The Rosebud, Brightlingsea

Independent pub with seafood specialty menu
Where: High Street/Hurst Green, Brightlingsea, Essex
How Much: Variable
Overall: I want to sell my house and live here instead. 


My cousin recently commented on how lucky we are to live in a reasonably small town with so many excellent eateries, and whilst I’m not about the label Brightlingsea as the Bray of North East Essex, we are very much spoiled when it comes to dinner options in this little corner of the world.

I first stumbled into The Rosebud about a year ago, some months into our new residency and for out first real search of a local table for two. I had seen some advertising of their new management and fish-heavy menu and been tempted but in all honesty I couldn’t work out where on earth they were! A well placed social media shot of their cold seafood bar snacks prompted me to get out the google maps and drag the Mr out for dinner.

You will find The Rosebud at the far end of the apparently never ending High Street in Brightlingsea, and you could quite easily blink and miss them snuggled in a residential row. You could also quite easily make the snap decision that this is an average, pokey pub in a small town that you don’t need to stop into and that would be a massive mistake.

The building itself is something of a game of two halves- a traditional pub space with exposed beams, heavy wooden tables and an open fire place serving a good mix of real ales, fizzy lager favourites and reasonably priced wines. Nice, comfy, pubby. A walk through past the bar however will take you into a large, bright conservatory area overlooking their gardens into a sprawling green view down to the water. This space is a small slice of genius, having turned what might have just been an extension of drinking space into a crisp, gloriously light area made fresh with some well placed plants. A cynical observer might suggest that this is almost a His n Hers set up, though casual sexism aside there is a welcome option of the cosy quiet dinner inside versus the bright and more energetic lunch with a view. Of course, you may need a jumper in the evening in the back!

Top: eton mess, tuna steak with chickpea salad, salmon. Middle: THAT crab linguine, pickle mackerel salad, cockles. Bottom: hake loin, monkfish.


On to the food- which is very fishy indeed and far removed from what one would expect as general pub grub- a sad fact which has earned them some snarky comments on Tripadvisor but if you want scampi, chips and peas and a bbq chicken wrap there are plenty of other places in the locality that will serve you this. The Rosebud menu is, much like the rest of the pub, both delicate and traditional at the same time, offering sturdy classics and refined contemporary plates. The menu changes regularly but you can expect local oysters for the run of the season, razor clams and rich pates to start, maybe followed with a tuna steak or swordfish, moules or a fantastic kedgeree in the colder months.  Not really your bag? Sound a bit fussy? How about a prawn cocktail and a steak sandwich and chips? Because you can go for either, or even both. His n hers. Basic or blow out. I’m hard pressed to come up with recommendations because almost everything I’ve had there has been fantastic without too much of a running theme. Their avocado prawn starter with marie rose sauce is classic and well executed despite wandering towards the dread deconstructed category. The deepfried soft shell crab leans more to the modern American form of dining without being completely crass and the pickled mackerel salad currently on offer is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a very long time: again a balanced contrast in the form of rich but slightly tart fish with a very simple salad base. Beautiful.
Whilst there is usually an option for steak or chicken on the a la carte I would press even the most avid carnivore to try one of the fish offerings- be that a finely served monkfish tail or a gloriously hearty bowl of crab linguine depending on your needs, as I now struggle to decide between which of these has been my favourite there. And herein once more lies the glory of this place in that those of us who can’t choose between foodie finesse and a big fat pile of creamy carbs don’t have to.
Desserts are of course available, perhaps slightly less unexpected in range but usually suitable if you have room to spare- the snowball cake they had on over Christmas was well worth weeping over three days’ of weight watchers points for. A good time to throw in that they do have set menus from time to time along with lunch time offers and their Christmas menu in 2016 was a proven popular choice for a festive dinner with out friends at less than £30 a head for three courses and obligatory coffee and mince pies.

Christmas set menu offerings from 2016, including a full turkey dinner!

Cost wise, it isn’t easy to put a price prediction on a visit here as it will range depending on your eating theme of the day but it would take hard work on the wine list (which is as eye opening as the rest of the menu) to go beyond £40 a head for three courses and drinks. If you’re more of the mind of a swift pubby dinner and a beer you shouldn’t break £15 and this is the point where I should stress that if you are more after a pint than a restaurant experience then this is also definitely the spot for you. Our most frequent visits are for a well selected mid-week real ale and a white pepper drenched bowl of cockles to fight chat over.

You will often find the management on site offering a friendly hello from the bar or kitchen and a spritely and warm team offering no fuss service that alludes so perfectly to the homey atmosphere and simple enjoyment of really, really good food.

I could gush on all day about The Rosebud, perhaps I already have. Suffice to end up with a solid top rating and heartfelt recommendation to give them a go if you are local and make the trip out here if you are not. Be sure to book though, as they are not always busy but you can guarantee that when you don’t reserve you will turn up to find standing room only!

I’ll see you at the bar.

a bowl of cockles, served with pepper and vinegar in the conservatory for summer pick me up perfection



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