THE OYSTER SMACK INN, BURNHAM-ON-CROUCH, ESSEX
WHAT’S THE SCOOP? Historic Burnham-on-Crouch, on the Dengie Peninsula, is famed for its annual regatta. The quirky quayside town is peppered with pubs but The Oyster Smack Inn is one of the best. The tavern has been a local landmark since the 1800s but in the last few years, it has been transformed into a stylish gastropub. And not only can you eat here, but you can stay over, too.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? They certainly are. There’s an extra charge of £10 per night for visiting dogs and they are very welcome to join you for drinks or a meal in the bar. No provisions are provided for pets, however, so be sure to bring your own food, bowls and bedding.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Retreat to one of the ten en-suite rooms – half of which are above the pub and half of which are outdoor “chalets”. Ours, Room 2, was one of the latter, tucked away behind the pub where you can park right outside.
Three types of rooms are available – Classic, Deluxe and Superior. Ours fell into the mid-range Deluxe category but it was more than big enough for two, plus a dog. It had a super king size bed and immaculate wooden flooring, complemented by Shaker-style furniture and some lovely photographs of Burnham. There was also a large flatscreen TV and tea and coffee-making facilities, not to mention lovely biscuits and toiletries.
We were very impressed with the modern bathroom too, which came complete with a rainforest shower. In fact, everything about the room looked and felt brand new and for what we paid, it was a real bargain. We were never in any danger of losing our room key either, as it was attached to a huge cork!
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? As you would expect from a gastropub, it’s delicious. The food is fresh and seasonal and there are a whole range of menus to choose from, including a separate vegan one. Many of the dishes are also locally-sourced, such as the Burnham Pork Belly (£14.95) and Steak and Maldon Ale Pie (£13.95).
For starters, I can particularly recommend the Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella Arancini (£6.95), while the burgers are great (from £11.95) and the cheeseboard (£8.95) makes for a knockout dessert – if you still have room, that is! The Oyster Smack Inn is also renowned for its Sunday lunches and holds regular evenings where you can bring your own wine to help keep costs down.
ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but you’re sure to encounter some other canine visitors who have popped in for a pint or a bite to eat with their owners.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Riverside Park is just across the road from the pub and is a great place to let off some steam. This large open space leads up to the River Crouch and a stroll along the quayside, past houseboats, pubs and quirky cafes, is lovely at any time of year. Often, you’ll have it all to yourself.
From Easter until the end of September, you can take the Burnham Ferry over to Wallasea Island – an RSPB reserve that is home to newly-created saltmarsh, mudflats and lagoons. Dogs on leads are welcome to explore and as well as the rich variety of birdlife here, it’s not unusual to spot a seal or two. The ferry is an “on-demand” service that runs six days a week – adult fares are £4, while it’s £2 for dogs.
For a longer walk, head for the sea wall, which hugs the marshland that surrounds Burnham. The 75-mile Saltmarsh Coast Trail allows you to see rural Essex at its best but for a good leg-stretch, go out past the Rice & Cole boatyard and just keep going until you’ve had enough – you can walk for miles in either direction.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: Having a park just across the road, the fuss from staff, meeting other dogs in the bar area
WHAT I LOVED: The enormous comfy bed, the delicious food, being away from the hustle and bustle of the main pub building
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Rooms at The Oyster Smack Inn start from £60. If you book direct, you can enjoy a free continental breakfast, which otherwise costs £4.95 per person. Cooked breakfasts are only available at weekends and will set you back extra. For more information or to book, call 01621 782141 or visit the official website.