A fantastic new edition to the Essex food scene, filling a gap in luxury dining and delivering great taste and stunning ingredients at a reasonable cost. Bourgee is warm and inviting while remaining something a little bit special. The staff really make the venue, with a fantastic knowledge of the menu and genuinely friendly personas.
In September, we announced a new arrival to the seaside town of Southend in the form of hip new steak and lobster joint Bourgee. Now the restaurant is in full flow, we revisit to sample the full menu in all of its glory.
Bourgee brings a touch of the West End out to coast, with blacks and metallics, big mirrors and glittering fixtures. There is a large bar area where guests are free to indulge in cocktails and drinks for the evening, or just enjoy something to whet your appetite while you wait for your table. There is a mix of booths, tables and sofas in the lounge area and further tables and booths in the restaurant. There are also plenty of stools around the bar itself, although if you are a bit awkward like me, you might find it hard to perch comfortably on these stylish stools.
We started out with a Spanish nut and corn mix and pork scratching bites, recommended by the host as a way to get our appetites going. The nuts were crunchy and rich with just a little hint of seasoning. The real surprise were the scratchings – I’m generally not a fan due to the greasy texture and abundance of salt that normally entail – but these were unbelievably light and airy, with barely a speck of grease and a pleasant texture that melted in the mouth. A new high in the world of bar snacks!
Moving on and we decided to go for the pre-starter gazpacho shots. I am a big fan of gazpacho when its done right, so had my fingers crossed. I wasn’t disappointed. The shots are made using a fresh tomato paste to intensify the flavour. It’s smooth on the tongue, very well chilled with a zing of fresh herbs. All of this is cut through with the addition of crunchy cubes of chorizo, which deliver a smack of taste to end each mouthful. This was a perfectly balanced palate warmer and a really nice addition to your meal at just £2 each.
Dave opted for the lobster bites, not individual chunks as we had both imagined, but rather a baked dish of chunks of lobster with caramelised onion, garlic butter and mountains of grilled cheese. The dish was a tad on the messy side due to the sheer amount of stringy cheese (in case you can’t tell this is a great option for cheese lovers). The first hit of flavour comes from the caramelised onions, followed closely by the cheese. You then get the subtle soft, sweet taste of lobster at the end, with the earthy garlic tones. It comes with a couple of slice of fresh baguette, which we’d have liked more of to mop up the sauce … but then again it would only fill you up too soon!
Sweet & salty crispy satay chicken
I usually hate people that order off-menu, but on this occasion I couldn’t resist! At the September launch event we had canapes of Bourgee’s amazing satay chicken. To be fair it wasn’t entirely off-menu as the dish appears on their Easy Eats menu, but it isn’t usually served as part of the a la carte. The chicken is sliced in thin, but substantial chunks and has a magnificent smoked flavour to it that diffuses through the tempura batter. Served up with crunchy and spicy peanut sauce it is so simple yet so flavoursome, I could literally eat plates of it. In my very humble opinion, I think this actually tops the traditional way of having satay on the sticks – where it is prone to being dried out and lacking in punchy flavour. The meat in these bites literally melts in your mouth and stays very tender and moist as tempura requires only minimal cooking.
Other starters on the menu include salads, a lobster bisque, fish dishes and charcuterie boards for two to share.
Although this is something not many people usually bother with, I think palate cleansers really do work and are a great way to prepare yourself to try something totally new. It’s especially important if you are eating different types of cuisine, for example if you had the Asian influence duck salad for a main and were then moving on to a more delicate lobster dish for main. Bourgee serves up two types, both with unique and fresh tastes and costing just £2 each.
Kafir lime sorbet shooter
Dave went for this one over the champagne one, mainly due to the fact he was driving and had already indulged in a glass of vino. We found this sorbet to be very simple and citrussy, but with a really fragrant back note that gives a little nod towards Indian flavours. There is no better way to describe it than a burst of freshness.
Pink champagne sorbet shooter
Keeping with the indulgent theme of our meal, I chose this sweet and bubbly option. The sorbet was much icier, with bigger crystals than the lime alternative. It ticked the box as a cleanser though, with just a subtle note of flavour and a fresh feeling in the mouth. I could imagine sitting there on a hot summer day and eating a whole bowl of this [note to Bourgee – please offer this as an option to take out on the beach in the summer].
And on to the main event! Being a steak and lobster specialty restaurant, my partner and I decided to go for one of those options each, but you will find a huge variety of different dishes on the menu such as burgers, chicken, puff pastry tarts, sausage and mash, salads and fresh fish dishes, all cooked to perfection!
Steak – rib off the bone
Although knowing that he wanted steak, Dave asked the waiter for a recommendation on which and was pointed in the direction of the rib. The first arrival to the table was something that looked rather like a cigar box, dramatically placed by the waiter. On opening, he revealed a highly decorated, very sharp Spanish knife, that is presented for use in cutting the steak. It gave it a real showy feeling and helped you to feel like a VIP ordering something extremely important. Although, I am sure that there was no need for a knife this glamourous, as the steak was cooked to total perfection! Served with just a knob of garlic butter, Bourgee are so confident about the flavour of their steaks, that they keep it all as simple as possible. It was very thick cut and Dave chose skinny fries to go with it, which to his delight soaked up the juice from the meat around it. It also has a few salad leaves on the side to garnish. The meat itself had such an intense flavour, almost smokey and it just melted away in the mouth. Dave ordered it as medium, but it was more like a medium rare – which was perfect, but he had erred on the side of caution and I would definitely suggest you do the same. If you like your meat well-cooked, then I don’t mean to offend, but I just don’t think you will fully appreciate this slab of flavour for the marvel that it is, you may as well go for a salad.
While it was very tempting to go for tempura again, I decided to mix it up a little and, again under the recommendation of our server, chose the Bourgee lobster. This is a whole split lobster (1.25lb), prepared and then laid back into the shell, mixed with cheese sauce, shallots and woodland mushrooms. Given that this is the most expensive dish on the menu (other than steak to share), I had high hopes! The dish was extremely rich, but in all the right ways, kicks of strong cheese and garlic, big chunks of soft lobster meat delivering the taste of the sea and earthy mushrooms cutting through the sauce and reducing the cloying texture that cheese can sometimes bring. I ordered skinny fries, which were an ideal match for dipping in all of the pools of extra sauce.
We went for the buttered greens, which really were buttered as they were swimming in pools of garlicky, herby butter. There was a mix of sugar snap peas, savoy cabbage and green beans, all cooked well but with a real crunch still apparent. Other sides available include mashed potato, Dauphinoise potato, fat cut chips, honey baby carrots, cheese & bacon butter mushrooms and salad.
And to end it all …
Mini chocolate donuts
Dave wanted to relive his experience of the launch and ordered Bourgee’s amazing mini donuts. These little cinnamon-covered balls are served exactly how a seaside treat should be, in a little paper bag, but they have the addition of flavourful sauces to garnish in the form of vanilla whipped cream and chocolate crème de leche sauce. They are so naughty but nice and as they are served warm they bring a real level of comfort and joy, which may take you back to your childhood quicker than a walk down the road to Adventure Island.
Trio of shooters
I can never make my mind up, so found the option of having three desserts in one an absolute delight! The Bourgee 3 shooter consists of:
Baileys crème brûlée, which, in a traditional manner has a delightful crunchy top and a silky smooth custard that has been spiked with the liqueur, in all honesty this was like heaven in a glass to me!
Gin & tonic jelly, served up with a lime sorbet. Although this was fresh and zesty, I wasn’t really a huge fan and found the flavour a bit too floral and not very complimentary to the other two shooters on the plate.
And finally, orange vodka panna cotta – very orangey (I know, but that is the only way to say it), intensely thick but not cloying at all.
Other options to be had include the Mars Bar cheesecake (an absolute joy for choc or caramel lovers), chocolate fondant, cherry clafoutis, apple tart or a selection of ice creams. There is also a cheese board for those of you that can’t deal with the sweeter side of things, but don’t forget to order it with your starter to let the cheese breathe properly.
Cocktail – Halloween special
As we visited just before Halloween, we were recommended to try out the themed special. This was a blackberry and apple flavoured drink, with a gin-base. Although it is often the fear that gin drinks will be dry, the mix of fruity purees was so fresh and juicy that it was extremely thirst-quenching. Served over lots of ice and with a comedy eyeball sweet dropped in to fit the theme, it was a drink and a channel for entertainment.
Dave mainly stuck to these due to the joys of driving. There is a lot of choice and all are served in their best format – ie Coke in glass bottles.
As we were eating a lot of fish and chicken, we went for a white wine and my general rule is that you can’t go too wrong with a Chablis. So we had the Chablis 1er Cru, Vau Ligneau, Domaine Hamelin, France, which comes in at £41 per bottle. It was light and fresh, with a very faint floral note but nothing with too strong flavour, perfect for the subtle flavours of fish and poultry. If you aren’t sure on wines, the menu provides hints and the waiters provide detailed knowledge.
Bourgee is a great place to head when you want that something a little special. Yes the prices aren’t your everyday meal cost, but when you put into the perpective the kind of ingredients that are being served up, you would be hard-pushed to find similar places offering prices, so it is value for what you are getting. If you aren’t really sure of what to order, then ask any of the serving staff. From a cocktail recommendation to assessing your tastes and steering you in the right direction on the menu, the team really know their stuff and it’s great to have that comfort blanket – especially when ordering higher priced foods, as you don’t want to be disappointed. The quality of ingredients really is top notch and combined with the relaxed atmosphere and friendly buzz, I’m certain that it is a real recipe for success (apologies for the cheesy [did it again] food pun).
Price: Starters cost an average of £7, with some of the lobster dishes costing up to £9 and the sharing boards at £12; pre-starters and palette cleansers are £2 per shot; mains such as the fish or chicken cost around £15, steak £24-£28 and lobster £30 (£15 for a half on the side of steak); sides are £3 each and dessert £6 or £10 for cheese board. Wines start at £16.50 for a bottle or £4 per glass, beers at £5 (pint) or £3,50 (bottle), soft drinks around £2-£3 and cocktails at about £7 each.
Menus: Bourgee offers an extensive range of menus, from the traditional a la carte, to Easy East (tapas style dishes served from 11am), a breakfast menu, afternoon tea and much more. Click here for the full range.
Specials: Bourgee puts on a number of specials according to the time of year, for example there was a Halloween menu for the end of October and there is a Christmas and New Year menu available too. Please see the menus page for this info too.
Expansion plans: With such a great start, the Bourgee team are looking to soon open a second branch in Billericay, Essex – watch this space.
Address: 1 Eastern Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2ER
Tel number: 01702 615204