Whether it’s authentic Vietnamese street food straight from Saigon, or some of the most delicious vegan cakes made daily in the town centre, there are all kinds of great places to eat in Colchester. Here, we’ve gathered a few of our favourite cafés and restaurants, as well as our local markets, to give you a crash course in a culinary scene most cities would be proud of, let alone little ol’ Colchester.
Stroll down to Grain and enjoy one of the most sublime small-plate restaurants in Essex. Make your way to Bellapais and tackle their terrific steaks. Or, visit the father-and-son burger bar, Love Thy Burger, with its perfect patties that rival pretty much any this side of the pond. They’re just three out of seven of our favourite Colchester restaurants we’ve picked out to represent our local food scene.
Before we delve into the wonderful coffee shops and cafés of Colchester, we’ll get things started with a top-class place for a pot of tea. Jacqueline’s Tea Room on Short Wyre Street is right in the midst of the Colchester shopping area of the pedestrianised town centre.
Make your way inside and it’s like stepping back in time; designed to look like a 1940s tea room, the decor’s antiquated and nostalgic, plus they serve up a wide range of traditional homemade food like sausage rolls, scones and cakes for you to enjoy with any one of their 50 loose leaf teas. Plus, Jacqueline’s Tea Room is fully-licensed, so – if you fancy – you can upgrade your afternoon tea with a glass of bubbly.
If you find yourself indulging in a bit of retail therapy in Culver Square, and you want to take a break to enjoy some of the best coffee in Colchester, then hunt down the nearby Culver Street Baristas. It’s only a little café but their baristas are behemoths of the brew; wizards of the flat white; queens of the cappuccino; legends of the latte, well and truly serving some of the best drinks in town.
Staying on Culver Street, another excellent option is Harpers Caffe. It’s a high-quality all-rounder regardless of whether you want a quick sit-down coffee or a waistband-busting breakfast, brunch or lunch. It’s dog-friendly, and the owners and staff couldn’t be friendlier, even to the point of remembering your name if you’re a regular. The food’s simple sarnies, jacket potatoes, salads, and healthy homemade kebabs, curries and chilli. Plus, it’s all reasonably priced. It’s no wonder Harpers Caffe is so popular with Colchester locals.
Nearby, navigate your way down the narrow Eld Lane and you’ll find Caffe Sala, a stylish little café with one of the best cake selections in the business. In terms of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options Caffe Sala is well and truly one of the best places to eat in Colchester. Their vegan cakes are really rather exquisite, and they also serve meals so good they’d make the most committed of carnivores come back for more.
If you want to sample some of the fine local produce of Essex county, one of your best bets is Colchester Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Church Street, at Colchester Arts Centre on the first Friday of every month. Meat, veg, cheeses, jams, chutneys; you name it, you’ll find it at the Farmers’ Market. It’s all fresh, nutritious, ethically produced, cheaper than the supermarket, and has the added benefit of being local, so there have been fewer food miles in getting it to you.
Salivating to sample some of Colchester’s street food? Your best bet is the Bazaar at Firstsite. It’s a monthly Saturday market, which sets up its stalls in the foyer of the town’s impressive multi-million-pound art gallery. Check the website to see exactly when it’s taking place. But, if you’re around, it’s not to be missed; entry is free and it always boasts a brilliant array of art, craft and street food traders putting creative spins on cuisines from around the world.
Whether you're coming to Colchester for a trip to the zoo, a tour of the castle, a visit to Firstsite, or an evening at the Mercury Theatre, stay with us at any one of our three Colchester hotels. They're perfect for exploring this most historic of Roman towns and all of its fascinating attractions.
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