REVIEW: Grain in Colchester
PUBLISHED: 12:53 26 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:53 26 February 2020
Stephanie Mackentyre visits Grain, a restaurant in Colchester’s town centre renowned for its contemporary global small plates
It's the New Year and after all the recent indulgences this month, perhaps a meal where less is more could be what you're searching for.
Grain in Colchester was begun by two enterprising young chefs and 167 Kick Starter backers. Paul Wendholt and Jordan 'Sid' Sidwell have gone from strength to strength offering a 'small plate' dining experience.
With three plates (starter sized) for £18 and four plates for just £21, it's ideal for those who perhaps struggle to decide between dishes when you go out to eat. Or maybe you just don't want to eat one large main course and instead prefer the option of smaller plates with no less flavour.
The waitress kindly explained how the restaurant worked and how to order before we checked out the menu. The restaurant was almost full on the Friday lunchtime we visited, so thankfully I'd booked in advance.
With a glass of local New Hall Vineyard 2018 Bacchus in hand, which was seriously good, I began to choose my three savoury dishes. As well as wine from the UK there are wines from Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Spain, plus a selection of 10 craft beers including a non-alcoholic version.
Each of the dishes on the menu change regularly and are featured on a simple clipboard at your table. I decided on king oyster mushroom stroganoff with pepper, lemon and parsley, a second plate of smoked haddock, swede, pickled mouli and leek, and then my third was roast guinea fowl.
If I had to pick a favourite plate this would be it. With turnip, sprouts and bacon, it was packed with so much flavour all on one small plate - such wizardry!
My guest chose crab, kohlrabi, fennel and herb crust, then his second plate was slow-cooked pork cheek, mash with a cider mustard cream and finally a cheese course (yes, you can have cheese before you go to your dessert if you wish) - stilton, mushroom brioche, damson chutney and pickled walnuts.
With a choice of four equally delicious-sounding desserts, my guest settled for toffee cake served with a granny smith sorbet and walnut, while I opted for the lemon posset.
It was served with blueberry, almond, winter berry and meringue which, as with the presentation of each of our savoury plates, was exceptionally pretty and a masterful mix of well-balanced flavours.
With two ambitious chefs at the helm, it was no surprise when back in 2017 the restaurant was a finalist in the Best Newcomer Category of the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards.
Since then chef/owner Paul Wendholt has gone on to win Chef of the Year in both 2017 and 2019.
They clearly already have a loyal following, but check them out to join the revolution.
If you've not visited Grain before, be aware the restaurant is rather tucked away, to the side of the multi-storey NCP car park in Nunn's Road.
Petit fours & Against
To be applauded: The presentation is outstanding. Each dish was as pretty as a picture.
Could do more with: The exterior of the restaurant doesn't do justice to what lies within and you really have to know where you're looking in order to find this hidden gem.
Worthy of note: An open galley kitchen is a great focal point and provides some excellent food theatre as part of the experience.
Who would enjoy this place? Anyone who loves enjoying a variety of flavours and different dishes.
I wish I'd also tried: Roasted cauliflower, comte croqueta with chestnut and chive.
Worth returning for: Cured tuna, ponzu, ginger, avocado served with yoghurt and chicory.
Useful to know
The bill was £52 for four plates each plus drinks. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by the food and wine editor. The restaurant wasn't told it was being reviewed.
Book a table
Grain, 11a North Hill, Colchester, CO1 1DZ