SW Essex Pub Quest: The Beehive in Basildon

It occurred to me that my long-held belief about lack of pubs in South-West Essex stemmed from a peculiar understanding of what a pub is. What I had in mind was a place that is local and quaint, has unique character and is a bit out of the beaten track. None of the pubs we visited so far had this feel, vindicating in some sense my earlier conviction. Today’s feature, The Beehive in central Basildon, definitely does not alter this conclusion.

There are two pubs next to the former site of Basildon Market: The Beehive and Moon On The Square (a Weatherspoons). I know the latter well, having visited it many times for drinks and food after choral concerts in the nearby St. Martin’s church, and will probably describe it in a future installment of this series. Being part of the Colors nightclub, closer to the road and the railway station, Beehive always appeared more seedy, addressed to younger and noisier crowd. This lunchtime we went to finally pay a visit.

Inside it is a fairly standard bar, with a raised seating area on one side, and prominently and centrally displayed slot machines, or whatever these gambling devices are called. The bar, apart from the obligatory row of Carlings, Fosters and Stellas, sports two ales, and – surprise, surprise! – neither of them is Greene King. We have London Pride and Spitfire; the former well-known and quite decent, the latter rather unpleasant, with notes of Master Brew and barley wine – even though it’s just 4.2%. There were no interesting bottled beers in sight.

The food menu did not offer an abundance of interesting options. We have staples such as burgers, pies or fish and chips, but not much in terms of low-processed food. There are a few vegan dishes, but our attempt to order a veggie bake caused a general confusion, as it turned out noone has ever ordered this before, and they don’t make it; perhaps there is some causal relationship between the two. We ended up with two curries, a vegan one and a chicken tikka masala. They were served without undue delay, and I am pleased to report that chicken tikka was quite eadible. The papadum seemed a bit superfluous, without any chutney or dip, and the rice was long grain rather than basmati, but otherwise not much to complain about. I was less impressed by the veggie one, which, understandably, came without naan bread, but instead with mexican-style rice that felt out of place. That said, for £8.22 per person, including a pint of ale each, it was pretty decent.

So, is The Beehive a good lunchtime option in central Basildon? I’m afraid it isn’t, and not so much down to its own flaws, but because of its neighbour. Beehive is cheap, the food is so-so, but not disgusting, there is one passable ale – but next door we have a Weatherspoons with a wide selection of very reasonably priced beers, food that offers great value for money and includes an entire menu dedicated to veggie dishes. I’ll have more to say on the subject of Weatherspoons in general some other time, but suffice to say it’s hard to compete with them on cheap food and beers. It’s good there is a choice, though.

Starting from this installment, we will include ratings given by Z. The Z-score is assigned in eight categories on the scale from zero to four stars, with two representing an average experience, zero truly awful, and four exceptional. Here is how the Beehive fared:

Availability of vegan food
Food quality
Service ★★
Cheapness ★★★★