Gestingthorpe Essex CO9 3AU
Run by the very experienced and throughly warm and welcoming husband-and-wife team of James and Diana Donoghue, The Pheasant has pretty much everything you could want from a country inn – good, home-cooked food and a cosy place to eat it, and a handful of extremely comfortable and well-appointed rooms. Located in a peaceful part of rural north Essex, not far from the Suffolk border, it's not a grand operation at all. But it is an exceptionally cosy country pub, and Diana and James are very hands-on owners – Diana an affable front-of-house presence while James gets busy in the kitchen. Diana is full of tips on the surrounding area and can advise on local sights and walks; James is a passionate foodie and a keen gardener producing a lot of the ingredients for the restaurant in his large garden across the road; he also keeps the bees and hens that provide the breakfast honey and eggs and has a pristine smokehouse where he smokes not only fish but also the hops they pass on to local Norfolk brewer Woodforde's to produce their smooth signature Pheasant ale.
Their five rooms are housed in a building behind the pub and most have lovely views over the rolling countryside behind: all are tastefully kitted out and spacious – a couple are huge! – and each is named after a local famous person, for example Gainsborough, who lived in nearby Sudbury, and Captain Lawrence Oates (of Scott’s doomed Antarctic expedition), who lived in the village and is commemorated in the local church. They all have big and comfortable beds with contemporary, colourful headboards, a mini-fridge with fresh milk and water, tea and proper coffee, flatscreen TVs with Freeview, local handmade toiletries and lots of reading material – plus there's wifi throughout and also in the pub. As for the restaurant, it serves locally sourced, seasonal food that's both well-priced and unpretentious and draws in lots of regulars: fish-and-chips, lovely homemade pies and always roast beef on a Sunday, and usually half a dozen meat and fish main courses – duck breast, liver-and-bacon, shoulder of lamb – along with a couple of specials. Breakfast is a small buffet with yoghurt and other goodies to go with the honey from James and Diana’s bees, their own eggs plus fabulous bacon and sausages from a nearby farm which altogether round off a visit very nicely indeed.
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