The Peterboat is pretty much synonymous with Old Leigh.
The pub, perched on the very edge of the estuary, has been there for centuries (since 1757 in fact) and on a sunny summer’s evening there are few places finer to stop for a spot of supper and a cool beverage – or two.
After months of work in the winter off-season, it now has an extended bar and dining area with more seats (handy as it gets super busy.) Thankfully, however the Peterboat lost none of its public house charm in the revamp. Nor have any of its classic dishes (yes, cockle chowder I’m looking at you) been ditched. In fact, the menu has not been amended, specials aside, for at least a year. No pointless, change-for-change’s-sake here, thank you very much.
On my most recent visit with my husband and parents, we were soon ensconced in a cosy corner. And from the moment we sat down, our waitress Natasha could not have been more attentive – and patient (I think we may have changed our minds with our orders at least three times. Sorry about that.)
To kick things off, I tucked into to a more-than-ample portion of calamari. A classic seafood starter, it’s a simple dish, but oh-so-easy to mess up. Over cook it and it’s like trying to chew your way through a plate of elastic bands. Thankfully, the Peterboat got it spot on, and the batter was crisped to perfection.
The hiatus in the conversation was a sure sign everyone else was enjoying their starters as much as I. The husband’s prawn and crayfish cocktail was again of a more-than-ample size – but it had quality as well as quantity in spades. The garlic aioli with my mum’s mushrooms was a nice touch and my dad’s tomato soup ticked all the boxes.
Despite the hefty starters, we were all soon ready for our mains. My dad went for a classic – hand battered cod and chips with mushy peas, my mum and I for lamb kleftico, served with a none-too-small amount of seasonal vegetables.
My husband, meanwhile, got properly stuck into the pub’s signature dish – the Peterboat cockle chowder. And while the rest of our dishes were all you could wish for decent pub grub, it was the chowder that really stood out. Understandably so when you consider it’s not a dish common to anywhere else (in the rest of England, let alone Essex.) It’s a super-thick soup of bacon, smoked haddock, cockles, potato and onion, in a creamy parsley sauce served in, basically, a whole loaf. And it’s not to be missed.
Despite being somewhat stuffed, we all still opted for a dessert. And while the pudding section of the menu looks worryingly small, the specials board is extensive. The cheesecake of the day – raspberry and white chocolate – proved to be a hit with the husband, and not a scrap of the chocolate torte was left by my mum. Dad and I were happily sated by the trio of ice creams.
This pub has survived centuries of change in Leigh and, if it carries on as it is, with quality nosh at decent prices, I can’t see the next century or two posing it any problems at all.
First published in the Echo newspaper