Dickens channelled by Alan Sugar and The Only Way is Essex? Only in Chigwell. Attempting to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens, I took Her Indoors to visit the Olde King’s Head in Chigwell, Essex. The 600-year-old pub was the basis for the Maypole Inn in Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge.
Only now something has turned up in the form of Lord Sugar who now owns the boozer. In January the King’s Head was transformed into Sheesh, a Turkish restaurant with TOWIE-style black and white zebraskin carpets, “the largest mirror in Essex”, 'mockodile' tables and floors, countless chandeliers, a red MG sportscar where waiters keep menus in the boot, statues of a Roman on a horse, a minotaur and two white lions, plus a portrait of King Colin the 13th.
At the end of Barnaby Rudge the Gordon rioters trashed the fixtures and fittings of the Maypole Inn — some might say that TOWIE-style has had a similarly dramatic effect. Sheesh even had a modern-day Thomas Steerforth in TOWIE’s Mark Wright sitting in the conservatory.
Though actually the food’s pretty good, and Dickens did like a bit of end-of-pier sensationalism — so maybe he’d have quite liked the zebra carpets, electric gates and not very ‘umble Range Rovers in the car park. What larks, Lord Sugar, what larks!