Dining out at... Church Street Tavern in Colchester

An elegant eatery in the heart of Colchester serving up seasonal, local dishes

I know Colchester well, as it’s the town I spent my late-teenage years in, bar and pub-hopping! That was long before Church Street Tavern appeared, but it has been on my list of restaurants to visit pretty much since it opened in 2014. With its 2 AA Rosettes and the reputation of its sister restaurants, the gorgeous Sun Inn in Dedham and the recently refurbished White Hart Inn in West Mersea, I have been confident that it would deliver deliciousness for a while.

Finally, here we were, standing outside Church Street Tavern enjoying the novelty of the spring evening sunshine and admiring the attractive 18th-century townhouse. Such a good-looking building put to use as a cool, multi-functional venue in the heart of the city.

Great British Life: Church Street Tavern, Colchester. Photo: Cliqq StudiosChurch Street Tavern, Colchester. Photo: Cliqq Studios

We entered the bar and lounge area on the ground floor, with its deep, comfy-looking armchairs and sofas – a welcoming, casual space with plenty of charm. We headed up the old staircase and through to the restaurant on the first floor.

The vibe is eclectic, with colourful furniture and groovy local art adorning the walls. It was a little quiet, but not unusually so for an early Wednesday evening. A waitress warmly welcomed us to our table and explained the menu, she also presented the gluten-free menu for my guest.

Being in Colchester, it seemed silly not to enjoy the Mersea rock oysters, so I ordered three along with a beautiful glass of local Bacchus, from Thorrington Mill Vineyard just outside the city. Some warm, homemade focaccia soon arrived with a sun-dried tomato tapenade, alongside some olives for my gluten-free dining partner; it was a lovely touch and a nice way to kick things off.

Great British Life: Fine cocktails in the city. Photo: Cliqq StudiosFine cocktails in the city. Photo: Cliqq Studios

When my perfectly shucked rock oysters arrived on ice, I slathered them with lemon and shallot vinegar. Each oyster was rich, salty and exceedingly fresh.

My main dish was the local rare-breed beef skirt, and I chose the sumptuous chimichurri sauce to accompany it. Also on the plate was a triumphant grilled little gem lettuce, which came topped with garlic pesto and some punchy roast-onion aioli – perfect for dipping chips! The trimmings were so good they were my favourite part of the meal. It was a fantastic dish that I will long to eat again. My friend was also making appreciative sounds whilst eating her halibut, pea mousse and saffron potatoes.

Great British Life: The first-floor restaurant. Photo: Cliqq StudiosThe first-floor restaurant. Photo: Cliqq Studios

Pudding was an intense and delicious chocolate nemesis – a sort of mousse-souffle-cake hybrid. It was made with Tosier chocolate from nearby Ipswich and served with some cheeky miso ice cream for a salty, umami kick.

The waitress made the most of the quieter evening by giving us service that was polite, courteous, knowledgeable and attentive. What more could we ask for?

Church Street Tavern’s commitment to seasonal and local produce is impressive, and it has to be celebrated. If you are looking for brunch, lunch, dinner, fine wine, coffee, local craft beers, cocktails, happy hours or roast dinners, then they have you covered!

churchstreettavern.co.uk | 01206 564 325