Our previous three visits have always left us wanting to return as soon as possible. This is due to the very creative food by Head Chef Jamie and his team and the excellent service led by Restaurant Manager George. All this in a place that has a hip and trendy atmosphere that gives you a great feel as soon as you walk in.

This was a fantastic way to start my 2020 Michelin Star Foodie Year as the food , wine and service was excellent. Our previous three visits had all been in the evening for dinner which made it a very long day when your going straight from work and then travelling back to Essex afterwards. So when we heard that the restaurant would first be changing their days to include Saturday and then to enhance our delight to start opening for lunch on Thursday , Friday and Saturday we couldn’t wait to visit again.

Happy New Year to you all and I’m looking forward to another fantastic year of delicious desserts. So let’s get going with these delights from January.

Da Vinci’s

ROAST TURKEY at Da Vinci’s in Hornchurch

Roast Rating 7/10

Da Vinci’s

ROAST BEEF at Da Vinci’s in Hornchurch

Roast Rating 7/10

This was a fabulous dining experience and a real credit to the Essex restaurant scene. We first heard about Grain when it was featured in the Essex Feast book a couple of years ago. Then when I’d seen that a couple of my chef friends had been and said it was good we certainly wanted to pay a visit ourselves. What also grabbed our attention was that it’s a small plates menu which changes regularly therefore making it very different to any where else in Essex. Unfortunately 2019 flew by before we realised we didn’t get a chance to go. So on a sunny saturday in January we decided to to take the train and make the forty five minute journey from Romford to Colchester. The restaurant itself is a leisurely fifteen minute and straight walk from the station but is not on the main road. You start to head up North Hill where you’ll come to an estate agent’s. This is where you find an alley that leads you to a small yard which is overlooked by a car park. In the far left corner is where you’ll find Grain. We entered and received a very friendly welcome before they took our coats and seated us at our table. It was then that we could have a good look around and where you could see that the main theme of the restaurant is wood as this is used for the rustic looking tables , bar panelling & floor. This all goes together to give the restaurant a nice modern feel. As you enter there is a small bar on your right then a bit further ahead is the pass of the open kitchen. The restaurant is set out in a U shape that surrounds a small courtyard of four tables and all areas have doors that can be opened which would be nice in the summer. We started with a cocktail while we looked at the menu which is set out into five categories ( vegetarian,fish,meat,cheese,desserts). On having a chat with the waiter who was very helpful we decided to order one dish from each section and create our own Tasting Menu which is something he said that a lot of people do for dinner.

The Entrance , Bar & Kitchen

Marmalade Old Fashioned

GARDEN

So now on to the food and we started in the Garden which is the vegetarian section. Here we ordered the Roasted Beetroot with treacle , horseradish , dill & walnut and the Tempura Cauliflower with green romesco & spring onions. These dishes were a delightful way to begin where the flavour combinations were amazing.

Roasted Beetroot

Tempura Cauliflower

WATER

This is the fish section where we enjoyed two more fabulous dishes. The first was a Smoked Haddock with broccoli & jerusalem artichokes and the second was the Cured Mackerel with avocado , green chilli & cucumber. Both dishes were perfectly executed once once again the flavours were delicious.

Smoked Haddock

Cured Mackerel

LAND

So now on to the meat section and we thought the first two courses were amazing then the bar was about to be raised here. We chose the Lamb Rump with aubergine , black garlic , olive & new potato and the Beef Sirloin with truffle bread pudding & Roasted shallot which had my name written all over it and didn’t disappoint in the slightest. We then spoke to our waitress and asked if we could sneak in another dish to share. They gladly said yes so we also enjoyed the Pork Fillet with black pudding , red cabbage & salsify. On speaking to waitress Summer who it was a pleasure to chat to throughout our lunch we matched these courses with a carafe of Spatburgunder a German Pinot noir.

Lamb Rump

Beef Sirloin

Pork Fillet

CHEESE

Next to come was the cheese course where there was only one choice so we decided to have one each. It was a Cave Aged Cheddar with a smoked cheddar mustard , pickled shallot , onion marmalade , oat bread & crackers.

Cheese

DESSERT

Time now to finish with desserts and why just have one each when you can also share another one as well. So with this we chose the Dark Chocolate with caramel , marshmallow & pretzel ice cream and the Sticky Toffee Pudding with coffee & cardamom ice cream. Then to share we had the Glazed Pineapple with rum ginger cake & coconut sorbet. All desserts were simply heaven and a fantastic way to finish.

Dark Chocolate

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Glazed Pineapple

We finished with a coffee and a chat first to waitress Summer who told us a lot about how the restaurant has grown in the four years it’s been open and then to chef/owner Jordan where we could personally tell him how much we’d enjoyed our lunch. I would highly recommend a visit here as the food is excellent and this is matched with excellent friendly service. I would like to say Thank You to Jordan , Paul and all the team and will definitely be returning sooner rather than later to enjoy more delicious food and especially knowing that the menu changes regularly.

We first visited Caractere back in October and was so amazed by the experience it became my choice for Top London (non michelin stars) restaurant in my personal 2019 Lloydie Food Awards and so therefore couldn’t wait to return. Now I can honestly say that after our visit on saturday they have set the bar very high and I seriously think it’s going to be very hard for someone to stop them holding on to that title. We arrived on Saturday and received the same delightful friendly greeting as last time. We were then escorted to our table where we were welcomed back to the restaurant by not only manager Eugenio but also other of members of staff. We started with an aperitif which was a Gin & Tonic and a Negroni while we looked at the menu which to our delight there were a lot New dishes. They set the menu out in to six categories and where apart from the cheese course there are three dishes in each section. This gives you the opportunity to create your own personal tasting menu by choosing a dish from each section or you can choose any three courses and create your own A la Carte menu. We decided as before to opt for the Tasting Menu. So after enjoying some delightful snacks & bread it was on to the first section.

CURIOUS

For our first course we both decided to choose the New Ricotta stuffed pappardelle with lemon zest , trout and herring roe & sturgeon bottarga which was cooked to perfection and tasted absolutely delicious.

Ricotta Stuffed Papperdelle

SUBTLE

So on to the second course and two more heavenly dishes. The first was the fantastic signature dish a Celeriac Cacio e Pepe with balsamic vinegar. The second was the Acquerello Risotto with kabocha pumpkin , black crumble & red wine reduction which was amazing.

Celeriac Cacio e Pepe

Acquerello Risotto

DELICATE

Now it was on to the fish section where we chose the Roast Monkfish with parsley root , squid , lemon condiment and foraged leaves and the Grilled Stone Bass with roast fennel , citrus and crisp wild rice. These were once again two excellent dishes where the flavours were absolutely fabulous.

Roast Monkfish

Grilled Stone Bass

ROBUST

It was now time for the main course and for this we decided to choose the Roast Rib of Veal which is for two people. The veal came with confit potatoes , pied-de-mouton , fresh horseradish & veal jus and was a real taste sensation and one that I would highly recommend if you decide to visit.

Roast Rib of Veal (before)

Roast Rib of Veal (after)

STRONG

This is the Cheese section where they only one option. The cheese on this occasion was a Vacherin Mont D’or with a baby leaf salad & homemade seed crackers

Vacherin Mont D’or

GREEDY

So now it’s time to finish with desserts. My wife chose her favourite the Passion Fruit Choux with craquelin & chantilly while I chose the truly amazing and New Bergamot & Lemon Tartelette with hazelnut praline & preserved lemon a truly dessert lovers dream. My dessert was matched with a fantastic Italian sweet wine recommended by assistant manager Antonella. It was a Pieropan 2015 Soave Classico which although a rich golden colour was only slightly sweet and with flavours of exotic fruits & apricots made this a perfect match for the dessert.

Passion Fruit Choux

Pieropan 2015 Soave Classico

Bergamot & Lemon Tartelette

We finished with tea & coffee to bring to an end a fantastic return visit. The food here is absolutely amazing which is matched by excellent service led by Eugenio & Antonella. I would highly recommend a visit here and I definitely can’t wait until I return once again.

My 2019 Lloydie Food Awards Winner – Top London Restaurant

Due to the great feedback from the 2019 #THELLOYDIES I’ve decided to carry it on into 2020.

So now let me tell you a thing or two about this year’s categories. My decision to call the Michelin Star and Essex categories as a Dining Experience will now extend to the other categories of Gastro Pub , Overseas & London.

My only stipulation is that once a place qualifies in the Michelin Star category they will Not be featured in any of the other Top 5 categories.

There’s no greater way to finish the year than with these delectable delights.

Enjoy 🤪

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Albion Pub in Islington

Peanut Butter & Caramelised White Chocolate ‘Paris Brest’ at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill

Blueberry Cheesecake at Le Moulin Patisserie in Hornchurch

Dark Chocolate Pudding at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill

Chocolate Brownie at The BlackHorse in Brentwood

The Pain Perdu at Core by Clare Smyth

Pistachio & Chocolate Macaroon Christmas Tree at Le Moulin Patisserie in Hornchurch

Plum Tarte Tatin at The Black Horse in Brentwood

Gulab Jamun with Coconut Kulfi at Tandoori Lounge in Hornchurch

Well that’s it not only for December but for 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed all the desserts this year. See you in January to begin 2020 for more delicious treats.