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Eat My Words: We review the Six Bells at Witham-on-the-Hill





A first-time trip to eat at a previously unsampled pub is an exciting prospect although our visit to the Six Bells did come with a little trepidation.

Having already heard good things about this Witham-on-the-Hill destination pub, I was finally spurred into booking a table when news broke of its latest Bib Gourmand award, retaining the accolade in the latest Michelin guide.

When it came to make a reservation for Sunday lunch, it seemed everyone else had had the same idea.

The Six Bells retained its Bib Gourmand in the 2024 Michelin Guide, published in February
The Six Bells retained its Bib Gourmand in the 2024 Michelin Guide, published in February

There was no room in the inn, but there were tables ready to go for the south-facing outdoor terrace at the front of the pub.

Al fresco in February? At the tail end of an English winter? Hmmm.

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We needn’t have worried. It was a nicely decorated, comfortable space, weatherproofed with a timber and glass canopy, with individual heaters hung above each table and blankets should you need them.

Al fresco dining in the pub's covered and heated south-facing terrace
Al fresco dining in the pub's covered and heated south-facing terrace

But dress sensibly and don’t turn up with one layer – or book well ahead to bag yourself a table in the cosy, characterful and handsome interior.

With the sun out for much of our meal, I got away without a coat until dessert, and even when it was slung on, our experience had been so utterly lovely and relaxing, I didn’t care.

All our Eat My Words reviews here

While the food was excellent, the welcome really stood out for us.

The skyward view from our table on the outdoor terrace
The skyward view from our table on the outdoor terrace

Everyone, without exception, was friendly and efficient. Helpful and attentive without being overbearing.

Each course and drink arrived in incredibly prompt fashion, giving us plenty of time in our two-hour window to relax, enjoy our food, the company and the ambience.

It’s a difficult balancing act to perfect – particularly at a peak dining time like ours – and has taken the edge off otherwise good dining experiences elsewhere.

Eat My Words, a review
Eat My Words, a review

I was even given an expert guide to the pub’s good selection of ales by a couple of friendly regulars sat at the bar before we’d even got to our table.

Meals at our house can be an equally tricky feat of juggling for the unfortunate cook – with a pescatarian, meat-eater and a fussy young eater to cater for.

We asked for Sam’s fish and chips main course to come out with my wife Jenny’s goat’s cheese with roasted beetroot starter – and just six minutes later they were on the table.

The goat's cheese parfait starter with roast beetroot, apple and walnuts
The goat's cheese parfait starter with roast beetroot, apple and walnuts

It’s a nice touch that any parent will appreciate, with younger children not renowned for their love of waiting for food or sitting still.

The goat’s cheese, whipped up with chives, was a delicate, well-proportioned dish and good starter material. A large dollop of cheese can be cloying, but slices of apple cut through that.

My seven-year-old has become a connoisseur of his favourite dish, fish and chips, having sampled them at restaurants the length and breadth of the UK over the years. But he put the Six Bells dish joint-top of his long list.

A pub classic which went down a treat with our seven-year-old
A pub classic which went down a treat with our seven-year-old

Having helped him out with one or two of his generously-sized chips as I waited for my main, they were the right combination of fluffy inside and crispy outside, and the batter on the fish gave a good old crunch.

Saving myself for dessert, I skipped the starter so was very ready for my lamb, roasted in the wood-burning oven.

The lamb was tender and tasty, and came with a mountainous Yorkshire pudding, and an overflowing dish of nicely-cooked roasted veg left marinating in a tasty jus.

The wood oven roast leg of lamb - before the mountainous side serving of vegetables arrived
The wood oven roast leg of lamb - before the mountainous side serving of vegetables arrived

I had hamstrung myself a little by booking Sunday lunch where the roast rules, and would be keen to see what the chefs can do without the confines of Sunday lunch traditions.

There was also the choice of beef and pork or a half rotisserie chicken, and Cornish monkfish with risotto for the fish lovers.

But Jenny plumped for the vegetarian option – with sun-blushed tomato linguine and aged parmesan.

My wife's main - artichoke with sun blushed tomato linguini and aged parmesan
My wife's main - artichoke with sun blushed tomato linguini and aged parmesan

“It was simple, but effective cooking, livened up with finely-diced peppers and parsley,” she said.

“Good ingredients meant the flavour of the sun-dried tomatoes didn’t overwhelm everything else on the plate.”

There was still good time – but a little less room – for pud.

Prepare to meet your match, chocaholics - the Six Bells' Chocolate Nemesis dessert with salted caramel ice cream
Prepare to meet your match, chocaholics - the Six Bells' Chocolate Nemesis dessert with salted caramel ice cream

Sam was happy to accept the waiter’s hearty recommendation of the forebodingly-named chocolate nemesis, a slice of choc sponge, smeared with chocolate sauce, with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

Almost as discerning about chocolate as he is about fish and chips, Sam agreed with our waiter’s enthusiasm.

Mine was a more delicate affair – lemon tart, baked in the wood-fired oven, with creme fraiche. It was zesty and tangy and a good palate cleanser to cap a satisfying lunch.

Wood oven lemon tart with creme fraiche
Wood oven lemon tart with creme fraiche

The Six Bells business sells itself as ‘honest food, that's prepared and cooked with care using quality ingredients - combined with warm and welcoming hospitality’. Many restaurants and pubs do.

But it does exactly what it says on the tin, well its website.

And though we didn’t see much change out of £100, we felt it definitely met the Bib Gourmand’s brief of ‘good cooking and good value’. It was worth it. We’ll be back.

Food: All dishes were nicely cooked and well-balanced, using good ingredients ****

Drink: A good range of four ales which every country pub should, but doesn’t always offer. Three of them local. I went for a pint of Grainstore’s seasonal Six Nations ***

Decor: I did look with slight envy at the indoor diners with their log-burner and soft furnishings, but outside was lovely and will be a proper treat in warmer weather ****

Staff: As discussed above. Excellent service all the way through. Efficient, well trained and made us feel genuinely welcome *****

Price: A total of six courses with a pint and two soft drinks came to £90.55 which we thought value for our overall experience. Starters ranged from £7.50 to £11, mains from £16 to £24, and desserts from £8 to £11, with cheaper ice cream options. ****



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