Food review: Why you have to visit Grain in Colchester right now
Food editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis experiences some of the best food she’s ever eaten at Grain restaurant in Colchester
I honestly don’t know where to start with this place. We couldn’t find it initially. Google maps took my high-heeled friend and I round the back of Colchester’s fancy new Fenwick store. If we’d been able (and willing) to scale a fence in our finery we probably could have followed the directions given, but after walking around in a circle we eventually found Grain down an unassuming alleyway on North Hill (look out for the A board on the pavement).
It felt like one of those ‘secret’ restaurants you see Adam Richman visiting on Food Network!
All food at Grain is served in starter-sized portions (each priced between £5.50 and £9.50). If, like me, you can never decide what to eat, this is a brilliant concept. The two guys behind Grain (set-up using a Kickstarter fund) recommend you pick three savoury and one sweet course each. It’s a bit like a chef’s taster menu, but you get to choose what you want.
We shared several plates.
To begin, over came a cutesy paper bag of caraway-studded hot brown rolls served with salty home churned butter. Soooo good.
Next up was sweet charred corn, served with plump tomatoes, melting onion, a hot little sauce, and baby baked potatoes oozing with herby butter.
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A further plate of tender Ardleigh asparagus with tangy lemon dressing and thick Romesco sauce, and of properly made spinach risotto with tangs of blue cheese, demonstrated that the chefs are at home cooking vegetarian food and are very, very good at it. Every single morsel we tried (and there were several elements to each plate) tasted simply divine.
Next to the table was flaky, juicy smoked haddock with charred broccoli, salty capers and cubes of potato.
And then crispy skinned, soft chicken covered with salty ham, and peas run through with just enough fresh mint to give life to the dish without it tasting of toothpaste!
As if things couldn’t get any better, we then found ourselves swooning over tender, shredded confit duck, speckled with herbs and a touch of orange zest, and topped with a thick date and miso puree. Served with carrot puree and fried carrot, it was an exquisite piece of cooking.
Our final savoury plate was wibbly pink rump of lamb, sat atop a smoked, creamy aubergine puree with a mouth-watering salsa, crunchy galette of potatoes and roasted slice of aubergine. With a hum of wild garlic, and piquancy from the salsa, this was another riot for the tastebuds.
To finish there was a tart, creamy deconstructed cheesecake, and crumbled beer cake (yeasty and malty) with caramelised banana and moreish malt ice cream.
A salted peanut parfait with popcorn and dark chocolate ganache was like a Snickers on steroids.
But the standout here was fresh pineapple, served with wafers, a melt-in-the-mouth white chocolate panna cotta, caramelised white chocolate, lemon curd and dill oil. I’d never think to put dill with pineapple – it sounded far out there - but boy did it work.
Every plate, every morsel, every mouthful at Grain was thoughtful, made with love and care, seasoned and flavoured to perfection, and presented like a piece of art.
It is one of the best meals I have eaten – ever So make a booking and try it out now before the guys get head hunted by the big shots!
We visited on a Tuesday so it wasn’t particularly busy. But a few tables came and went as we ate, giving a pleasant buzz to the place.
Décor isn’t fancy and refreshingly, isn’t trying too hard to be hip. There are rattan chairs, scrubbed tables, solid slate and wooden boards. It’s kinda rustic.
Music is chilled. And we had a view into the open kitchen which was very quiet. The chefs seemed to have a good patter and looked seriously organised (nothing like my kitchen at home at all!).
We shared a bottle of still water and tried out a couple of cocktails from the short list. The Old Fashioned wasn’t too strong and had been made with top shelf rum. But my lemon thyme Tom Collins was better – having a herbal, fruity undercurrent that was really refreshing alongside the food.
There were some interesting craft beers and ciders. And the wine list looked good – if a bit pricey.
We finished with cappuccinos. The ideal temperature, plenty of thick froth. And a nutty, biscuity, rich smooth coffee. Excellent.
Service flowed well. Our waiter knew the menu well. And there was a good amount of time between each flight of dishes. We didn’t feel like we waited too long for anything.
The cost for two with cocktails, bottled water, two coffees, eight savoury dishes and four puddings was £99. Obviously we were trying more dishes for research purposes, but the average cost for the recommended three savoury and one sweet dish, would be about £26. We both thought, for the quality of the ingredients and food served, this was more than reasonable.
Clean and fresh but nothing special.
We parked at St Mary’s multi storey car park which was only £2 for the evening.
Ooh I don’t know. The lamb was pretty special. And the pineapple and peanut desserts were beyond good.
If you love your food, I cannot recommend Grain more highly. The concept is refreshing and ideal for foodies who can’t make their mind up and want to sample a few different bits and bobs. It really is one to watch.
Read more about Grain here.
Have you read our review of The Brandeston Queen?