Chelmsford, Essex, isn’t short of places to eat. What can be a challenge, though, is when you decide at the last minute that you fancy a Saturday night meal out and you’ve not booked anywhere.
At times like these it’s normally the bigger venues where you stand more chance of getting a table, so we headed up to the top of the High Street to check out Middletons: a contemporary steakhouse that I’d recently discovered via Instagram.
Middletons is a small chain of steak restaurants with venues scattered across the South East and the East Midlands. Their Chelmsford restaurant is in the building that used to be home to a Jamie Oliver restaurant (and before that, a bank): a stylishly decorated venue with low lighting, red leather bench seating, and an open-plan kitchen at the back of the restaurant that was a hive of activity on a busy Saturday night.
Serving up “prime cuts of meat, grills, burgers, fresh fish and desserts in an outstanding setting”, Middletons Chelmsford has a seriously extensive menu. The only sensible option to power us through reading it was to order a cocktail each.
The one that caught our eye was the “Totally Tropical”: a summery blend of spiced rum, Midori, grenadine and pineapple juice (£8.75). It was a little disappointing to see that the drinks had overflowed when either being poured or carried to the table, and no effort had been made to clean them up (the table got pretty soaked as a result). They looked the part, though, with a wedge of pineapple on the edge of the glass, and some mystery foam at the top. The overarching flavour was the pineapple juice, so I’m not entirely sure how strong they actually were.
It wouldn’t seem right to visit a steakhouse and not order a steak! All of their steaks are served with a choice of one side, plus tomato and mushroom, and a choice of one sauce. Across the table, after much deliberation, it was the 10oz ribeye (£23.95) with chips and bearnaise that won.
The promised tomato had been replaced with salad (maybe they’d run out…) but there were no complaints about the rest. The steak itself was nicely charred and cooked medium-rare as requested, the chips were crisp and salty and the bearnaise was incredible – but wasn’t really needed because the steak was so good.
I’m going to use the one-mile walk to Middletons from my mum’s house as an excuse for my gluttony when I ordered the classic mixed grill (£23.95). In reality, I was just intrigued to see if the value for money was as good as it seemed! The menu promised a steak, a Barnsley chop, a butcher’s chipolata pinwheel, gammon, tomato and mushroom with a choice of one side – and just look at the meatiness I was presented with.
All of the meat was beautifully succulent and packed with flavour, from the saltiness of the gammon steak to the surprising sweetness of the sausage. I wasn’t convinced by the huge scattering of what seemed like dried herbs on the Barnsley chop, and once again, the tomato was missing from the plate.
The dauphinoise potatoes were excellent, though. With their melt-in-the-mouth texture and super creamy sauce they were a great accompaniment to my enormous plate of meat – I’m glad I went for these rather than the chips.
One point to note if you’re visiting Middletons Chelmsford is that visiting the bathrooms is akin to being in a Wetherspoons pub – you’ll need to head down the stairs and through a winding corridor before you reach your destination. All in all, though, I’d say it’s a great spot for anything from a family lunch to a celebration dinner. I’m keen to head back to check out their bottomless brunch, as well as their small plates menu which would make for a great sharing meal with friends.