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The Boathouse Restaurant in Dedham is located at the side of the River Stour close to the border of Essex and Suffolk. This delightful location is in the heart of what is known as Constable Country as it was frequently featured in the paintings of the artist John Constable. You can even hire a rowing boat from here and row up to Flatford Mill just about a mile and half away from the Restaurant.
The Restaurant looks nothing special from the outside, in fact it really looks like nothing much more than a huge shed! However once inside its modern decor, featuring lots of natural wood, is actually quite attractive. You can enjoy a quiet drink in the bar before your meal as you choose from the wide range of tasty selections on the menu. This is a very popular local venue so you are well advised to book in advance to avoid disappointment even during the winter months. There are a couple of pubs in Dedham which offer excellent bar meals but the Boathouse, just outside the village, offers much more than that and is well known in the area for its excellent food.
I visited this restaurant recently for a Christmas lunch will colloeagues from work and we were welcomed on our arrival and seated at one of the round tables. The only disadvantage with our table setting was that, for the two people seated in the corner farthest away from the bar, the waiting staff you could not access us and thus meals and empty plates had to be passed to us by other diners which was a minor inconvenience however this didn't really detract from the event.
We were offered a choice of the set Christmas menu - an option of four starters, four main courses and four desserts plus coffee and mince pies for £17.95 at lunchtime (or £21.95 for dinner). The options available included vegetarian choices and ranged from Smoked Salmon & Crab Timbale, Cucumber, Citrus & Fennel Salad, or, Tossed Salad of Wild Winter Rocket, Marinated Artichokes, Cashel Blue Cheese & toasted Pine Nuts as starters. Mains included Pan seared Turkey Escalope wrapped in Parma Ham, Roasted Winter Vegetables, Sweet Potato Puree & Thyme Jus, or, Baked Aubergine stuffed with Goats Cheese, Spinach, baked Walnuts, Tomato braised Cous Cous & sauce Vierge
Alternatively we were able to select from the full a la carte menu which gave a wider selection including Salad of Marinated Crayfish, Scallions, Rocket and Citrus Yoghurt Dressing at £5.50 and Rare Roasted Trio of Pigeon Breasts, Caramelised Red Cabbage, Cocotte Potatoes, Madeira Wine Sauce £12.95. There was to be honest something to suit every kind of taste and all was beautifully presented and efficiently served.
My colleagues and I opted for an a la carte selection and with pre-dinner drinks, wine with the meal and coffees the total bill was just over £200 for seven people which we felt was good value given the variety on the menu and the way everything was beautifully prepared and presented.
Service was efficient and professional and my only minor criticism would have to be that the 'crackers' provided in recognition of the fact that it was coming up to Christmas were somewhat cheap and tacky which was disappointing. Given that this is a restaurant serving high quality food I felt this was a case of trying to save a few pence and let them down a little. That said it didn't detract from the fact that we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and I can certainly recommend it as a fine place to eat if you are ever in this pretty area.
Dedham is a very pretty little village and if you want to stay on dry land then, rather than row up the river to Flatford, there is a very pleasant walk along the banks of the river to Flatford itself. It gets busy in the summer months with lots of sight seeing tourists but it is largely unchanged since the days when Constable did his famous Haywain painting. I love to walk off a tasty lunch in this way or alternatively work up an appetite by walking before the meal!