HOTEL REVIEW: The Pier At Harwich, Essex
Growing up beside the seaside, we don’t feel right if we’re away from the water too long. Weekends are made for getting away from the bright lights of the city – sometimes the soul craves nothing but sea air, a steaming bag of salty chips and starlings circling overhead. Even better if you can get from your desk to the hotel room in under two hours – and you can jump on a train direct from London Liverpool Street to The Pier at Harwich.
Built in the 1850’s, it’s seaside charm personified – mermaid busts mounted on the wall, rustic wooden floors and cheery staff.
Once settled, the Ha’Penny Bistro makes a casual dining spot (we began our visit with cream tea, complete with Tiptree jam), overlooking the water, but if you fancy stretching your legs you can follow a map around all the main sights. Part of the charm of this place is the fact you can finish the walk in half an hour – there’s not tons to see, but what’s there is delightfully quaint.
Take in neo-Gothic St. Nicholas Church (built in 1822), Wellington Street’s rustic street murals and listed building The Guildhall, housing an old prison cell and graffiti once carved by its inhabitants.
Save the ornamental Electric Palace cinema for Saturday – if the weather isn’t fine (and let’s face it, that’s quite likely), you can catch the afternoon showing on its original silent screen, first used in 1922. Prepare to go back in time – there’s an open-plan entrance lobby complete with paybox and a tiny stage where live jazz concerts still take place.
Wander along the sea wall back to the hotel, where 14 bedrooms offer a soft bed, a complimentary mini bar, Samsung HD TV and bathroom full of REN products. For dinner, head down to The Pier Harbourside for an abundance of fresh sea food and fine wine.
We sampled oysters to start (excellent), followed by pan-fried scallops with cauliflower puree, pancetta and squash fondant – all perfectly cooked and served by polite waiters with an impressive knowledge of the kitchen’s creations.
We ordered mains from the A La Carte menu, sampling pan-fried halibut with spinach, hollandaise sauce and buttered new potatoes and deep-fried halibut and chips (when in Rome). Dessert was an event in itself – a rich dark chocolate brownie with mini macarons, blackberries and pistachio.
For us, the evening concluded with trashy TV curled up in bed, watching the boat lights flick on in the distance. The container port might be a little ugly by day (though it does contain the very boat on which Radio Caroline was broadcast in the 1970s, the same one commemorative movie The Boat That Rocked was filmed on) – but at night it’s totally peaceful.
The perfect antidote to a hectic week, and not over yet. Standard rooms come with a full English breakfast (from £120 a night), best enjoyed after a (blustery, but refreshing) jog along the seafront. And if you’re still keen for adventure on Sunday, the fantastic Colchester Zoo is under an hour’s train ride or drive…
Standard double: From £120