IT'S the small place that's big on style - it also just happens to be Colchester's coolest new eaterie that everyone is talking about.

That's Grain, tucked away off North Hill by the back of Williams and Griffin's car park and so understandably very keen to shout about what its concept is all about.

A good ream of column inches has already been written about the owners' crowd funding efforts to get the restaurant up and running as well as its ethos of serving up small plates of food, enabling diners to effectively compile their own tasting menu.

Split into four sections; Garden, Water, Land and Sweet, you could, if you wished, just choose all the dishes in the garden, or you could dip into all four. It's entirely up to you. We went for a more traditional route, in the interests of critical analysis of course, picking a dish from each one.

It might have been all too easy to fall into the kudos trap, living off the initial publicity to get the punters in, but Grain knows its success depends on how good the food is, however small the portion.

And it's good, really good, in fact I would go as far to say it's some of the best food I've ever had.

The grey mullet with its truffle sauce, crispy chicken skin and leeks will live on in my memory for a long time, while the smoked garlic chicken Kiev was simply stunning, crispy on the outside but melt-in-the-mouth delicious as it danced around my tastebuds.

We started with the veggie options, or Garden, with the freshest pea soup you could imagine and a great cave aged Cheddar, red onion and chicory quiche complete with crumbly pastry. Both packed with flavour and also pretty as a picture.

Design is a major theme running through all the dishes looking as good on the plate as they taste inside our tummies.

The fish course consisted of my grey mullet, with the truffle beautifully complimenting the meaty fish, and talking of smartly presented plates of food, there was a rather snazzy king prawn slider nestled inside a little brioche bun.

Land or meat had plenty of choices and I'll be honest I could have picked them all but while my wife relished in choosing the chicken Kiev - it really was amazing - my roast pork was almost as good with its apple, squash and rosemary sauce.

Despite the small dishes, the richness was starting to take hold and our bellies were getting pretty full but having spotted a beer and honey bread pudding, well I wasn't going to let that one go, and an enticing lemon semi fredo (a kind of frozen mousse), we picked a couple of puds to round off our meal.

Sure Grain is very cool but not so cool that you can't have a good, pretty reasonably-priced meal while experiencing the 'small plates'.

This is not nouvelle cuisine as some people might think, this is new wave cuisine - and I like it.



North Hill, Colchester

01206 570005

What We Ate:

Pea soup £5

Cheddar quiche £6

King prawn slider £7.50

Grey mullet £7.50

Chicken kiev £7.50

Roast pork £8

Semi fredo £6

Bread pudding £5

Our Verdict:

Atmosphere 4

Decor 4

Food 5

Service 5

Value 5