There’s a lot of horrific food knocking about in Basildon. Not content with having one of the poorest hospitals in the country, a giant mock “Hollywood” sign and the most unhelpful train station in the world, Basildon has a knack for taking crap chain restaurants and bunching them all together for the convenience of the inexperienced palette. If you have never heard of “Bas Vegas” or the Festival Leisure Park as it is actually called, then I am completely jealous of you. Sometime in the 90s, a board of people sat together and thought “let’s make things easy for the people of Basildon and bunch together as many cheap restaurants as possible in a car park with a cinema and a gym”.
Where to eat in Basildon?
So if you have a celebration or a special occasion in Basildon you are pretty much limited to one of the three, yes THREE Nando’s we have here, Frankie and effing Benny’s or Coast to Coast, which has changed names more time than P Diddy. If you are a bit of a foodie, like me, the outlook is pretty grim. Luckily, quite some time ago, I had an interview at a wonderful little pub called The Dukes Head in Little Burstead. A few months later while choosing somewhere to eat I remembered the charm of this place and we booked up.
The Dukes Head, Billericay
I’ve reviewed it a few times before as I love it here, and this has now become the “go to” place for nice meals out and celebrations. For anyone in Basildon, The Dukes Head is ten minutes up the road and well worth the petrol. As my Mum and I volunteer together on Christmas Day, we tend to go out for a nice meal on Boxing Day so we can actually eat together and chat, so this was the obvious choice. The hearty Christmas Menu from The Dukes Head was everything you would expect from the festive season.
When it comes to starters I am the most boring, un-adventurous person in the world. Tomato soup is always a winner for me. People may look down their nose at that but I think there is a lot to be said for a bowl of really fresh, well-made tomato soup. Consistency is key. There is nothing worse than looking forward to a bowl of thick, creamy tomato soup and being delivered a watery monstrosity that mirrors the cup-a-soups you get on a Ryanair flight for about £5. The Dukes Head served up a simple, yet elegant tomato that was thick enough without being sludgy. Sludgy soup is also a no from me. They were also kind enough to serve up some oil and balsamic vinegar to accompany the ciabatta. A welcome surprise for bread enthusiasts like myself.
No Christmas menu would be complete without a Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings. One of the things that keep me coming back to The Dukes Head is the fact that they put so much effort into the smaller details. The clementine stuffing balls for example. A slight twist on a classic that makes all the difference taste-wise. The mouth watering gravy. Lord only knows what they put in it but I need to find their secret. The other secret to their success is the cooking in general. If you are looking to fill yourself up with overcooked or undercooked mass-produced swill then maybe you are better off going to Bas Vegas. If you want to eat something that has been cooked specifically for you by expert hand then come here.
Following on from dinner was the great dessert debate I engage in at every dinner. As someone who has such an intense interest in all things cheese – I’ll usually go for the cheeseboard at the end of a meal. But there was one word on the menu that caught my eye: gingerbread. Yes, ladies and gentleman of the company-owning world if you want to catch a bloggers eye, just add gingerbread. Gingerbread lattes, gingerbread creme brûlée, gingerbread toilet roll, whatever. It works. So in a break from my cheese tradition, I ordered the gingerbread creme brûlée with a nice, strong Americano just so I’d have the energy to walk to the car.
Anyone who indulges in pimple popper videos will probably, also enjoy the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of cracking the top of a creme brûlée and having the creamy underneath mixture pop through like a volcano. Not a proper volcano though, a less angry volcano. Miffed or mildly annoyed if not raging. The brûlée was served with a tiny gingerbread man and in all honesty, despite my constant battle to try and get the UK population to eat like they were raised by humans and not wolves, I did pick him up with my fingers and dip him in. It was what he was there for, and were I to eat him separate from the brûlée I would have felt that I was diminishing his entire life purpose.
Is it nice at The Dukes Head, Billericay?
As well as the delightful food, the nice atmosphere, and the friendly service, there is another thing I absolutely love about The Dukes Head. Rolling to the car absolutely full to the brim.
The Dukes Head Boxing day menu was £25.95 for three courses.