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Staycation: The White Hart Inn, Mersea Island

by Helena Lang
Staycation: The White Hart Inn, Mersea Island
Image: Sam Kelly

At this seafood haven in Essex, The White Hart Inn is busy feeding happy locals and sleepover visitors alike...

Oysters. Love them or hate them? Luckily, I’m a fan, as we’re spending the weekend in peak oyster country. Mersea Island is a tiny patch joined to the Essex countryside by the ‘Strood’, a causeway closed at high tide, and where much of the oysters and seafood that’s served in many of the country’s top restaurants come from.

Oysters at The White Hart Inn
Oysters at The White Hart Inn

I’m tucking into mine at The White Hart Inn, a recently renovated pub with rooms (six) and where the confident menu from head chef Eliot Craven celebrates local fish and seafood as well as all the meaty treats gastro pub diners expect.

The oysters are served three ways: Rockefeller, bloody Mary and smoked. Yum. I continued on the fishy theme, ordering stuffed plaice with Cafe de Paris mousse, tender cubes of potato, capers, parsley and samphire. For afters, the poached rhubarb dessert came with a chunk of deep-fried custard. It blew the diet but was worth every single calorie. We’d worked up an appetite that afternoon as we’d explored this old-school seaside village where beautiful cottage properties jostle with fishing shacks, boatyards and the foodie mecca The Company Shed, a casual eatery that serves spanking fresh seafood to those in the know.

From The White Hart Inn it’s a five-minute stroll to Monkey Beach, and en route we passed tempting vintage boutiques, art cafes and galleries. The pebbly shore is strewn with dog walkers and picnicking families, and as we walked around the Coast Road we came across a small pontoon jetty where children and parents excitedly hauled up crabs to plop into their buckets.

The renovated White Hart Inn
The renovated White Hart Inn

Pre-dinner we’d washed and brushed up in our room, revelling in the gorgeous smelling Bramley toiletries in the large shower room and refreshing ourselves with a cup of excellent Jing tea and the homemade chocolates provided. Breakfast the next morning was another three-course feast, kicking off with a homemade compote poached in Earl Grey tea with cinnamon and orange, a classic fry up with Dingley Dell sausages from Suffolk, and rounded off with flaky croissants and homemade jam. After check-out we were allowed to leave our car on site while we headed back to the beach to make the most of the glorious weather and ended up wild swimming in the river along with other brave souls. The cool, refreshing water was just as delicious as the food we’d eaten.

On leaving West Mersea we bought cockles, mussels and more from the takeaway shacks to take home. My seafood bounty was oysters, of course. At only 70p a pop I’d have been a fool not to!

How to book

Rooms at The White Hart Inn start from £150 per night for two people including breakfast. Dinner, bed and breakfast starts from £220 per night for two people. For more information, visit

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