The Only Way Is acanteen | acanteen, 35 New London Road, Chelmsford, CM2 0ND
We’ve finally made it back to my roots in Essex for a review! We don’t count our Lifehouse spa post, that was written a LONG time ago and is quite embarrassing. I am biologically an Essex girl, I was born in Orsett and lived there for a whole six months before moving over to Surrey as a baby, that counts as an Essex girl, right?
My cousin Hannah has been banging on for ages about a place called acanteen, an independent restaurant using fairtrade, organic local produce, they even have their own farm. She’s been using it as a bargaining tool for me to drive through the hell hole that is the Dartford tunnel. Hannah goes there every day (the joys of maternity leave) and likes it so much that I prayed that we would too.
On the short walk there from her house we walked past salon after salon after salon. (Back to my roots again, maybe someone’s trying to tell me something, must get Ade to check my greys.) There wasn’t many restaurants to speak of and the town wasn’t as pretty as the picture I’d painted in my head. I wondered how there could be a really good restaurant round here. But there is! It’s like someone snuck into Shoreditch when no one was looking and stole a restaurant, shoved it on the back of a lorry and bought it to Chelmsford.
acanteen is huge with a relaxed yet buzzy atmosphere – filled with families, couples and groups of friends of all ages. A mish mash of decor that blends together seamlessly – there’s bold teal paneling, pure white glazed tiled walls and reclaimed wood cladding.
There’s a bakery – abakeshop, with an area designed for those just popping in for coffee and cake, like my cousin does on a daily basis. She should be the size of a house by now judging from the size of the slices of cake on offer. There’s a little shop – astore, selling their own range of soaps and candles and other bits and pieces that we want but couldn’t really justify buying – like a £17 pet food bowl, sorry Bubble and Squeak.
On to the food. They cover everything. And I mean everything. There’s breakfast, light bites, lunch, afternoon tea (for kids too), pizza, burgers, cocktails, Meantime beer, coffee, milkshakes, small batch Poco ice cream, fresh smoothies and juice. As tempting as an Espresso Martini was on a Saturday afternoon, it didn’t feel right when visiting babies. Handling babies whilst intoxicated would not go down well.
Instead I opted for a zingy Vitaliser (£3.95) – a blend of orange, mango, passion fruit and pineapple, it tasted so good I forgot about the lack of booze. Ade stuck with me and had a Luscombe Hot Ginger Beer (£3.40). We ordered the Rustic bread selection (£2.95) to nibble on whilst we waited for our mains. Be warned though, they give you a lot of bread here, it’s always good to be generous but it can be dangerously filling.
Luckily I was having a light lunch – the Seabass fillets (£15) stuffed with lime leaves, lemon, dill, garlic and bay leaf. Punchy flavours that managed to not overpower the delicate flesh. The side of Roasted squash, chilli and pomegranate salad (£3) caught my eye but left me slightly disappointed, the level of chilli was minimal and the pomegranate was overwhelmed by the veg.
Meanwhile, Ade decided against something small and dived headfirst into the Moroccan style spiced lamb burger with grilled halloumi and tzatziki (£11.50). A meaty carb overload which almost defeated him. He was a little thrown by the texture of the lamb patty, the meat was really finely minced – almost like a pate. But the flavour was superb, the Ras el hanout seasoning really complementing the cooling tzatziki.
We were about to pass on dessert and just share an Oreo milkshake (£3.50) until our waitress mentioned that one of the specials was a Cherry and pistachio cheesecake (£5.50). Ade’s eyes lit up so bang went that plan. What arrived was no ordinary cheesecake, this was a super-sized wedge of pink heaven on a bed of what tasted like a Cornflake base but we were informed it’s just biscuit. Meanwhile I guzzled the whole Oreo shake to myself.
As we left (via the shop of course) the place seemed just as busy as when we arrived, despite it being the time of day that restaurants are often quiet. I can see how my cousin can visit daily and not get bored of it, there’s so much to choose from (but not in an annoying way).
There’s a great feel to the place, if only every town had somewhere like this for people to go to. Our local town unfortunately is Dartford and we’re desperate for something like acanteen there. We’d be lucky to ever get a Pizza Express. Chelmsford, you don’t know how lucky you are.
35 New London Road, Chelmsford, CM2 0ND
Opening hours: Monday 8am – 5pm (kitchen closes 4pm)
Tuesday – Saturday 8am -11pm (kitchen closes 9.30pm)
Sunday 9am – 8pm (kitchen closes 7pm)
Book a table online
Nearest station: Chelmsford Station (8 mins walk)
We ate as guests of acanteen, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.