A CUP of tea and a slice of history is on offer at a new cafe opening in Colchester.

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ornamental Roman arcade under the floor of the property in Colchester High Street.

And the owners, the Flying Trade group, are installing three glass panels into the cafe's floor so the centuries-old foundations can remain visible to the public while being protected.

The new cafe is opposite Colchester Castle and stands on the site of an unique monumental arcade which was south of the Temple of Claudius.

The arcade formed the front of the precinct in which the temple, the largest classical-style temple known in Britain, stood.

Philip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, said the temple, arcade and monumental arch were part of a grand architectural scheme designed make an extravagant statement about the power and authority of Rome.

He welcomed the decision to keep them visible.

Mr Crummy said: "The remains of the monumental arcade are extremely unusual.

"The arcade would have been made up of a series of arches, maybe 24 of them, and would have been about 100 metres long and eight metres high.

"The Temple of Claudius had no equal in Britain.

"The arcade goes with that. It is a really interesting structure."

Mr Crummy said the foundations of the arcade had been unearthed during excavations carried out in the 1950s and 1960s but had been re-covered both times.

He said: "I think it is great the public will be able to see the foundations. That is what Colchester needs.

"It needs more physical evidence of the fact it is a Roman town."

He added: "The novelty value alone of this project is bound to bring success.

"Witness Firstsite. One of the most enduring memories which visitors to that building will take away with them will be the Roman mosaic under the glass floor.

"And this is despite the fact that Firstsite is an art gallery, not a museum.

"The same is likely to be true here. Hopefully this unique project will not only benefit the restaurant commercially but it will also help broaden and deepen the tourism portfolio which Colchester has on offer and must substantially improve if tourism is to become a major economic force for the town.

"The remains under 97 High Street may not be pretty.

"After all, it's only a foundation and stumps of wall, but what we have here is the real thing, genuine Roman ruins, and they can bring atmosphere and a sense of great antiquity to the place."