Gazette | Local
Couple re-launch popular Colchester restaurant
WHEN Jack Taylor stepped back inside the Warehouse restaurant it felt like coming home. But it also marks a new chapter for he and wife Claire as they take over the popular Colchester eaterie which holds many memories for a generation of diners. Now the couple hope to bring in a whole new set of customers as well as those who remember it in its heyday. Jack, 31, is no stranger to the premises as he ran it for three years before moving to the Green Room on North Hill, whose owners also owned the Warehouse at the time three years ago. He says he loved his time at the Warehouse and was itching to get back to the grass roots of his industry, serving customers good food and drink. "When the opportunity to come back here came up I just knew it was right. "And it really felt like coming home when we walked back in." Before taking up the opportunity of going back to the Chapel Street restaurant Jack had spent some time working in corporate catering. "I had more or less decided it perhaps was not for me, I missed engaging with the public and being out on the floor of the restaurant which is what I loved to do, and then the chance to re-open the Warehouse came up. "I had been so happy there and it just seemed the right thing at the right time," says Jack. The building, which had been closed for a few months before the re-opening, itself has a wealth of history having originally been used as a Sunday school. "The original pews are still used for some of the seating and in the courtyard there's an inscription. "I think people like that history and the decor in here, there are original wine cases on the two walls and some of them date back many years. "Those are things people remember from when they came here in the 1990s and when I was managing it last time," explains Jack. Under his management it thrived as a go to place for steaks and socialising. While steak is on the menu once again, the couple are also hoping to capitalise on the Warehouse as a place for meeting for drinks as well as having a meal. They also hope to tap into the town's burgeoning vegan market with a host of meat and dairy free alternatives. Among those are a Jack Fruit burger which, Claire explains can be eaten either as a savoury or sweet dish. "It can be seasoned and them made into a salsa or, once it is cooked it can be shredded, a bit like what happens when you cook pork very slowly, and that is what we are putting in the burgers. "We did a huge amount of research and asked a lot of people what they would like to see and that came up time and again. "People were getting fed up with just being offered mushroom risotto so we have listened to that with what we are doing here," she adds. Jack has also been working on a comprehensive cocktail menu for customers which became hugely popular when he was last there. "We were doing about 50 different cocktails by the time I left but we have tailored that down now so we can do a smaller amount really well. "But if someone asks us to make something for them, then we will have a go even if it is not on the list. "I really enjoy making the cocktails, I supposes you could say I am a bit of a mixologist, but self taught," he laughs. An area of seating directly in front of the bar which has traditionally been used for dining has now been replaced by more relaxed sofas and lower tables more in keeping for customers coming in for a drink. Jack explains : "We found it was a difficult place for diners, right in front of the bar, as the waiting staff were often passing by to get to the kitchen and customers would be at the bar getting their drinks before they sat down. "So we decided to use it mainly for people who wanted to come in for a drink at lunchtime or before dinner. "We have also introduced sharing platters as well for those who might not want to have a full meal but would like something with their cocktails or glass of wine or beer. "It is really important to use that people start to think of it as a place they can come for a coffee or a glass of prosecco as much as a full meal," adds Jack. The re-launch, which a special cocktail party earlier this month, includes the taking on of nine staff in total, who Jack and Claire consider an extension of their own family. The couple, who have three sons Oscar, 11, George, nine and Sam, live close by to the town centre. "There is a close-knit feel to the team here, we have all taken the time to get to know each other and work together well. "It is a good time for us to be taking on this new challenge because our youngest son has gone to school and Jack and I can share the school runs and being here between us," says Claire. Claire, who herself also runs performing arts school Starz in Colchester, Ipswich and Brightlingsea which has just marked its tenth anniversary, says they did a huge amount of research when working on what the re-launched Warehouse would be offering. "It had such a good reputation from when it first opened as a place people kept coming back to and would choose as a venue for important celebrations. "And we want to get that back," she says.
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