A Little Plug- Church St Tavern

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What? Quality bistro, cocktails, modern bar menu

Where? Church St, Colchester, CO1 1NF

How Much? From bargain to blow out

Overall: 11/10

http://churchstreettavern.co.uk/
I almost don’t want to tell you about Church St Tavern, because it is my favourite spot in Colchester and quite frankly I don’t want to share it.

Tucked up just off busy Head Street, CST is a rather square and serious looking building that one could be forgiven for bypassing in search of somewhere a bit less stiff. But if you make it inside, this is a far from stuffy eat-and-drinkery. No, they don’t do curly fries or jelly shots. They do high ceilings, low sofas and strategically placed art prints. They do pints and pilsner and perfectly executed classic cocktails at ever so slightly less than you would pay in similarly listed joints up the high st. Extra points for maintaining a decent gin selection and straying away from boring and obvious lagers at the pumps (hello Adnams dry hopped). You will also get a decent coffee and a suitably cheeky bar lunch downstairs, one can only hope they carry on with their current sausage roll trend too.

Should occasion move you to relocate up to their first floor restaurant, you won’t be disappointed. It is both a cosy and comfortable space, though not quite as casual as the bar downstairs and rightly so as you are stepping into one of only two restaurants in the local area to come up on the Michelin Guide.

For those in need of bland summary statements: the food up there is bloody good. To expand: you will experience a classic and well executed menu with some surprises. The menu isn’t massive, I would say just enough range for options without making it impossible to choose. Seasonal, local and more exotic choices are there without needing a degree in kitchen tossery to decipher what you are ordering or be frightened out of wandering out of your dining comfort zone.

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THAT celeriac and blue cheese custard. Want!!!!

I will admit to loving CST because you can trust them completely for the prescribed holy trinity of Seafood, Steak and Something Full of Chocolate BUT it is selling them short to stick to this really. It’s not just about this fish and fowl infact one of the most memorable eatings I have enjoyed is a celeriac and blue cheese custard, currently on the menu, which is absolutely ridiculous in both flavour and comfort. Who doesn’t want to kick off a meal with a Stilton creme brûleé covered in candied pecans? Plus pears and leaves to soften how utterly filthy it is. This kind of dish makes meat free Monday a preference rather than a grudging and guilty contribution to combat climate change. Just wonderful, I want one now for breakfast please.

You can stray from the steak and chunky chips to hearty seasonal fayre that will please veggies and fish fiends alike or game dinners that have not failed to impress this greedy girl more than once- they put out excellent pigeon dishes. Most mains are enough alone but you do your belly wrong not to dip into a Jansson’s Temptation on the side too. Finish up with a cold chocolate fondant (yes really) or if the season allows a phenomenal cucumber and gin panacotta, it’s like a creamy kiss from a soused flower fairy. Divine.

This might all be starting to sound expensive and, well, if you chuck in some oyster ‘bites’ and a glass of English fizz to get things going it can be, but there are thrifty options a plenty too. Check their website for a really reasonable set menu for fifteen or twenty quid for two/three courses at lunch or early evening service and I cannot shout loudly enough about Thursday night Steak Club *insert fight club no talking about steak club gag here*. Price for this varies up to about £25 depending on the cut and gets you a steak dinner with a suitably paired glass of red plus starter or dessert. The cleverest of us like to take our ladies date night to steak club then chuck in some bites and an extra course with matched dessert wines for an excellent blow out dinner that wont get you in trouble if you forget to burn the bank statement before Him Indoors gets hold of it.

 

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snaps from my last outing including the cheese custard, cold choc fondant, magnificent pistachio cake, rock oysters, ceviche and steak club skirt steak and chips

Fuss must also be made of the front of house team. The bar service downstairs is friendly and knowledgable without being snooty- don’t ever be afraid to ask for a recommendation to try something new or what they think is good for that day. I would never have discovered Ophir n ginger had I not been swayed from a usual G&T here on the way home too late on a school night. Service in the main restaurant has never been short of impeccable, I can’t find the slightest thing to moan about or suggest improving. Bravo.

So you can mix it up at Church St Tavern with a bargain beer and a burger in the bar or an all out four courses with matched wines. A long lunch is lovely, an early dinner is the perfect mid week treat and they serve a whopper of a sunday roast. Keep an eye on their social media for special offers, wine nights and this Thursday’s steak club.

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Are you going to eat….Jackfruit?

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glorious jackfruit, image from wikipedia

Right off the bat, I will confess proudly to being no kind of coconut scented veganuary detox guru. I eat meat, I’m overweight and I’m not sure how to pronounce ‘quinoa’. That’s not to say I don’t see the benefits to this planet and all the bodies on it to eating plenty of plants, easing up on mass meat farming and frankly not putting all manner of living beasts through experiential hell for the sake of a cheap dinner.

Going vegan is not an easy thing to do, I know I tried it. For most of us it isn’t a desirable thing to do either. We like steak and eggs, or honey-chilli-chicken wings, or a low fat mint choc chip whey shake after the gym. That’s ok. Some of us live entirely off greens, nut butter and b vitamin supplements and that’s ok too. What’s not really OK is to make a massive change for the sake of a month in the belief that it will save the world, increase your 5kPB and undo all the damage of three straight weeks of mince pies, cheeseboards and ‘social’ drinking. |Yes, you might drop a few pound in fat and save a few in cash but if you go straight back to mainlining Big Macs and drinking like Oliver Reed when the calendar turns that will all be for nowt. Speaking of drinking, the only thing that irritates me more than the veganuary trend is the Dryanuary bore off. If you need 100% abstinence from booze to stop getting smashed then you have a bigger problem than staying out of the pub until February 1st- which also happens to be one of the financially hardest months for every small landlord and chef-patron out there. If you think you drink too much, seek professional help- a hashtag and a charity donation are not going to fix you. If you think you eat too much meat, for whatever reason, then learn about nutrition and seek out some new culinary tricks.

And that’s why I’m going to talk about Jackfruit: a big spikey looking thing from the fig family that grows in the rainier forests of south east Asia and as such is common in the expected cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and so forth. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh, which I think we can all agree is fascinating. Read more about it here*.

Nutritionally speaking, you get a little under 1 calorie per gram of Jackfruit which is considerably heftier than a lot of fruit despite still being roughly three quarters water by weight. It is also packing in fibre with a relatively high starch content, so hooray for the dieter amoung us too. As per most fruit, there’s plenty of mineral and vitamin action going on here plus a protein content of about two percent by weight and *fanfare* an enviable vitamin B complex content, B6 in particular. This is one, of some, reasons that makes Jackfruit a good go-to edible for the vegan crowd. Another reason is that the firm and distinctly un-mushy texture of a green/unripe jackfruit does very well as a meat substitute to the point of this glorious angiosperm being dubbed as the ‘vegan pulled pork’. Although recent trends will push anything that you are trying to sell as some kind of pulled porkish thing, this claim isn’t entirely without merit. If you know what you’re doing, some canned green jackfruit takes only a small amount of meddling to become shreddable, easily spiced and chucked in a bun with some BBQ sauce. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t going to kid any blind taste testers into believing they are chowing down on Babe’s little brother, but it’s well alright.

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stages of pulled jackfruit from my kitchen

I first attempted a pulled jackfruit affair when rustling up a soulfood dinner for the fam a couple of months ago. I had always had a degree of interest in the jackfruit phenomenon and what better reason to test it than having a vegetarian at the table! I have to say, I liked it. It has a pleasing bite and semi-solid texture not unlike your quorn sausage or questionable pink and white seafood stick product. Grim as it is, I love a dodgy seafood stick in my ramen so this worked for me, particularly when heavily seasoned with plenty of garlic and hotsauce. It is quite difficult to imagine it as a fruit rather than some kind of textured protein product, but herein lies the irony that this also makes it a potentially unpopular choice for the non-meat eaters at your table. Of the six of us eating that night, it was the bloody vegetarain who was least enamoured of my BBQ jackfruit offering, I suspect due to this very meaty texture which is one of the main reasons he doesn’t like to eat most TVP type quorn cutlet or fake burger products to begin with.

Well you can’t please everyone.

And you don’t have to stop at the pulled jackfruit attempts. If you can find a fresh one (try bigger Asian or specialty grocers) the ripe fruit is likened to a sort of banana-mango hybrid, working well in a simple fruit salad or all manner of curries, cakes and casseroles. It has to be said though that on these fair Western shores, the bulk of recipes for jackfruit involve faking some kind of crabcake or meat product. Try this link for various takes along this general theme or if you really just want to run with the hipster vegan pulled pork crowd this is a brilliant, easy recipe that we all really enjoyed from my new favourite vegans at It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.

So are you going to eat Jackfruit? You might as well, it’s pretty good for you and takes up an afternoon playing in your kitchen and the canned stuff should set you back more than £1.75 a pound. You might really like it, even if you aren’t an insufferably hip and conscientious veganuaryer.

 

*thanks as ever to wikipedia for reference material https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackfruit