Sheesh, Ye Olde King’s Head, High Road, Chigwell, Essex

It's hard to convey the giggly astonishment that sweeps over you when you walk into Lord Sugar's Essex gastropub. Despite its arch name, the pub is authentically old – starting life in 1547, it's one of ye oldeste pubbes in Englande, and was the original of the Maypole Inn in Dickens's Barnaby Rudge – and is a huge, mock-Tudor-monochrome barn of considerable beauty, overlooking Chigwell School.

Walk through the side gates, though, and you're in Weirdsville, Arizona. The first thing you see is a bloody great equestrian statue. The rider's face, under a Saracen helmet, looks like His Lordship on a battlefield, about to fire somebody. Inside the doors of Sheesh, the black-and-white Tudor theme is given a mad modern interpretation: everything is black, white, black'n'white, zebra-striped, pedestrian-crossing-striped. The only colour relief is the golden cutlery. No really, gold cutlery.

You walk around in a daze, checking out the Leather Lounge, where the chairs are black mock-crocodile and the black-tile floor is buffed to such a shine, you can glimpse ladies' undergarments in them. In the main dining hall that was once the pub's dancehall, the waiter pointed out "the biggest mirror in Essex".

Because you've seen The Only Way is Essex, a guilt-making voice in your head tells you that anything slightly brash in design or vulgar in dress around here is "typically Essex". I fought against it but, inside five minutes, I'd clocked the bottle-blonde in the plunging black cocktail frock and shades, with her boyfriend in his powder-pink T-shirt and shorts. Were they heading for a cocktail party (at 2pm), a beach or a hot tub?

Sheesh used to be a kebab joint at the top of Queen's Road, Buckhurst Hill. Alan Sugar financed its move to the grander Chigwell High Road. "This area, between Chigwell, Buckhurst Hill and Loughton, is called the Golden Triangle," a local resident told me. "Because more properties change hands for cash around here than anywhere else in London." It's not all footballers and retired criminals, however – Lord Sugar himself lives barely 150 yards down the road. Why he elected to install a Turkish restaurant inside a dream of Tudor elegance I've no idea. Maybe he thought fine dining a bit pretentious for Chigwell. But while I went in assuming that the joy of people watching would compensate for the food, I was pleasantly surprised.

The menu is over-familiar, starting with dips, salads and squid, proceeding with grilled lamb, fish and chicken, finishing with baklava and yogurt. But at every point in the meal I was startled by how un-boringly every dish was prepared and presented.

We began with the dips; they came in long black dishes (did I mention all the crockery's black, too?) with the most delicious hot flatbread I've tasted outside Istanbul. Tarama was as light and pink as an angel's powder-puff, hummus was fabulously garlicky, cacik a creamily white cucumber dream. Two aubergine dips seemed over-generous, aubergine-wise, but a salad of chopped tomato, onions and herbs was marvellously clean-tasting. A stand-alone starter of squid, pan-fried with white wine, tomato and basil, was pronounced delicious, the squid so tender it was "like eating pasta".

On the black table, five large main courses on black plates were simultaneously plonked. A spindrift of chopped parsley lay on the outer rim of each like green snow. Such drama! Valerie's sea bass – a thuggish monster whose baleful eye regarded us with loathing – was simply grilled with salt, a squeeze of lemon and a long, seared chilli. Eating it, she said, was "like eating in the open air – I can taste the sea". Robin's grilled lamb chops were "exactly what you'd expect in a Turkish restaurant," though he meant "a Turkish restaurant in Turkey" rather than in Chigwell. Its accompaniment of spinach with nutmeg drew loud huzzahs. Angie's Tavuk Sis meant marinated cubes of chicken breast, wondrously tender, plump and juicy, wrapped in thin Turkish bread that resembled an Outpatients bandage. Albert's fillet steak was fine (as it damn well should have been at £24) but whoever made the sauce should have thought twice before serving uncooked, indeed raw, peppercorns. I ordered a kleftiko from the Specials list, and found it a ludicrously British version of the Greek staple, with potatoes instead of rice; but the lamb was falling-off-the-bone tender.

The puddings in Sheesh lacked authenticity (cheesecake? Spotted dick? Sticky date and toffee pudding?) but the baklava was a dense treat of honey and pistachio, and the yogurt with berries was an explosion of strawberries and redcurrants. At the end of this most peculiar banquet, everyone confessed, a little sheepishly, that the food had been far better than they'd expected on walking in. And also, that they wouldn't have missed this flamboyant display of Essex style for all the slingbacks in Basildon.

Sheesh, Ye Olde King's Head, High Road, Chigwell, Essex (020-8559 1155)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 2 stars
Service 3 stars

About £90 for two with drinks

Tipping policy: "No service charge; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Joy of Essex

The Bell Inn

Try the thyme-marinated lamb chump with chorizo and puy lentils at this 15th-century coaching inn.

High Road, Horndon-On-The-Hill, Essex (01375 642463)

Mistley Thorn

The seafood-themed menu at this waterside hotel offers dishes such as grilled Harwich skate with caramelised garlic (£12.50).

High Street, Mistley, (01206 392 821)

The Old Crown

The food here is locally sourced, traditional pub grub – try the Old Spot belly of pork with bubble and squeak and black pudding.

Lodge Road, Messing, Colchester (01621 815575)

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam