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Restaurant review, Sorano’s, Colchester: “The best Italian food I’ve eaten in East Anglia”

PUBLISHED: 13:56 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:20 03 November 2017

Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester: The stand-out dish of pollo primavera. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester: The stand-out dish of pollo primavera. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

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Charlotte Smith-Jarvis is bowled over by a new authentic Italian restuarant in Colchester.

Food

I love, love, love Italian food, so when I was told in the summer a genuine, real article Italian spot had opened in Colchester, I immediately put it on my ‘must-visit’ list.

It was supposedly very family-friendly too, so I took the whole Jarvis clan along.

As we waited for our starters we chomped on fresh, homemade Italian bread, with was a touch sweet (almost like a brioche) and was doused in good, peppery olive oil.

Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis: The carpaccio could have been thinner but tasted wonderful. Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis: The carpaccio could have been thinner but tasted wonderful.

To begin I was very impressed by the homemade ravioli. Each thin-as-you-like parcel, doused in rich (but not overpowering) Barolo sauce, revealed shreds of tender wild boar. They were fabulous.

A platter of nicely seasoned, Parmesan-strewn carpaccio of beef was evidently of good quality and tasted wonderful – although the beef was cut thicker than we’ve had it elsewhere.

In the middle I tried the risotto – so hard to get right both at home and in a professional kitchen. But they’d cracked it. A creamy, lightly soupy sauce (which needed a tad more salt for my liking), rice that had retained some bite, a combination of dinky shrimp and large, juicy peeled, head-on prawns, and courgette slices that weren’t reduced to mush.

Ella’s cannelloni al forno, was a big earthenware dish of humble goodness. Lots of homemade tomato and béchamel sauce, firm pasta tubes, and a generous meaty filling. It was a really excellent alternative to lasagne and wasn’t watery or over acidic, showing care had been taken in the cooking of each element.

Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester: The prawn and courgette risotto was cooked just-right. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester: The prawn and courgette risotto was cooked just-right. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Ethan’s carbonara, although a child’s portion, was massive, and after 20 minutes he was still chomping away, declaring it the best he’d ever had (at less than £6 it was a bargain from the children’s menu).

But the absolute star on the table was my hubby’s pollo primavera. Free-range chicken breast had been grilled and served in a savoury mascarpone sauce, enriched with slivers of smoked salmon, which was a surprising but drop-dead-gorgeous addition, mimicking the oaky notes of pancetta in a more subtle, delicate way. He had to fend the rest of us off with his fork.

To finish? A lightly, beautifully constructed tiramisu that was so well-balanced and delicious I had to beg my husband to share.

The chocolate fondant hadn’t worked out as the centre wasn’t runny, but it got a big tick in the flavour stakes.

Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester: The torta Margherita was unusual but really tasty. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis Restaurant review, Sorano's. Colchester: The torta Margherita was unusual but really tasty. Pictures: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

And I wish I’d asked for the recipe for the gluten-free torta Margherita – a moist, not-too-sweet sponge, stuffed with nuggets of dried fruit and served warm, so the apricot jam holding it together oozed out the centre. It was quite unlike any other cake I’ve ever had – and that’s saying something.

We’ve already made plans to go back!

Drinks

The wine list was reasonably priced and there was a decent selection of soft drinks. I had a small glass of the Montepulciano. It was juicy, bright and rounded with ripe berry fruits and a touch of liquorice. Too easy to drink!

Service

Faultless.The restaurant was kitted out for Halloween, and the waiter who opened the door to us insisted the kids try take some sweeties from the ghoulish statue of a manservant as we entered – which totally freaked them out when it started moving. Mwah ha ha. The waiters could explain everything from the menu, and even told us about the history of the building.

Location

On St John’s Street, just behind Sir Isaac’s Walk. The street isn’t the most attractive in Colchester but it’s smack bang in the centre and only a short stroll from the NCP car park.

Ambiance

It was early when we arrived so we were the only ones dining, but soon the place packed out and was filled with life. It’s obviously become very popular in the seven months it’s been open.

We sat in a grotto-type snug room, surrounded by ancient walls and wine racks – it was very atmospheric and we felt like we really could have been in Italy.

Toilets

Simply tiled but clean, fresh and pleasant.

Price

Drinks and three (very generous) courses for four was £113.

Highlight

The pollo primavera. I’d never had put smoked salmon with chicken and mascarpone but oh boy did it work.

Summary

From the welcome we received, to the humble service and excellent quality food, the recommendation I’d had was spot on. There are lots of pizza and pasta Italian imposter restaurants out there so it’s nice to find somewhere that’s genuinely authentic. For my money, it’s the best Italian food (in an Italian restaurant) I’ve eaten in East Anglia.

See the full menu here.

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