WIN A meal for Two at Marco's New York Italian in Essex
Essex has long been a much-maligned county, pretty much ignored by tourists who’d pass through en route to Suffolk until TOWIE hit the screens creating a stampede to Brentwood, the ITV show’s heartland. In the same way, Marco Pierre White’s name will no doubt bring diners to the town’s Holiday Inn just off the M25, home to the latest outpost of his rapidly multiplying chain blending Italian and American classics – there will be 13 in the UK by the end of the year. Fittingly, the show’s James ‘Arg’ Argent, (pictured below, middle) was chosen to host the opening party last week.
As locations go, this isn’t the most salubrious, however, once inside the restaurant all is more reassuring to fans of the famously three-Michelin starred chef with his charismatic face framed in black and white photographs on the metro-tiled walls. That same face can be seen on the back of the menu (appealingly simple and all on one side of A5), massive meat cleaver in hand. Attractive interiors include soft green leather banquettes tucked around marble-topped tables with a fashionable grey-tiled floor.
Fresh from Harvey Nichols, the maître d’ is all charm and a mine of information on Marco, the provenance of the ingredients used, temperature of cooking steaks and wine; a great appointment for a restaurant serving New York and Italian dishes. Staff are smiley and eager to please but not in a flaky way. I took my Stepdad, a steak-loving man, who ordered a good-looking sirloin, £21.95, nicely browned on the outside and ordered well done on the inside. He’s quite blunt in private but tempered his view by telling the maitre’d with a smile that it was lucky he had good teeth to eat it with (which roughly translated means it was a little chewy). However, it came with nicely salted chips and a mountain of large, crispy onion rings (sides are £3.50). No complaints there.
I went in the direction of Italy, ordering spaghetti pomodoro with meatballs and garden peas, £13.50 (pictured below, right). Normally I avoid meatballs as I struggle with the grisliness of your average mince. These were pretty perfect, firm (but not at all chewy), well seasoned with sweetish hints of fennel nesting on a generous helping of tomato-sauced coated spaghetti. We’d also shared a half rack Hickory smoked baby back ribs, £7.95, for a starter and the beautifully-browned meat gently slid off the bone and wasn’t smothered in too much sauce – the mistake many restaurants make.
I barely eat meat so despite being quite a greedy eater couldn’t fit a pudding in so left it to my stepdad to order apple crumble, £5.95. Perhaps naively we expected a big homemade-style bowl of comfort food, instead a cute but blisteringly hot copper saucepan arrived with a deconstructed version. This was a biscuity topping layered over the sweet cinnamon-flavoured apple chunks. Not bad but I think our imagined version would have been better.
We have to remember this isn’t a classic Marco Pierre White restaurant from the days when he still cooked before he famously hung up his chef’s apron and handed back the three-Michelin stars. This is a more commercially minded offering that in many ways is more typically Essex – it’s an affordable, down-to-earth way to get a slice of Marco Pierre White. He’ll be visiting in January to see how it’s going but until then fans will have to make do with seeing him on the back of the menu.
*COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED*
WIN A MEAL FOR TWO AT MARCO’S NEW YORK ITALIAN, BRENTWOOD
I Love Essex is giving away lunch or dinner for two. One winner will be selected at random to win a meal for two, including starter, main course and dessert to the value of £100 including a bottle of house wine. Just enter your email below to be automatically entered into the competition, which closes at midnight on Friday 21 December 2018. The winner will be notified by email on Monday 24 December 2018. There is no cash alternative. The winner must book in advance and this will be subject to availability. The prize must be taken before 31 March 2019.