I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive an invitation for cocktails and afternoon tea in Southend, at the new speakeasy bar in the Royal Hotel.
No matter how much we adore our babies (lots, obvs), there comes a time when we begin to miss a little autonomy. I’ve kept little Miss Elfin with me constantly for more than four months, and I’ve not only done it willingly – I simply wouldn’t have had it any other way.
However, much though that time has been precious and I wouldn’t change it, I’ve recently become soooo ready to have a small window of time as an adult. I should probably add that I was taking Elfin with me – but hubby was going to be around to whisk her away (although stay close) before I went into the bar.
I couldn’t wait, all the more so because I was going to have delicious dairy and soy-free cake prepared for me! After months of the most difficult elimination diet I’ve ever undertaken (and I’ve done a few), I confess I had high hopes. But did the Royal Hotel live up to them?
History of the Royal Hotel, Southend
When I arrived, I was ushered straight into a private area with other bloggers and brought a glass of bubbles. So far so good.
Shortly afterwards Elfin fell asleep – and I was feeling invincible, as though the planets had aligned to ensure a relaxing afternoon.
Matthew, the hotel manager arrived to welcome us and give us some info about the building, which is steeped in fascinating history. For example, Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson conducted much of their affair in that very hotel (while it was indeed still a functioning hotel). Princess Charlotte was also once a visitor, giving prestige to the venue which went on to become popular with aristocracy.
The grade II listed building has been sympathetically and beautifully restored, leaving it feeling cosy but with opulent touches. It’s the perfect blend of extravagance and modernising eclecticism, together making the experience special but still welcoming. Of course the fantastically attentive service helps…
For example, despite there being no lift (presumably because the building is listed) and my momentary panic that I’d be expected to remove Elfin from her pushchair in order to take her upstairs to the ballroom, I needn’t have worried. Matthew was very accommodating and insisted on carrying the pram himself (with another member of staff). When I
threatened promised that if he woke my baby he’d have to get her back to sleep, he assured me he understood having two of his own.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding – and I’m delighted to confirm that he and his colleague passed that particular test with flying colours!
Afternoon Tea in Southend, at the Royal Hotel
When I first received the invitation I was hesitant about going due to my rigid dietary requirements. However my needs were not only catered for, the staff were very obliging and made me comfortable, with minimum fuss. For anybody with food allergies, you’ll know the anxiety that goes hand in hand with eating out, so this was a real treat and very much appreciated. And my alternative food options were not disappointing…
(Missing out on the traditional afternoon tea and some of the wares on offer with the exclusive Gentleman’s tea, however? That was disappointing. Sob.)
We took our tea in the ballroom, which is quite magnificent. It’s a vast space, looking out over the water – the view is quite something! And being a bit of an antiques fan, I was thrilled to learn that the stunning coving is original (restored) – as are the chandeliers.
I couldn’t finish my food – sacrilege! – I left a lot and had to stop myself from putting in a request to the kitchen to wrap it up for me to take home. Once we’d eaten our fill we were taken down to Dr Legba’s Emporium, where Dave, the mixologist, works his magic!
Cocktails at Dr Legba’s Emporium at the Royal Hotel, Southend
I thought I knew cocktails until I surfaced from this uber cool space.
I don’t want to say too much and spoil the (sometimes bizarre) experience of awakening senses you didn’t know you’d want to awaken, but suffice to say one of Dave’s masterpieces is called a Pork and Apple Martini and has a piece of bacon in the ingredients.
And it’s goooood – he makes mixing cocktails a true art form, creating theatre not only visually, but for your tastebuds too.
The venue has become prestigious in its own right, stocking whiskeys which are by invite only, and I’m not surprised.
The combination of unique and fascinating drinks, with an intimate and gorgeously atmospheric cellar space makes this one of my all-time favourite bars. I can’t wait to return with my hubby when Elfin is old enough to be left overnight.
Have you been for afternoon tea and cocktails at the Royal Hotel, Southend yet?