Clarice House Colchester, Kingsford Park, Layer Road, Colchester, CO2 0HS
Clarice House is an elegant classic country house set within a beautiful parkland setting. Although less than two miles from the medieval market town of Colchester, its ambience promotes tranquil relaxation, transporting you worlds away from everyday concerns. Home to an exclusive health club and day spa, Clarice House can also proudly boast an award-winning restaurant, recently renamed Juniper. Headed by the talented Paul Boorman (chef profile page 30) - 'Essex Chef of the Year 2008/2009' - Juniper's dedicated and skilled kitchen team offer modern British dishes in a relaxed yet luxurious setting. Molecular cooking techniques are often employed here, spoiling diners with a new food experience, one that will awaken long-neglected palates and bring some fun back to food. The lounge menu, consisting of gourmet sandwiches and salads amid a good choice of other tasty bites, can be enjoyed throughout the day until 8pm in either the lounge bar or main restaurant. The restaurant itself is stylish and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows commanding lovely views of the well-kept grounds. With its soft lighting, calming colour scheme and soothing background music, Juniper is the perfect place for both romance and that extra special evening meal with friends. The menu is both comprehensive and innovative, with a good selection of fine wines and Champagne, priced between £15 and £75, to complement your meal. Starters include warm pigeon and chilli-poached pear salad, roast beetroot risotto, seared scallops with cauliflower froth, cous cous and pickles and, the more unusual, molecular prawn cocktail. Moving on, and any food aficionado would be dazzled by Paul's poached duck, local roast pork, venison, wild sea bass and hare, all of which are served with an array of colourful sauces and the freshest vegetables. The dessert menu is equally divine, with an impressive white chocolate and pistachio creme brûlée, flambéed theatrically at the table by Juniper's warm and enthusiastic staff. The chance to enjoy such an exceptional dining experience at such reasonable prices is surely one that none of us can afford to miss out on. I have already rebooked.