If Wilmington was where I laid my hat of an evening then there is no doubt I would be happy for the Horse and Groom to be my local.

This is an especially pleasant pub-turned-restaurant that had its band of regulars chirping away merrily at the bar and diners out for a good feed sitting contentedly in the tasteful extension.

The décor had a refined, country feel to it. There were colourful tiles in the bar area, where a slumbering dog added to the relaxed atmosphere, as well as an impressive bar and comfy-looking seating.

It was brightened by a few flowers and, unusually for a boozer, seemed to me to even have a floral scent.

A combination of vintage style lighting and candles gave the place a nice atmosphere alongside the sounds of convivial chatter and laughter.

Over in the dining area, it was clear this is a place where people come for something a little bit special. There were grown-up families enjoying a nice dinner, a girls night out and a 40th birthday party (not much of guess, they brought with them two massive silver balloons – a ‘4’ and a ‘0’).

Pastel blue walls were broken by solid wood beams and pictures of country pursuits while tables were slightly mismatched country-style heavy oak.

Separating the bar from the dining was a wall of wine bottles on one side and a waitress station/till with a fancy coffee machine, making the two halves distinct.

When it came to the food, perhaps the aspiration did not quite match up to the execution. The menu boasts items such as jerk glazed ham hock with plantain chips while even my sausage and mash had a long description which implied a Masterchef-style dish bursting with flavour.

Certainly it was massive and the food was well presented (I saw all manner of glass plates, moules marnier pots, chopping boards and wooden blocks emerging from the kitchen) but it did not live up to its hype. It was good, you understand, just not the kind of meal to make Gregg Wallace faint.

Outside, the weather was beginning to feel autumnal and it’s a pity really because the generous space out back was attractively set up with tables and classy-looking garden furniture.

The Horse and Groom, Leyton Cross Road, Wilmington.

How it rated:
Décor **** Handsome

Atmosphere **** Friendly but refined

Staff **** Attentive

Food *** Good

Drink **** Nice selection

Price ** Not cheap

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