Restaurant review: Juniper Restaurant, Clarice House Day Spa, Colchester

Stephanie Mackentyre reports on the relaxed atmosphere with views of the parkland gardens at Juniper Restaurant in Colchester

AS I sat down to dine I tried to not feel jealous of the other guests relaxed, glowing personas as they beamed an inner refreshment, writes Stephanie Mackentyre. Instead I turned my attention to the superb views of the parkland gardens from the floor to ceiling Georgian-style windows as I pondered the lunchtime menu.

The head chef at Clarice House’s Juniper Restaurant in Colchester is Paul Boorman, who’s won Chef of the Year in Essex for the past three years and earned his restaurant an AA rosette for the past two years. He was also a finalist for Restaurant of the Year so I was keen to see if his cuisine would cut the mustard for me too. As I enjoyed the grandiose surroundings, I expected to spot a celebrity or two popping in for some rest and rejuvenation. The lounge has a Colonial feel to it with high ceilings, cream walls, wicker chairs and a stunning conservatory leading off from it. The waiting staff were smartly turned out, head to toe in black uniform, although the service was a little too laggardly for my liking, however I imagine they’re not used to serving a harassed, deadline chaser.

The menu had plenty of choice, with starters from just �4. Oxford Blue Welsh rarebit with a grape chutney sounded good, but I leaned towards the slow-poached breast of wood pigeon with compressed pear and pickled onions in a black truffle sauce. There is a light bites menu from noon until 8pm and for those who fancy something more substantial at lunchtime there’s a good range of tasty dishes. I was intrigued by the vodka battered cod and chips with pease pudding yet it was the fillet of skate with chorizo that particularly caught my eye. It was served chargrilled with salsify (a little like white asparagus with more bite), salsa verde, mushrooms and tomatoes. 

The chorizo gave an edge to the subtle flavours of the three pieces of skate and the whole dish was attractively presented on a marble platter. Pastries and cakes are offered for dessert and I also endured the shock of finding strawberry crumble with peanut butter ice cream as well as apple and cinnamon scones with clotted cream on a day spa menu.

I was nearly tempted but a busy afternoon and my waistline meant that I had to decline. Predominately busy with ‘ladies who lunch’, the few men dining seemed equally comfortable with the milieu. You can pop in for a Clarice Cream Tea between 2.30pm and 6pm and there’s not a glass of carrot juice in sight. The restaurant is open for members and non-members alike and as I left to run back to the office I passed yet more white-slippered ladies in their fine white robes. Clearly enjoying the tranquillity of the setting and all sporting that same healthy glow – Clarice House is obviously a place for both fine dining and the chance to relax both body and soul.

Useful to knowThe total bill came to �19.50 for two courses, and a white wine spritzer. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by the food and wine writer. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.

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Juniper RestaurantClarice House Day SpaKingsford ParkLayer RoadColchesterC02 0HS01206 734301

Table talk

with diner Linda Bartlettfrom Great Braxted

What do you do? I’m a home-maker

What did you choose from the menu? A lite bite – the mushroom and poached apple on granary bread.

What brought you to dine at Juniper Restaurant? My friend Jill is a member of Clarice House.

Describe your dining experience in three words: Always something different

Rate their value for money: Very good

Would you come again? Yes definitely

What was the best part of your meal? Getting together with my friends, Jill Harvey and Angie Dyer

Side orders

2more award winners to try:

Cranham Tandoori 131 Avon RoadCranhamUpminsterRM14 1RQ 01708 250030  We say: This spicy destination has been racking up the awards scooping prizes at the Archant Nightlife Awards for Best Restaurant, Best Customer Service and Best Family Venue.

The CompassesCompasses RoadPattiswickCM77 8BG01376 561322

We say: Winners of the East Anglian Great Family Pub of the Year and Supreme Champion in the Great British Pub of the Year awards, it has been another great year of success.

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