Is this Colchester's most Instagrammable restaurant?
- Credit: Julian Franklin for Elysium Group
Reviewed by Stephanie Mackentyre
Searching for somewhere offering an abundance of style and romance found me visiting Pavilion in Middleborough, Colchester. The interior is inspired by the owner’s travels to the Asian, Australian and South American regions. Imagine a garden with cherry blossom trees and a sparkling night sky overhead. It really is rather gorgeous and there’s plenty of fine and rare wines on the wine list to impress the love of your life.
It’s not just the décor that has Pan-Pacific influences; the menu does too, with the galley-style kitchen offering plenty of food theatre. There’s also a chic wine store behind large, floor-to-ceiling glazed doors housing more than 200 wines. As you enter from the town centre direction, there’s a separate lounge area with large bar. For warmer months, there’s a pretty outside terrace.
The Pan-Pacific menu offers a wide variety including sushi, fresh seafood, bamboo-skewered meats and vegetables, dry aged steaks, gourmet fish, noodles, light curries, burgers and ribs from the robatayaki charcoal grill.
For the uninitiated, the menu is a little alternative. There are no set starters or mains. Instead, you are encouraged to be social by ordering a selection of tasting plates to share. Although there are larger plates if you prefer to be more traditional.
We began with nibbles of mini vegetable spring rolls with a sweet plum dipping sauce and three Thai fish cakes with a sweet chilli sauce. Freshly cooked, they were at our table in a nano second and both dishes we hungrily enjoyed. Next, we chose from the robatayaki grill: Korean lamb rump marinated in gochujang chilli and honey served with sesame-fried courgettes, miso salmon baked in banana leaf with stir-fried peppers, bok choi and onions and served with sticky jasmine rice. The flavours leapt from our plates. The salmon was beautifully cooked and flavoursome, while the blushing pink lamb meat was so succulent it just melted in your mouth. The strips of fresh chilli gave it quite a kick too.
Pavilion is not only a beautiful setting, it’s also the kind of place you could meet with a group of friends and each order a different style of dish. There’s everything from soft shell spider crab with mango salsa and wasabi mayo to the vegan green, which comes from the wok, with courgettes, broccoli, aubergine and fine beans in a coconut and green curry sauce, served with jasmine rice.
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For dessert, we ordered a couple of coffees, which were served in rustic pottery cups. I would have tried the coconut and lime crème caramel, but they’d sold out so we both ordered the chocolate and bergamot orange brownies, served with a tangy kumquat chutney and an orange sorbet. Just the perfect finish to a truly spectacular meal.
Next time we visit, we may well call in for brunch, which is served between midday and 1.30pm. They offer a set-price menu and you can add bottomless wine or prosecco if you book in advance.
Table Talk with Pip Garner and her friend Lesley White
Where do you live and what do you do: I live in Colchester and I’m a mental health nurse.
What did you choose from the menu? We shared starters – the pork belly and the tempura prawns. Then we had crispy duck pancakes for our main. For dessert, we shared the Pavilion dessert island, which has exotic fresh fruit, chocolate orange brownie, mango, coconut and ice cream, with white chocolate, coconut cookies and pecan pie!
Why were you at Pavilion? We were out celebrating as friends catching up with each other.
Describe your dining experience in a phrase: Excellent food with great service, a fantastic choice of drinks and a really good atmosphere.
How would you rate the value for money? I think the drinks are quite expensive, but the food is excellent value.
Worth visiting again? It’s nice for a treat; we go three or four times a year.
Useful to know
The total bill came to £83.45 for a three-course dinner for two with drinks and coffees. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
Book a table
Three more restaurants offering the perfect spot for a romantic rendezvous
Pig & Whistle Restaurant
01245 443 186
We say: This cosy restaurant is a revelation. Step inside and be greeted by glowing candles, beautiful décor and freshly cut roses on the tables – the perfect setting to enjoy a sumptuous meal.
The Magic Mushroom
01268 289 963
We say: This place certainly knows how to put on the style and it’s sure to bring magic to your evening together. The contemporary menu with a traditional touch has plenty of dishes to impress your other half.
01277 841 137
We say: If you love the idea of a traditional real-ale pub, but also want stylish dining, then this place has both in spades. There are original beams and ales to enjoy, while upstairs is a whole new level of sophisticated elegance. Offering an award-winning gastro pub menu, it will set both of your hearts aglow.