Outstanding Winter Menu at The Anchor, Hullbridge

Outstanding food with outstanding views…

One of these days, ‘The Anchor Cookbook’ is surely going to come out, in the same self-titled vein as say, The Fat Duck, The River Café or Ottolenghi. Our reasoning for this is simple; during his tenure, The Anchor’s head chef, Daniel Watkins, has been consistently turning out plate after glorious plate of beautiful food, all very much delivered in his own unique style. Some of his more eagle-eyed fans (check out his huge Instagram following) may have already spotted his recipes in some smaller publications, but we are still waiting for the definitive tome. Thankfully, in the meantime, we can get on with the business of simply eating his delicious creations. If you haven’t been to The Anchor, fantastic menu aside, the best thing to highlight is the location. Overlooking the River Crouch, this gastropub offers some stunning views, with glorious scenes that change from season to season. Staff are welcoming, personable and the whole place runs on a quiet buzz of bonhomie and charm. There is a real sense of fun and celebration amongst the diners here. It’s no wonder then that people return time and time again. Perhaps that cookbook can wait. We’re quite happy as it is.


Cured Fjord Trout, Miso & yuzu mayonnaise, nashie pear, cucumber – £7.00 (special)

Whipped Goats Cheese with Pumpkin Jam, roasted seeds & pickled squash – Christmas fixed price (v)


Braised shin of beef, squash dumplings, cabbage and Parmesan –Wine & Dine Menu

Roast Dingley Dell Pork Belly, apple, beer & bacon bubble & squeak –Christmas fixed price


Set salted chocolate custard – Wine & Dine menu

Gingerbread crème caramel, vanilla custard – Christmas fixed price

Wine & Dine menu - £19.95 for three courses (inc. 175ml glass of wine) Christmas fixed price menu - £23.95 for three courses


In some ways, as a food lover, you shouldn’t really have a favourite restaurant. The industry is booming, with new venues opening constantly and opinions changing daily. However, having visited The Anchor several times throughout the year, it’s hard to suppress a giggle of excitement as Mrs Exquisite and I book ourselves in. And, as usual, we weren’t let down! The Christmas menu had just been launched, so it was decided that at least one of us should get festive. After spotting an interesting looking combo of whipped goats cheese and pumpkin jam, I volunteered to be guinea pig. Intense and sweet, the consummate pairing really worked, as the tangy, saccharine flavours played off each other perfectly. Mrs Exquisite, by contrast, went for a cleaner sounding starter; delicate slices of cured trout with crisp textures and citrus undertones. The puffed, charred corn that accompanied the dish was a great surprise. For mains, I ordered the pork belly, accompanied by swiftly fried sages leaves and a fantastic jus - but it was the bubble and squeak that really blew me away. This should be served singularly or sold in jars, everywhere! Mrs Exquisite’s main course was intriguing, some braised beef shin hidden from sight underneath a riot of cabbage leaves and Parmesan. Framed by a shimmering, verdant sauce, it looked amazing and tasted equally great. The themes of artistry and gusto continued into dessert, although Mrs Exquisite’s set chocolate custard, dusted with a touch of sea salt and served alongside a blackberry sorbet, just about nudged in front of my gingerbread crème caramel. But only by the thinnest of slivers. Another triumph.

Contact: Ferry Rd, Hullbridge, Hockley SS5 6ND, Tel: 01702 230777


Daniel Watkins: Veganism isn’t a fad

Exquisite Concierge catches up with The Anchor’s Head chef, Daniel Watkins, to find out what makes him tick, his thoughts on food waste, vegan food trends and why The Anchor is a must-visit venue for anyone living in or visiting Essex. So, Daniel, why did you become a chef? I travelled around Greece in my late teens, just messing around and when I got back, I found myself not knowing what to do. So, I started helping my mum in her kitchen at work. Just making sandwiches and cakes but I really started to enjoy it. I took to cooking very easily actually. Then the next thing I knew I was in college and then working in London putting in big hours. After around 10 years in London, I wanted to return to Essex and took on various jobs. Then 7 years ago, we started up The Anchor and I’ve never looked back. When you first opened The Anchor, what ambitions did you have in mind? To create a restaurant that was informal and relaxed but still with a busy atmosphere; serving good, flavoursome food. How would you describe your style of cooking?  Simple, clean & tasty. You have a strong and well thought out vegan menu at the restaurant, are more people changing attitudes about meat? This year has seen a massive increase in plant based diets and I don’t think this is a fad, this is long term. The health and environmental benefits are huge. With that in mind, we try to put together restaurant style dishes that are packed with flavour, as we do all our dishes. It’s becoming easier because the demand is becoming greater. Your menus also feature a lot of local produce and ingredients, is this important to you and why? I like to use products at their best, I’m not completely fixed on seasons but they do act as a good guide on what’s best to use. During the summer months, I use a lot of vegetables from local allotments. What are you doing to combat food waste? We try our best to use all our waste at The Anchor, as a lot of time and money goes into the production of food. So, we dehydrate vegetable peelings to add back into the dishes, save Parmesan rinds for kombu stocks, old beer can be turned into vinegar, the list is endless. Is the food scene in Essex getting stronger? Very much so. Our county has some amazing produce and we are now starting to get the restaurants to back this up! Last of all, do you have a motto for life?  There is an old Cherokee story, where a grandfather teaches his grandson a lesson about life. It’s based on the idea that there are two wolves inside us, both fighting each other. One represents all the negative aspects we have – anger, envy, greed, sorrow. And the other represents the good – joy, peace and love, that sort of thing. The grandson asks his grandfather ‘Which wolf will win?’ And the old Cherokee replies ‘The one you feed.’ I like that attitude. I have it written on “the pass” at The Anchor so I can see it everytime I hand food over to the waiting staff. Contact details: The Anchor Riverside Bar and Restaurant, Ferry Road, Hullbridge, SS5 6ND. T: 01702 230777. Book here!

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