IN a ridiculously short space of time Colchester's Church Street Tavern quickly established itself as one of the town's most popular restaurants.

It was cool, it was classy but most importantly - it was new!

Now more than two years down the line there are other swanky culinary haunts to whet our appetites and yet the Tavern still draws them in.

And that's because they get the basics bang on. Beautiful, effortless decor, great food but perhaps most important of all impeccable friendly service.

I've been to the Church Street Tavern dozens of time just to have a steak, chips and salad all washed down with a glass of good red wine. Simple but brilliant.

But the really super thing about this place is if you want to 'steak' it that's fine but you can also have a little culinary adventure as well.

You can indulge in wood pigeon and may be even freshen your pallet with an array of taste sensations courtesy of the heirloom tomato salad with wasabi mascarpone, pinenuts, basil and shallots.

And then there's the Chickpea Farinata, which if I wasn't in a restaurant I might think was the latest star in a hip New York-based indie movie.

It is in fact a rather extravagant curry-flavoured pancake of sorts.

After an eloquent description by one of the waiting staff my wife couldn't resist giving it a go for her main course and while the sponge-like base covered in hot and sour aubergine, almond, pomegranate and yoghurt wasn't exactly my cup of tea, my wife absolutely loved it.

What made it an extra specially great dish was the waiter's insistence we tried a little half glass of a white wine, which he suggested would bring out the flavours and oh boy did it ever - stupendous!

For my main I went for the wood pigeon, which I would have to say was a pretty hard dish to beat packed with earthy flavours but brilliant matched with the addition of the pickled girolles, polenta, beetroot and walnuts. Sumptuous and satisfying, I couldn't ask for more.

Our starters were equally as good.

My confit chicken, with beans, tiny Jersey royals, sprinkled with pistachio, honey, sesame was so delicious I wished I hadn't already eaten my bread to mop up the lovely sweet juice, while the aforementioned heirloom tomato salad was my wife's choice, and another cracking one too with so many complimentary and interesting flavours.

Fairly packed to the gills already, my wife decided to treat herself with blue cheese, chutney and biscuits plus a cheeky glass of port to go with it and being the gluttonous pig that I am I couldn't resist the chocolate cremeux and coffee meringue, which I must say had a rather off-putting appearance but accompanied by a dollop of luscious cardamom ice cream tasted divine.

So despite being not so new on the block anymore, when it comes to delivering a top notch evening of great food and service that is pretty hard to beat, I'm pleased to say the Church Street Tavern has still got it.


Church Street Tavern

Church Street, Colchester.

01206 564325

What We Ate:

Two courses for £15

Confit Chicken

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Wood Pigeon

Chickpea Farinata

Jansson's Temptation £3

Stichelton blue cheese £2.25

Chocolate Cremeux £5.75

Our Verdict:

Decor 4

Atmosphere 4

Service 5

Food 4

Value 4