Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Hudson New York Bar + Grill, Head Street, Colchester, CO1 1NX

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Or in the case of Hudson New York Bar + Grill, I will give you as many as you like.

The newest kid on the block has finally opened, and I for one could not be happier. When I first heard that the Elysium Group were taking over a huge, unloved building just off Colchester's High Street to turn it into a restaurant, I was over the moon. I was so over the moon in fact that I emailed the MD of the Group last year when I first heard the news saying how excited I was. I also told him I thought the people of Colchester should be very grateful to him for giving the town a well needed kick up the arse and perhaps we could erect a statue of him somewhere in the locality. He was very gracious and sent a lovely reply, clearly overlooking that fact that I may be slightly peculiar. A couple of months later I sent him another email asking for a job. He didn't reply . . . Lucky for him I don't bear a grudge or this post wouldn't be so complimentary.


The reason for my joy and enthusiasm is that he owns several other venues in the area and seems to be on a one man crusade to turn shit holes to gold. The only place we were able to get a decent breakfast locally when we moved here in 2012 was one of his other venues, Mimosa. It is slightly out of town but was always well worth the 10 minute drive. Great food, really friendly staff, nice decor. What more do you want on a Sunday morning when a small child has kept you up all night and you are tired and fractious?

'Hudson' however, (not to be confused with 'Hudson + Hudson' from my previous post...) is another triumph in my eyes. I believe it was due to open earlier in the year so we have been watching their updates on Social Media with great interest, counting down the days until we could go in. I'm not surprised the opening was delayed due to the sheer scale of what they are trying to achieve. Not only do they have 'Hudson' on ground level but there is also a Steak Restaurant on the top floor ('Steak etc' I've yet to go up there) and a Members Club ('XV' unlikely I'll have the need to join), so it's been a huge undertaking. Particularly round here where nothing seems to happen that quickly naming no names Colchester Borough Council.

I simply can not bring myself to critisise the place since I am so happy the Elysium Group are investing so much into the Town. They can see potential here and it makes me feel better about our move from Hackney. As well as Hudson/Steak etc/XV they are also taking over the eyesore that is River Lodge on North Hill which will be a huge boost to the area. If the local rag is to be believed (not usually) they are spending £5million on it. This particular redevelopment will go a huge way towards making Colchester the great Town it once was and more importantly making it a destination as opposed to somewhere you might drive past. Imagine coming to Colchester and staying in a beautiful boutique hotel, a stones throw from all the new restaurants and bars open/opening up (Church Street Tavern, Three Wise Monkeys, East Coast Diner, Bills), or perhaps visiting the new Curzon, or seeing some Comedy at the Arts Centre or a Play at the Mercury Theatre or going shopping at Fenwicks etc etc etc. Well you don't need to imagine it people, its happening!! Right now!!

So, in the last 2 weeks I have been to 'Hudson' 4 times. As I've said, I find it impossible to complain about any of my experiences but in the spirit of honesty I feel compelled to tell you the truth and the whole truth.

Visit 1.
The first Sunday they were open. The website said they were open at 7:30am, the day before Facebook said they would open at 10am, then Facebook said they would actually open 11am. Not to appear too keen, we arrived at 11:08am... A side door was open so we lugged the buggy up the step (no ramp) and was told by a man on a mobile phone that they were not open and might open at midday. Had this been in London, where we would have had more choice, we probably would never had come back as the chap on the phone was pretty curt. However, I thought, 'Ok, he's obviously not having the best day, we'll come back another time'. Motherhood has clearly melted my icy, judgemental heart.

Visit 2.
The first Thursday they were open. I took my Aunt for a late lunch, about 2:30pm so wasn't surprised that it was quite empty. Second first impressions were that there was more staff than customers but no one to tell us what to do. Do we sit down or wait to be seated? After wrangling a waitress she told us to order at the bar and sit where we wanted. There were also a lot of workmen wandering around, so still not quite finished with the work but on the plus side they do have highchairs. It's the little things. In due course I ordered at the bar as required but was told I couldn't open a tab so if we wanted more drinks during our meal one of us would have to get up again and go back to the bar. A bit inconvenient but not the end of the world.

When the food arrived, it was great. Auntie M had Chilli Prawns and the Little Boss and I shared a Fish Finger Sarnie. The Caraway seed bread was DELICIOUS.

Hopefully Santa will bring me a new Camera. You will have to trust me when I say 
this was very nice.

Visit 3.
For my third first impression, the Wig and I went for lunch on their 2nd Friday since opening. Quite busy! - I was very pleased for them. It was also interesting to see a whole new bunch of people in town. Having plodded Colchester's mean streets ALOT in the last (almost) 2 years, you do get to see some of the same old boat races. But this lot were a whole bunch of new ones. I knew these guys were hiding round here somewhere! I knew there were people in Colchester that wanted to eat something other than a Panini or a Jacket Potato! And now they have somewhere to go. Hallelujah. Thank you Elysium.

Wig and I had burgers and dough balls and almost cried with joy at the tastiness of the food. I never thought I would ever like a dough ball more than the ones at Pizza Express but, "Hello Hudson Dough Balls!'. Awesome. Also, the creamed corn, which I had never eaten before was amazing. The only comment I would make on the food was the burger bun. It had pretty much disintegrated by the time I got to the end of the burger but maybe the buns are going to change in the future. The staff were still very nice despite me having to send an item of crockery back for being chipped (one of my bug bears).

Look like mini doughnuts, taste like magic.

Yummy-ius Maximus.

A couple of complaints I have read on Social Media about 'Hudson' is that the 'tables are wobbly' (we stuck a napkin under our table leg) and that the 'leather and steel chairs are uncomfortable' (also true) but you can't take away from the fact that the food is very good. If you want to sit on a comfy chair, go to DFS. There is still no disabled/buggy ramp which is a shame but apparently this is to be rectified soon.

Visit 4.
This morning, my fourth first impression. The one day of the week that my son goes to nursery and I clean the house. Or 'Wonderful Wednesday' as it is known. But not today, no siree. I was going to have a Hudson breakfast if it was the last thing I did. So, I popped in at about 9:30am, the website still says it's open at 7:30am but I believe it actually opens a 8am this week. I was the only person there apart from the staff, some workmen and, I think, the MD himself. I really would have liked to take some better pictures to post up but felt far too self conscious being the only customer. However, it was a very nice relaxing experience. I read the courtesy newspaper, had a delicious Eggs Benedict and a Mocha in a boiling hot glass that I couldn't pick up (they changed it to a mug though, no problem). Really great. I almost felt like I was on holiday until I remembered I felt guilty that I hadn't cleaned the toilets.

The March Hare does not condone vulgar language but in summary, Hudson New York Bar + Grill is a fucking breath of fresh air. A thousand thank you's Mr Ash Afzalnia, you are doing a wonderful job. All the little things that I have experienced in my 4 visits I put down to teething problems. Perhaps they shouldn't have opened until they were 100% finished or perhaps they could have opted for a 'Soft Launch' but they chose not to and at the end of the day the small issues that require attention shouldn't take away from all the positives:

* Incorrect opening times on the website can be updated.
* A ramp for disabled/buggy access can be easily put in place.
* The workmen hopefully wont be there forever.
* They may decide tabs can be opened in future.
* If the coffee glass is too hot, ask for a mug!
* Wobbly tables and chairs should not deter you from some great food.
* Burger buns, a minor tweak.
* I think they should say on the menu/website where they source their produce from particularly since we are surrounded by such great local ingredients here but this is just a personal thing. I'm interested where my food comes from and think it can be a selling point to your business.

The main thing is, its a great place to hang out, the food is great, the staff are very nice and its reasonably priced. You have to wish the Elysium Guys well with this. Even if its not somewhere you would usually go or you are really pedantic and don't want to sit on the leather chairs, you have to give credit where credit is due. This company clearly have a lot of faith in the area to be investing so much into it, which is great for everyone that lives and works here. What's the alternative? Empty, derelict ugly buildings? No thanks.

Bravo guys, good luck and thank you.


  1. A good read. Agree with all of your initial thoughts and recommendations to improve Hudson Bar further

  2. Oh dear! Just wrote a very long reply to this and hit Preview, and it disappeared! It was so witty, erudite and generally brilliant! Argh! But great review - I agree with your points, had some more, but I've given up now, gotta get back to work.