The Three Horseshoes in East Hanningfield, Essex, has had what could perhaps be described as a ‘chequered’ history. I first encountered it when I moved back into the area twenty five years ago, back then it was a quiet, country pub. Over the years it ‘enjoyed’ a number of refits, changes of management and the addition of copious amounts decking in the gardens until it finally closed in about 2007. Sadly, there’s a lot of it about.
After standing empty for a while it was refurbished and reopened as ‘Hoyzen’ – an Asian restaurant that focused on fresh seafood served in different Asian sauces. It was okay, but never really excited me or my friends.
Hoyzen closed in early 2011 and after another extensive refurbishment the venue reopened in late 2012 as Vita Bella, serving Italian food. It’s a rarity in this corner of Essex, the nearest Italian Restaurants being in Rayleigh and Great Baddow, while I can name at least a dozen Asian restaurants and takeaways within a five mile radius.
Vita Bella is located on ‘The Tye’, which is the main road through East Hanningfield, set back slightly off the road with adequate parking. The building has been decorated in a distinctive, yet traditional cream colour.
Inside it’s chic, with ‘tub’ chairs in the reception/drinks area, while elsewhere the décor is a mix of cream walls and lush art-deco wallpaper.
The food – well this is a restaurant – is up-market Italian, not your usual pizza and pasta joint. A la carte starters are priced between a fiver and a tenner, while mains are between fifteen and twenty five. The menu is varied, but not over the top.
We went on a Sunday lunchtime and there was a “Sunday Table d’hote” menu at £16.95 for two courses, or £19.95 for three. However the specials menu and regular a la carte selections were just too tempting.
I had the anti-pasto starter, followed by a monkfish in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. My wife had King Prawns Thermidor to start with a “Sogliola con Spinaci” (Spinach-stuffed Lemon Sole) main course.
We both declared both courses to be delicious, if I was to be really picky I might suggest that the salad leaved on the antipasto were a little uninspiring, some Rocket would have gone down a storm.
Somehow we found space for Chocolate & Mascarpone Truffle dessert and that too was rich and delicious.
This is the local Italian restaurant we’ve been waiting for.
We’ll be back.
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