Christmas Dinner at The Boatyard in Old Leigh Ria December 19, 2014 Food & Drink, Local Business, Southend I had the pleasure last night of dining at The Boatyard in Old Leigh for a Christmas dinner. (Who doesn’t love a good Christmas dinner!) Reading from the Christmas Dinner set menu alone was enough to set my taste buds tingling as I made the difficult decision as to what to have for my Starter, Main Course and Dessert. The service was brilliant. It didn’t take long before the Starters were delivered to the table, and I’m afraid I was perhaps a little too excited upon its arrival that I completely forgot to take a photo! I chose the Roasted Hampshire Turkey, Ricotta Cheese & Caramelised Onion Tartlet served with a Cranberry Dressing as my Starter and I was not disappointed. So much so that I quickly and completely polished my plate clean. The tartlet was crumbly and creamy in all the right places, with the cranberry dressing drizzled not just as an after thought but in a way that contributed so much to the overall taste of the dish. There was very little delay between courses and it wasn’t long before the Main Course arrived at the table. For my Main, I chose the Braised Lamb Shank with Butternut Squash Puree finished with a Fresh Redcurrent & Barolo Jus. Roast potatoes and steamed vegetables were distributed around the table separately, which I thought was a nice touch as it didn’t crowd the plate and I was given the option of how much I wanted and of what. The braised lamb fell from the bone as I cut into it with my knife; it was that beautifully tender. There was this amazing sensation of the lamb melting in my mouth with each bite and the butternut squash puree and fresh redcurrent and barolo jus was heavenly, complementing the rich taste and texture of the lamb spectacularly. The roast potatoes and vegetables weren’t anything special, just your standard supplemental food, but there was really no need for them to be more than they were. The star of the show was truly the lamb and the vegetables played their supporting roles well. This gorgeous beauty was the Belgian Chocolate & Roasted Cashew Nut Brownie topped with a White Chocolate Ice Cream and it was to die for. I thought that it couldn’t get much better than the lamb but, oh how wrong I was. The Belgian chocolate brownie was perfect, each roasted cashew still came as a pleasant surprise with each bite of the brownie. The cold and creamy scoop of white chocolate ice cream contrasted well in my mouth with the soft yet crunchy warmth of the brownie, creating an exciting heat sensation in my mouth as the ice cream gently melted around the chocolate. As for the atmosphere of The Boatyard, it was certainly cosy. Comfortably warm with great lighting, and plenty of things to look at. There was even a large screen showing an old black and white film. Though I have no idea what the film was, the muted background visual added a little something extra to the cosiness of the environment. An outdoor seated area at the front of The Boatyard building provided an extremely relaxing place to sit down outside with a drink on the sofa, coupled with the twinkling fairy lights at the window and the large Christmas tree. Despite being outdoors, heat lamps ensured that a coat was definitely not necessary to enjoy the quiet seating area outside. My only gripe I think, with the Christmas Dinner at The Boatyard, was the volume. Though the background music, with the piano playing and the festive Christmas songs, was wonderful (don’t get me wrong!), I thought it was a little loud. Especially with a few people around the table, I felt as if conversations were a little less relaxed due to having to raise your voice a bit to be heard across the table. I’m also one of those people who insist that Christmas crackers, and the reading aloud of the jokes inside, are an absolutely essential part of the Christmas dinner experience and it would have been a nice touch to have prepared some on the tables. Yes, there was a Christmas tree outside at the front and out on the deck too. Yes, they were playing Christmas songs. Yes, there were sparkling lights everywhere. But it just isn’t a Christmas dinner without a little bit of cheesy silliness and, from my experience, it isn’t unheard of to have Christmas crackers at a restaurant this time of year. But aside from those tiny little things, I wholeheartedly recommend Christmas Dinner at The Boatyard in Old Leigh. If not for this year, then the next! The food is exquisite and everything is cooked to perfection, the Christmas Dinner set menu has an excellent choice of dishes and definitely has something for everyone, the restaurant is decorated beautifully and the staff are both friendly and efficient. Well done all round!