The Hare and Hounds, Layer Breton

The Hare and Hounds has been under new management for a month or two, and we’d been planning to visit for another meal, as the one we reported on earlier this year had been one of the less inspiring pub meals we’d had for some time.

We had a quick half at the pub on Friday, halfway through a cycle ride, and saw the new menus, which encouraged us to visit yesterday. And the food is a huge improvement! You’ll find an example of their menu on their website, but as the food is local and fresh, this is a menu that will change regularly, rather than being cast in stone.

Before we get to the food, a word of praise for the interior, which impressed us last time under the previous management. The pub has its traditional bar, where it serves a range of real ales, and the restaurant which has several areas. We sat by the tropical fish tank which gave us some entertainment – one blue fish seemed to take a break for a sleep in a favourite spot every so often. There’s also a lovely large table in front of a big mirror – we need to think of a reason to get half a dozen people together to visit so we can get that table! And there’s the circular table with glass in the middle, which looks down into an old well.

Food-wise, for starters between us we had a half-pint of shell-on prawns, a blue cheese and walnut salad, deep fried squid rings with a chilli mayonaise, and my choice, and hugely recommended, is the mini full English breakfast. If I was a poncier writer, I’d be talking about liking food that has a sense of humour. What chef Steve put together was a slice of toast topped with fried tomatoes, mini sausages, mushrooms, bacon, all topped with a quail’s egg (ie a very tiny one!) and a touch of balsamic vinegar. What made it such a treat was that the ingredients were excellent – thick pieces of bacon and mushroom. The other starters were similarly dispatched with gusto.

For mains we opted for the pan-fried duck (the waitress asked how the duck was to be cooked, which doesn’t always happen), a thai-style vegetarian curry, fish and chips, and scampi and chips. All the food was well presented (see pictures below), and of high quality. There were both fat chips and skinny chips, showing that the kitchen is making the effort, rather than simply having a single deep fat fryer on the go. The vegetarian curry was highly recommended, and the fish and the scampi were excellent.

The younger members of the Essex Days Out team, who still have metabolisms that allow them to eat puddings, opted for the Sticky Toffee Sponge, and the Chocolate Sponge, both well presented, and both which disappeared quickly.

So, a hearty thumbs-up from this pub, nestling in lovely countryside south of Colchester. They do lunch, and also a Sunday brunch between 10-12, which features eggs in a variety of guises, which would be a great place for anyone wanting to refuel halfway through a Sunday morning cycle ride.