Yesterday I had to decide where to take a friend out to for lunch. It was going to be either the Toby Carvery along the Southend sea front or the Roslin Beach Hotel, a few hundred yards up the road.
These are quite different establishments. Toby can be relied on to deliver an acceptable, as much as you can eat, traditional, English roast, from a serve yourself buffet, while Roslin was a somewhat unknown quantity, other than being more on the posh side and twice as expensive. I have visited Roslin on just a few occasions since I attended a wedding reception of a friend when as a teenager nearly fifty years ago and I positively recall each visit. A couple of years back I enjoyed morning coffee at the Roslin with a couple of friends and rather liked the ambience and service and vowed I would come back some time to check out its restaurant service.
Being keen to add to my list of restaurant reviews and wanting to give my friend something special, I decided to give Roslin a chance. I feared as one known to like good, honest, value for money, traditional fayre and lots of it (although my appetite these days has diminished) that the Roslin might be a bit too overpriced and poncy for my liking, but decided to go anyway, if only to be in a congenial setting and be served by attentive staff food that I have been told by my spies is of a high standard. We duly arrived just before midday, were warmly welcomed and soon ushered to our table, which like all the tables in the restaurant commanded a fantastic view of the Thames Estuary and as hoped were attended by a helpful waitress.
We decided to order a pot of tea to start with before ordering from the set menu, noting we had two hours before we had to leave to go to our next appointment. The menu was interesting, limited, and out of the ordinary when it came to food combinations. We ordered while drinking our tea, which was very nice, and the starter arrived before we finished our cuppas. We both went for a smooth soup that combined pumpkin, marrow and chick peas, things I don’t normally go for, and while the quantity was on the small side, the soup was delicious. My friend ordered the fish and me the lamb shank for our main course. Both came with unusual accompanying veg. Mine included barley, large cabbage leaf to wrap the lamb and mini turnips and onions – not what I am used to but enjoyable and as expected was beautifully presented. While the portions were modest, it was enough for two old codgers and we ate it all up. My friend had some unusual sea stuff (which was tasty) with his fish and he enjoyed it. At this point, service slowed down, no doubt due in part to the restaurant quickly filling up, and while we would had liked to start of slower at the start we would have liked things to quicken up at the end. Our desserts duly arrived – my friend chose the chocolate gateaux and I had 3 scoops of different flavoured ice cream, which all in all was a nice way of finishing of an interesting and positive culinary experience. What was important was that we were able to enjoy a fruitful and uninterrupted conversation, in a relaxed and congenial setting, which was our main objective.
We left at two as planned and were overall pleased to have spent our time at the Roslin and impressed by the pleasant service, charming ambience and in a setting that consistently oozed class. But if I am really honest, while I may well visit the Roslin for morning coffee or afternoon tea, I can think of other places I might choose ahead of it when it comes to lunch time or evening meals, as much due to a temperament and frugal streak better suited to Joe’s café than somewhere that is more la di da. Even so, I give Roslin a thumbs up, glad to have made the visit, and a composite score of 8.5 out of 10.