Even as Essex locals (Essexians? Essexites? Not quite sure what the correct demonym here is) we have to admit that whilst the county has plenty to offer in natural beauty, friendly locals, and reality TV hotspots, there’s just not enough cigar friendly spots, or even a cigar shop across the entire region. You can therefore imagine our surprise when we were invited to The Five Bells pub, in Colne Engaine for an evening of cigars and rum tasting.
Cigar Events manager, Gareth Jones from the Saint Arnold Group of Pubs dropped us a friendly email asking if we’d be interested. Would we ever? The invite promised a Montecristo No.2, one of our favourite vitolas, paired with a selection of five rums from across the world. These rums being St. Lucia 1931 Fifth Edition, Plantation Barbados 2002 15 year, Zuidam Flying Dutchman No.1, Chamarel VSOP, and Ron Abuelo 15 year. The invite also had a passing mention of snacks (hugely underplayed…We’ll get to that later). The Five Bells, and indeed the Saint Arnold Group are completely new to us at Cut The Cap, therefore we were intrigued just as much by what to expect from this relatively unknown (to us) pub group, and their ambitious event.
Admittedly, The Five Bells isn’t a city centre pub, nor is it easily accessible via public transport. Situated in Colne Engaine, the nearest train station is a good 20 minutes by cab, and even that train station requires a change over at Marks Tey from where we’re located. However, whilst not the easiest to access, the location of the pub is simply stunning. In a sleepy Essex village, across the road from the village Church is the unassuming yet large pub, with its beer garden to the side. From the outside, it looks just like any other Essex pub, if not slightly larger than most. There’s ample parking for many cars, although there were just a few when we arrived. Clearly, the patrons know what their doing, leaving their cars behind for a few drinks at the pub. We entered the pub just to get a glimpse of the decor and atmosphere before heading outside again to the marquee for the cigar event. The pub is styled elegantly modern, yet fitting it’s business. All around, tables were clean, and the pub clearly had staff who were on the ball. despite a few punters around the bar, just one was being served. The rest were mingling, drinks in hand. A friendly atmosphere all around, and we’re clearly somewhere frequented by regulars. First impression was great. This is the kind of pub where we could bring the ladies to for Sunday lunch or perhaps a date night. It was casual yet refined enough to suggest it’d be right serving either occasion.
In the heated marquee, we were greeted, and presented with our seats for the evening. Being the only ones late to the party there was only a few seats left and we took our place at the back along with a few other fine gents we’d be sharing the table with. Gareth introduced the cigar to us briefly (which we’re very glad for) and we soon lit our cigars and began introductions amongst ourselves at the table. Darran, the proprietor and chef started us off with the Plantation 2002 rum from Barbados. Being a chef, Darran’s idea of accompanying snacks was not what we were used to. He quickly brought round fish tacos, expertly prepared in a Caribbean lime sauce which was designed to complement the sherry cask-aged rum. A little bonus. we were expecting frozen canapés, as is the norm at these events. Then comes the second rum. and here’s where Darran has astounded us. Freshly prepared Barbadian style fish burgers, with a home made mayonnaise, and sauce served on a brioche bun. Wow! Snacks! Gareth said Snacks! We were not expecting this. Next rum. What does he pair it with? Slow-cooked BBQ Brisket, in a honey & rum glaze. Darran, you little beauty! Our cigar and rum tasting, WITH SNACKS has become an all out masterclass in the culinary arts. Dare we say, this should be a food tasting event, with the cigars and rum as accompaniments, not the other way around. 5 rums in, 5 dishes in, we’re well and truly rummed out, bursting with great food, and Darren brings out the bonus round. A honey infused rum, made from Wray & Nephew rum, rinsed over Darran’s own honeycombs from his bee-keeping (of course he does). Going down far too smoothly, the honey rum was amongst our favourites of them all. The good news is it’ll be available at The Five Bells this Christmas period, but sadly limited to just 2.5 gallons per year. We’re already making arrangements to get down there before the locals get wind of this nectar of the gods.
Interested in joining us at the next Cigar and rum tasting (WITH SNACKS)?
Contact Gareth Jones, and just ask to be put on the mailing list by emailing him at email@example.com. Alternatively, head on over to www.fivebells.net or saintarnold.co.uk to sign up yourself, and find out about the latest events happening in Essex.