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Sign Of The Bear (Colchester)

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1 Review

11 Kings Quay Street, Harwich, CO12 3EU. Tel: 01255 242628.

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      12.03.2002 20:20
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      was a lovely restaurant until new owners bought it

      UPDATE - the lovely owners Sandra and Dave sold the Sign of the Bear, and whilst I have not been in since I can't recommend it anymore. the frontage is full of those neon bright star shaped cards with special offers glaring out, the menu seems to be more the greasy spoon 'caff' variety.

      We did have a last meal just before the sale went through and met the new owner... we were not impressed at all as he was quite unpleasant to a fellow regular customer

      It is a a shame to see such a lovely little restaurant go downhill so rapidly but I leave my orignal review below as a testament and in memory of the lovely times and service we had from Sandra, Dave, Dee-Dee and Chris


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      After a very satisfying shopping trip to Colchester, we decided to go exploring to see if we could find a new place to eat. We are great fans of eating out, well, it saves on food shopping and washing up! Neither of which I have ever really got the hang of.

      The day had started sunny and brisk; we had loaded ourselves with bags of bargain videos and snuggled back into the car. As we purred along the winding lanes of Essex, the weather began to change, rapidly; the skies darkened, the wind howled and snow began to hurl down on us.

      I remembered having seen an interesting restaurant in Harwich one day while surfing the web. The only problem was, I couldn?t remember the name or precise location. But being intrepid explorers for the day we decided to risk it and have a drive around in the hope of hunting down a new experience.

      We turned a corner and saw an agreeable looking restaurant, turned another and saw what looked like a dream ? in the midst of the blizzard a cosy, twinkling bistro could be seen. Unfortunately the sign on the door clearly said closed, luckily as we drove slowly past it was turned to open. It had to be a good omen. We quickly parked and heads bowed to the wind staggered to towards the lights.

      As we perused the menu in the window, the door opened and a delightful lady invited us in explaining we could just have a coffee or sandwich if we liked. Inside we sat on a sofa and enveloping leather wingback chair as we looked through then menu. The choice was very good, not an overly wide range but what they offer is nicely unusual without being too extreme. There are two sections to the menu during the day, one a la carte and one for snacks.

      we ordered our drinks from a comprehensive wine list and admired the décor; tasteful terracotta with exposed beams, interesting pictures and best of all on a day like that, an open fire.

      We decided to start with whitebait and cheese and bacon potato skins. The w

      hitebait was perfect, light and crispy without being too greasy, sadly a common failing in many places. The potato skins were the best I have ever found, proper crispy thin skins with enough cheese and bacon to last all the way to the bottom of the dish and best of all a good strong cheese was used; so many times this type of dish is let down by tasteless cheese.

      For the main course we had chicken wrapped in bacon with cheese and spinach filling and lamb steaks with mint and apricot jus. The chicken was beautifully presented on a tangy, not too spicy tomato sauce. The chicken was well cooked and moist. The lamb steaks were deliciously tender and the jus fresh and fruity, a perfect combination of traditional and modern cooking.

      All the flavours complemented each other and the vegetables were fresh and crisp. We were offered a choice of potatoes and chose sautéed; these were again crisp without being greasy. The portions were a good size, enough that there was no hint of stinginess, but not so much we felt too full for dessert.

      The dessert menu was heaven to a sweet-toothed person like me. We eventually decided on sticky toffee pudding and a honeycomb ice cream. The ice cream was locally made and very creamy and full of flavour with scrumptious bits of Crunchie. On ordering the toffee pudding I was offered a choice of cream and when I asked if I could have both, much to my delight, I received an unequivocal ?yes?. I do prefer to have both ? I do ands not ors! I am always very disappointed when I see ploughman?s lunches offered with cheese OR ham ? I always want both!!

      As we were about to leave the weather worsened even further, so we retired to the depths of the very comfortable sofa in the bay window with a last drink to watch the horizontal snow until it cleared enough for us to leave. A very good end to a very good meal.

      All the staff were excellent, we could not fault them, they were friendly and attentive to
      all o
      ur needs, yet left us alone to enjoy our meal. One little extra that impressed us particularly was when we enquired whether they sold cigars. We were politely informed that they currently did not have a tobacco license (apparently this is separate from a license to sell alcohol) but the pleasant young man behind the bar offered us one of his cigarettes. Now that is what I definitely call excellent customer service!

      I can thoroughly recommend this restaurant to anyone who enjoys good food in attractive clean surroundings with first-rate staff. Our three course meal with drinks (a very fine bottle of red wine) cost about forty pounds, which we felt was value for money.

      We are have now been regulars at this lovely place for two years and the evening meals are just as wonderful as the lunches and the service has never once been less perfect than that very first day. The Bear also host story telling evenings which are great fun. On story nights there is a set menu with a vegetarian option and the restaurant is decorated in keeping with whatever themes the stories are. The best one we have enjoyed is the Halloween special; cobwebs (fake of course!) and fangs galore and some great spooky tales told by the Essex Storytellers. If you do want to have a really evocative evening of stories it is most advisable to book in advance as these nights are always fully packed out when we go.

      Sign of the Bear
      11 Kings Quay St
      Harwich
      CO12 3EU
      Tel: (01255 242628)

      Opening Hours
      Sundays: 12pm - 3pm (closed Saturday lunchtime)
      Tue - Sat:
      Lunch 12pm - 3pm, Dinner 7pm - 12 pm
      Closed on Mondays

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