conjures something out the bag.

Given that he has been doing this for over 20 years now, this is an amazing achievement and well worth celebrating. China may be the traditional gift for 20 years, but we think platinum is more fitting on this occasion.

Magic Mushroom Sample Menu

Panko breadcrumb coated goats cheese on carpaccio beetroot with truffled honey & truffle pearls – £7.95
Heritage tomato and mozzarella salad dressed with olive oil, balsamic glaze & green pesto – £7.95

Pan-fried sea bream, new potatoes with peppered samphire, roasted cherry tomatoes & almond beurre noisette – £21.50
28-day aged fillet of beet, fondant potato, baby spinach, pickled shallots, short rib bon bon & wild mushroom jus – £30.95

Iced mango parfait – £6.95
Mixed berry cheesecake – £6.95

28-day aged fillet of beef, fondant potato, pickled shallots, short rib bon bon & wild mushroom jus
Heritage tomato and mozzarella salad dressed with olive oil, balsamic glaze & green pesto
Now celebrating its 20th year, the Magic Mushroom is an Essex institution with stunning flavours and a relaxing atmosphere to match.
The interior decor mixes warm wooden beams with a modern bar area. From the outside, you wouldn't think it houses such a large dining room.

The Magic Mushroom Review

Our expert reviewers, Mr and Mrs Exquisite spend an evening at the Magic Mushroom in summer to test out its seasonal menu.

"When we first arrived at The Magic Mushroom, the restaurant was fairly quiet. But then the clock struck the hour and suddenly all the tables were full, which fed into the enigma of this unique place!

To begin, Mrs Exquisite revelled in a heritage tomato and mozzarella salad, comprising a variety of sun-kissed heirloom fruit. For me, it had to be goats cheese, coated in panko crumb and set upon thin slivers of beetroot.

Truffle can be intense, but here, it was applied to the plate with the lightest of touches. Then came the fish, a generous spread of sea bream, pan fried and delivered with wonderfully salty samphire and a deliciously interesting almond butter sauce. Mrs Exquisite’s aged fillet of beef, served medium, was ‘luscious’ - in her very own words.

Sometimes, this cut can be devoid of any true flavour but chef has obviously bagged an excellent supplier!

Then to round things off, I tried its mixed berry cheesecake, which came decorated with some snazzy sugar work. And Mrs Exquisite refreshed her palate with a glorious mango parfait and splendiferous orange and sesame wafer. Spellbinding."

Inside the Magic Mushroom with Darren Bennett

The popular Barleylands restaurant, the Magic Mushroom, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. We talk to Executive Chef and owner, Darren Bennett about the secrets to his success. Congratulations on your twentieth year! What do you think is the secret to the success of the Magic Mushroom? I’ve always tried to keep the restaurant fresh and moved it forward with the times. My team and I listen to customer feedback and work hard to ensure attention to detail is always met. Do you have any special events planned for the 20th year anniversary? We are having a swing & soul live singing summer event on the evening of July 7th. It’ll be great to see some of the faces that have continued to support The Magic Mushroom over the years. What does the future hold for the Magic Mushroom? We have some exciting plans for the next phase of the restaurant, currently in the ‘preparation’ stages so I can’t disclose anything yet… Watch this space! Is there a story behind the name of the restaurant? I wanted a name that stuck in people’s mind. The name has lead them into wanting to find out more. What are your career highlights? Opening the Magic Mushroom Restaurant in May 1996 was a great achievement, I was young, ambitious and ready for the challenge of delivering a fine-dining experience in Essex. Which chef or chefs have been your main inspiration? Marco Pier White. But also many unknown chefs that I worked with in my early career. I observed them and learnt everything I could to evolve my own style and confidence. What do you love about being a chef? I have always enjoyed the creativity of food, both with the flavours and the presentation. What has been the most popular dish at the restaurant? The Lobster Thermidor, Chilli Fish Chowder and Crispy Pork belly are always requested if they’re not on the menu. Any advice to aspiring chefs? Work hard, learn from others and keep your eye on your goal. Your guilty pleasure? Chocolate Your bedtime drink of choice? Vodka Marmite? (love it or hate it?) Love it

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