Thursday, 26 February 2009

My Fave local eatery, Irma's - Leigh-on-Sea

Irma's is a truly great local restaurant, in fact it's my favourite.....imagine a Pizza Express, (In my opinion, as far as chains go, Pizza Express is fantastic.) but completely Independent of corporate shenanigans.....that's Irma's.

I've eaten in there countless times, and each time the food has been great. The menu consists of all things Italian, but it's the pizza in the thin Rome style that's the main draw.
And some draw it is. Irma's is consistently packed. I drive past it often and it's always busy, and that's a great indicator of how good the place is.

In fact, I've eaten there so often, I've settled on my favourite menu selection and nowadays order the same pizza again and again.
"Salsicce" - which consists of the standard tomato base, Mozzarella, sliced Italian Luganega sausage, Red Peppers, Fennel Seeds and Basil. Gorgeous.
(On a related note, you can purchase Luganega Sausage from Gazzano and Sons in the Farringdon Road, London.) but I digress....

For dessert, again - I always opt for the same....homemade ice-cream in a shot glass, Amaretto flavour at the almost obscenely cheap price of £1.50.....yes that's right £1.50!!
When was the last time you ordered anything in a restaurant for that price?!!!
It's lovely stuff. I can also heartily recommend the raspberry and white chocolate ice-cream.

So that's Irma's, consistently great Italian food, nice buzzing atmosphere and really reasonable prices.
But there's more.....

If you fancy moving on for perhaps a bit of drinking after your meal - exit Irma's - turn left in the corridor away from the main entrance- and you'll come to an unmarked door with a voice entry system, buzz and politely ask to be allowed entry and unless it's packed out, your in a massive group of rowdy blokes, or you just look like trouble, you'll be given access to the BlackCat Bar.

Now this is a real eye opener, I haven't seen the like outside London.

It's a Milk and Honey'esque private drinking - cocktail lounge, it doesn't advertise and there are strict rules regarding behaviour.....all of which basically boil down to - 'have a really good time, but don't get rowdy or act like a twat.
There are two bars, and the punters are seated in leather booths. There's a private area out the back which can be reserved for larger groups and it's furnished with it's own small bar, and poker tables if your group is in the mood for gambling.

Everyone drinks cocktails, and Simon and his staff know their stuff. Order anything you like, ignore the drinks menu entirely , any cocktail you can think of and they'll make it. To be able to order 'off menu' is more unusual than you think, I'm partial to a Gin Ricky or a Vespa Martini (If I'm feeling particularly alcoholic) and, I've ordered....... and then been asked to explain how to make these drinks by barmen in countless cocktail bars. (Suprisingly, including the excellent Hawksmoor bar, in the case of a Gin Ricky!)

The great atmosphere, the lack of windows, the low lighting the excellent drinks - it's easy to imagine your in some cool hidden bar located in London or Manhattan - but amazingly it's Essex!

So next time your in Leigh-on-sea for the evening, and feel a bit adventurous, book a table at Irma's and book a booth for afterwards in Blackcat - and get rotten drunk......but in a friendly polite way.


9 Elm Rd,

01702 719400


The Ample Cook said...

My husband and I have always wondered about that bar Dan! Really interesting to read that. We've often said we should try Irma's too. Thanks for a really useful post.

Alex said...

Wow! £1.50 for dessert! What a bargain...

And I'm loving the look of that bar... sounds incredibly illicit and glamourous and yes, totally un-Essex (I can say that, I'm an Essex Girl lol!)

Jula Carnell said...

We were going to go to the boat yard on saturday evening then head on over to black cat, but now based on your recommendation we are now going to visit this restaurant. Thanks for this, nice blogspot, Julia

Dan said...

Jula, Thanks. Let me know what you thought of it. The Boatyards nice, but Irmas is nice as well - and cheap.....and then you have the adjoining Black Cat as well.

Jula Carnell said...

Well I absolutely had a great time. Food was excellent. Was slightly disappointed that the food in Irmas was only pizza and pasta, but the quality was good and we had a wonderful time. Oooo Black Cat, I absolutely loved. I felt like I should have been dressed up in charleston attire and a long cigarette poking out my mouth. Nice , and will go back again definitely. Have already made arrangements with my best mate to take her for her bday. Thanks for that. Am now following your blog. You got some cool stuff on here. All the best x

Dan said...

Jula, glad to hear you enjoyed it. Despite the menu only covering Pizza and Pasta I really enjoy eating in Irmas - its cheap, the food and service are good and there's always a very casual buzzing atmosphere.

Glad to hear you enjoyed BlackCat as well, I haven't seen the like outside of London - it's almost certainly unique in Essex.

Thanks for the kind comments about my blog!

Anonymous said...

Does anybody have the telephone number for The Black cat, I would like to book a booth?


Dan said...

Hi Russ,

It's 01702 713535 although I understand from when I visited over the BH Weekend, that they are having a bit of a re-arrangement of the interior very soon, and the booths may be going. But, if you give them a ring I'm sure they'll let you know if this is still the case.

Anonymous said...

The booths in The Black Cat have gone and its now all stools. Seats the same amount of people, but has lost that 'je ne sais quoi' (not sure if that ios spelt right) that it previously had. Simon, the owner, says it was done to vreate extra seating in Irmas as it is always so busy. It does has a large group of loyal regulars now (myself included) so I dont think it will be a problem...

Dan said...

Annonymous - thanks for the heads up, I'd heard this was happening the last time I visited, but haven't been in since the change. Sad to hear it's damaged the ambience somewhat, I'll have to pop in and see what's changed myself.

Anonymous said...

Irmas is nice, but yet to go into Black Cats

I was wondering have you been to any other restaurants in Leigh that have a nice range of cocktails too?

Dan said...

Hi Cocktail bars in Leigh- There's shedloads of good bars, but none that I can think of that serve cocktails.

katie said...


I know this is an old post but me and a group of mates are looking at going to Black cats for a friends birthday end July, i am searching the net but cannot find a website. Anyone know if there is one?

Dan said...

Katie - There isn't a website for The Black Cat Bar or Irma's.