“Haywards”:https://haywardsrestaurant.co.uk/ is not an everyday restaurant: it’s the sort of place where special events and memories are celebrated. It’s around a 15-minute walk from Epping town centre, across Bell Common, and is in the same grounds as the traditional, dog-friendly pub, the Forest Gate Inn. Originally a coach house and skittles alley, Haywards has been beautifully restored and has a surprising modern feel, in total contrast to the pub. The head chef is Jahdre Hayward who appeared, albeit fleetingly, on Masterchef the Professionals.
There are lots of different menus depending on the day of the week and timing of your visit. We were there for Sunday “lunch”:https://haywardsrestaurant.co.uk/index.php/food-4/ with two courses at £39.50 or three for £52. This menu is relatively short featuring fresh, seasonal produce, much of it from their kitchen garden.
We began with a cocktail, and I loved the rhubarb blush with their rhubarb, pureed and topped up with fizz.
Complimentary warm soda bread was served with stunning yellow butter, along with cheese gougeres filled with a fish mousse and tiny arancini with blue cheese.
To start, I had crab ravioli with scallops, with the accompanying crab consommé being poured at the table from a small jug (it’s that sort of place). The flavours were intense, but it was also light and refreshing with hints of ginger. Also chosen was cured mackerel and a smoked mackerel velouté and dill emulsion.
There is a rotating roast and on the Sunday we visited, it was beef. However, this could only be ordered for two to share, which my partner and our host did, although it wasn’t clear why, as the beef was sliced on a sharing platter with two chunky pieces of succulent ox cheek. If I’m being critical, the Yorkshire pudding looked a bit too full of air with no pudding bottom (but then I am from Yorkshire and feel a bit of an expert in such matters). Sharing dishes had roast potatoes and carrots with green beans and there was a very small jug of red wine jus. Personally, I prefer lashings of gravy with my Yorkie.
My duck was a highlight, and a dish I don’t normally order. The plate looked fabulous, with decorative blobs of carrot puree, wilted greens and a plum gel. Once again, my jus was poured at the table.
The puddings sounded delicious, but we were pretty full and, having seen the size of those on the adjacent table, we settled for coffee and liqueurs. It was good to see Perky Blenders coffee from a local Waltham Forest roastery being served. Our coffee arrived with a plate of jellied petit fours and with a considerable flourish, a large wooden cigar box was opened at the table to reveal a selection of four types of chocolates, and we were invited to choose one each.
The wine “list”:https://haywardsrestaurant.co.uk/index.php/wine/ has a wide variety of prices, but with a good choice of bottles between £25 and £30 which I thought was good value for money.
The service was extremely professional, and we had an absolutely fabulous experience.