The White Hart Inn, West Mersea, Mersea Island, Essex
Words by Anne-Claire Heels
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Newly opened in June after the site had lain empty since 2013, The White Hart Inn has had a partial rebuild and a complete refurbishment to provide a pub-restaurant with rooms. It’s the third site from Piers Baker, who runs the Sun Inn in Dedham and the Church Street Tavern in Colchester. The White Hart is a contemporary space with a bar and large restaurant, a stylish snug and a gorgeous outdoor terrace perfect for a G&T or a cold beer in the sunshine after a beach walk. There are six bespoke bedrooms. You’ll get a warm Essex welcome too – the young team were a lovely friendly bunch with a smile for everyone despite being busy.
What are the rooms like? The six en-suite rooms each have a name with a local connection, and if you fall in love with a paint colour or a fabric, you’ll find details in the handy room info booklet. Some have sea views, some look towards the church opposite, and they feature local artwork, providing the artist’s contact details too. All have super-king beds with luxury 4000 pocket-sprung mattresses and Egyptian cotton – it’s extraordinary how comfortable these are. All the little details are beautiful – from lamps to cushions to glassware. A practical thing I loved was the bathroom’s floor-level, motion-sensor, night light, which saved flooding the bedroom with light and the sound of the fan kicking in, if you popped there during the night. Expect fluffy towels, cosy robes and toiletries by luxury British essential oils brand Bramley.
BEST SEA VIEW? From the Mehalah bedroom at the top of the building, where I stayed, you can look across the roof-tops to the sea, and a couple of the other rooms have similar sea views too. You can’t see the sea from the bar or restaurant, but it’s only a few minutes’ walk down the hill to the West Mersea seashore.
HOW ABOUT THE FOOD? The food is Modern British with seasonal changes. There is a focus on using local ingredients and a good mix whether you want meat, fish or vegetarian options. The White Hart serves lunch and dinner, roasts on Sunday, and there’s a kids’ menu too. Starters cost around £7, mains from around £14. It being a beautiful summer’s evening when I visited, I couldn’t resist a big bowl of steamed mussels in classic white wine, cream, garlic, parsley and shallot sauce, served with crispy skin-on fries – the perfect, light, tasty choice. The menu also featured local oysters and fish, Suffolk chicken and English cheeses. Breakfast was a treat too, with a generous Continental buffet and a selection of cooked meals to choose from. I opted for French toast with bacon and maple syrup, delicious! The inn is also open to non-residents for breakfast at weekends, but you must book in advance.
HOW ACCESSIBLE IS IT? The terrace, bar and restaurant are all on one level with access through the terrace, but there are no ground floor bedrooms here.
Any eco-practices? Lots. The White Hart buys ethically reared meat, from grass-fed cattle; fish is from inshore day boats that fish seasonally; it buys not only locally, but also seasonally – including buying European seasonal produce rather than South American, South African, etc, when UK produce is scarce to keep food miles low. All lighting is LED, on timers, and all equipment has highest rating for energy efficiency. Paper use/printing is reduced by an electronic ordering system, and all waste is separated for recycling. Outdoors, plants are on automatic irrigation systems and were chosen for their ability to tolerate dry conditions so less water is needed too.
WHAT WILL IT COST? Bed & Breakfast for two starts from £150. Occasional discounts will be available via the website and newsletter. Currently open Wed-Sat, 11am-11pm, Sun till 6pm (except Bank Holidays). The White Hart Inn is aiming to be open 7 days a week in due course so check the website.
HOW TO BOOK? Book a table or a room at whitehartinnmersea.co.uk/book.