Friday, 9 January 2015

Hunt & Darton Cafe @ Firstsite, Colchester

Poor old Firstsite. It gets a right old bashing. The Art Gallery equivalent of Marmite. As a relative newcomer to Ye Olde Colchester, I have to say, I like it. Yes, it cost loads to build, yes, the exhibitions tend to run on a rather long time and tend to be rather abstract, yes, the original cafe at the back of the building had poor to awful food BUT the building itself is rather splendid (designed by the world famous Architect Rafael Vinoly), the shop is pretty good, they have toddler Discos, a partnership with the Picturehouse and while the gallery itself is closed now for a few weeks they now have Hunt & Darton in their entrance space until the end of January.

To be fair, I had only heard of Hunt & Darton towards the end of last year whilst sniffing around the net googling 'Colchester'. But when I saw they were headed this way, I was very excited. They describe themselves via their website as an "interactive performance/installation and fully-functioning pop-up cafĂ©". When you are at home ALOT with a toddler, this is just the kind of thing to motivate you out of your pyjamas on a cold January day. And its also just the kind of Creative project Colchester should be encouraging and shouting about particularly as the area is about to get a £2.6million Creative Business Space! If the Council wants Colchester to be seen as a Creative place, which I know it does (“The development of the centre will reinforce Colchester’s status as a real hub for the creative sector" Councillor Anne Turrell), it needs to be over the moon that these guys are here. Firsite should be pretty pleased too!

So, with much excitement, my son and I got our winter woollies on and headed off for a spot of lunch today. And I have to say, it was probably our most enjoyable lunch out together. I wish Hunt & Darton could set up in town permanently. We were met in the entrance by a super friendly waiter in a turquoise sequined jumpsuit//babygro. To a 2 and a half year old child, this encounter has got to be up there with breakfast with Father Christmas and spotting a giant Penguin (the Nandos chicken) walking along the High Street. He was mesmerised. To make matters even better the sequined waiter/baby told us we had arrived just in time for the complimentary lunchtime raffle. (Prizes on offer: a baby's bib, some dog shoes and a bottle of CIF or JIF to those of us born in the 70's). So we took a seat, and guess what, I won a prize! I never win anything! I'm sure it was a set up as all tables seemed to win a prize, but who cares, it made me feel happy to feel like a winner for a change and I do love cleaning products. 

The mismatched table and chairs work really well in the huge stark entrance 
of Firstsite and all the tables have interesting things to look at. My son was particularly fascinated by this half completed jigsaw and the massive pineapple on our table.


After collecting my prize, I then ordered our lunch. The menu is rather limited but so is my brain's ability to make big decisions like 'what to have for lunch' these days so it was perfect. My son had a banana milkshake (his first Nesquik ever), I had a Nescafe (no fancy coffee's in sight) and we shared a large plate of finger sandwiches (cream cheese with cucumber and cream cheese with salmon) and the whole lot came to £5.20. My son was also given a complimentary Kinder Egg. This has to have been his best (most sugar filled) day ever. 

A veritable Jenga tower of sandwiches. Sometimes all you want is a good 
old fashioned sarnie and this was it. The kind of basic menu available here is perfect for my new 
resolution for 2015 of simple living. Simple food, short menu, no brain overload.

As well as the odd complimentary raffle, you can request entertainment at your table, the table next to us won all their drinks free in a guessing competition, and there are all sort of things going on until the 31st Jan. Daytime and evening events.

I know this wont be everyones cup of tea (or cup of Nescafe...) but you have to support initiatives like this. It was FUN, it is something different for the town, it's brightening up the most dreary month of the year and I ate my lunch listening the theme tune from 'Black Beauty'. It's great. Locals should go and non-locals should jolly well go as well. I am definitely going back. I've got 1 stamp now on my Loyalty card and if I can get to 5 I'll get a badge. Happy days. 

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