acanteen (Chelmsford)

Looking fly.

Looking fly.

How we brunched

As I may have mentioned before, we’re not actually the trendy Londoners this blog makes us out to be. We live in Chelmsford, Essex. In Essex, no one is putting confit duck legs on waffles, no one’s whipping up a horseradish cream, no one’s ordering a flat white. In Essex, brunch options are limited, and we do the best we can.

That said, Chelmsford should be proud of Acanteen. A ten minute walk from our house, it serves breakfast all day. The blackboard menu covers all your standard brunch bases, there are seats out on the pavement like a proper European city café, and inside you order from a counter stacked high with freshly baked cakes and buns. And the biggest advantage, for me, is that you’re avoiding London prices. Most dishes fall in the range of £4 – 7, so you can get a drink as well and still only pay a tenner.

It was Amy’s birthday, and so obviously she deserved brunch. It was a Friday, but I had the day off work, and it felt good to be strolling through the park on a sunny weekday morning. I ordered a real classic – smoked salmon and scrambled eggs – and one of their juices, though I can’t really remember which now. Possibly the Detox one.

The food isn’t going to knock you sideways, but it will cure your hangover. The scrambled eggs weren’t creamy and rich, as I like them – they were a bit overcooked, with that “caught on the pan” texture, which I do know that some people love. The salmon was good quality, and the toast was toast – that’s as expected, really. The juices aren’t particularly well-balanced (the ones with orange in taste of orange and nothing else).

I watch too much Great British Menu to brunch in Chelmsford. And I can make a better scrambled egg myself. But when it comes to convenience, atmosphere, and cost, acanteen earns my respect. It has a lot of London restaurants pegged.

– Hattie

I love my birthday. I just never get tired of demanding people’s love and attention, you know?

Having said that, this year I was devastated to see the final days of being 22 slip away. What if 23 meant no longer being happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time? Harrowing. 

The only thing to do was to take the day off work, put on my cutest dungarees, and spend the entire day eating incredible food. This included the best steak in London at Hawksmoor, which easily lived up to its reputation, but before that, Hattie and I went to acanteen.

I love Chelmsford a lot, but as it is essentially just a soulless commuter city, your dining options are pretty limited to the same chain restaurants you can find on every other high street in the UK. acanteen, however, is the exception.

I ordered the chorizo and scrambled egg toasted bagel, and I liked it a lot. You get a lot of food for £6.95, and there were big, generous chunks of chorizo. The scrambled egg could have been improved, as Hattie pointed out, but the bagel was good and I didn’t find too much to complain about. 

Seeing as it was my birthday, I also ordered a decadent chocolate milkshake with lots of whipped cream, which was nice and thick, and lasted me most of the walk home. (Although I realised after ordering that I could have been much more creative with my choice; they have oreo, malteser, chai, and toffee options that I want to go back and try, as well as banoffi [sic] and raspberry for the fruit lovers out there. Also vanilla if you fancy something simpler).

But the best thing by far is the atmosphere. There’s lots of light, big wooden tables, and a quirky back wall which is covered with stream-of-consciousness style stories about the staff (or at least, I assume the people described are the acanteen staff).

If you ever find yourself in Chelmsford looking for all-day breakfast food or an unusual smoothie, acanteen is probably your best bet. There are also rumours that they will be opening a proper restaurant just down the road soon, so fellow Chelmsford dwellers, we’ve got something to look forward to.

And if anyone asks, I’m still 22 really.

– Amy

Smoked salmon at the back, chorizo up front

Smoked salmon at the back, chorizo up front

See that wall of words?

Cool wall of words, huh?

Bye bye blackboard

Bye bye blackboard

Super Technical Brunch Scoring System:

– Eatability

2.5/5 – Yeah, I didn’t really rate the food.

3/5 – I got on better than Hattie, but I’ve still had better. 

Menu Range

4/5 – They do everything with eggs you could really want.

4.5/5 – And not just eggs – also yoghurt, fry ups, breakfast muffins, even porridge

– Drinks

4/5 – Smoothies, milkshakes, coffees and teas – no brunch booze though.

4/5 – Big fan of the milkshake options. 

– Sweets

4/5 – We didn’t try them, but I want to – they looked fab.

4/5 – Lots of choice, and I’ve only ever heard good things.

– Atmosphere

4.5/5 – I think this is where acanteen really shines.

5/5 – Maybe it was just the birthday glow but I found it really, really charming.

– Value

4/5 – Again, great value.

4.5/5 – Far, far more palatable than London prices.

– Service

3/5 – There is no table service, as you order from the bar, but everyone’s friendly enough.

3/5 – Nothing to complain about, nothing to write home about.

– Social Media

3/5 – They have twitter but it’s not particularly interactive.

3/5 – They also have Tumblr, but it seems pretty sporadic.

Total points: 60

Bonus categories:

Fun décor: 4/5

Not being a chain, despite being in the most chain-y restaurant in the UK: 5/5

STBSS: 69

acanteen finished plates

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