All was revealed last week when I was invited to a 'Secret Garden' barbecue at Bildeston Crown and discovered the beautiful walled garden, tucked away at the back of the inn. You can book it exclusively for yourself and up to sixteen people for an al fresco meal. It has access through a gate from the car park or via the new very cosy lounge and Champagne bar (more about that another time). It's cook your own on the inset grills which run down the centre of the table, allowing you to barbecue delicious meats and vegetables yourself without having to move. Chef and owner Chris Lee is on hand to make sure no one goes hungry or burns anything they shouldn't. Ice buckets fill the gaps where there's no grill ensuring that the wine is as perfectly chilled as the guests. With delightful service from Hayley and the young, professional team at Bildeston Crown we enjoyed glasses of refreshing chilled rose and were delivered superb side salads, hot side dishes, dips and sauces to accompany the Red Poll steaks, homemade beef burgers, chicken kebabs and marinated pork. We cooked our meat on the grills, slowly grazing away well into the afternoon. If you fancy your own al fresco feast speak to Chris or Hayley who will tailor a menu for you. Prices start at £30 a head and I'll put my money on the cute little courtyard working well in the winter months too. Braziers, patio heaters, hot grills, vin chaud, raclette, Pierre-chaude and fondue ...just an idea.
- the inset grills, fired up and ready
- it was easy to reach the grills from our comfy chairs
- we cooked our own beef burgers
- just some of the hot side dishes
- drum roll .. as the food starts to arrive ... what will we be cooking?
- delicious side dishes kept on coming, including the Bildeston classic lobster Caesar salad
- thick cut Red Poll steaks were beautifully tender
- vegetable kebabs were delicious too
- chilled rose wine, ready and waiting
It was so tempting to have a lick of the plate and the juices left in the bottom of the bowl, once I had polished off the Isle of Wight tomato salad at The Northgate last week. The delicious hibiscus and sherry vinaigrette dressed tomatoes, topped with light, whipped cobnut cream and nasturtium pesto reminded me of a Spanish Gazpacho. And sitting outside on the lavender edged terrace, on what must be Bury's only central, outdoor, dining space added to the relaxed and laid back dining experience at this striking Victorian townhouse. I was invited to try the new menu and to tour the newly refurbed restaurant, cocktail bar and lounge ... all are quite stunning. There's a private dining room seating 14 (complete with giant framed cockatoos looking on). A brilliant and boldly decorated cocktail bar and a Chef's table where you can dine and watch the brigade at work. Head Chef Greig Young uses the best produce he can find, with the Taste of East Anglia menu (£45 a head) offering a selection of seasonal small plates, inspired by the local area and it's producers. And no I didn't only eat a salad, I ate bread made with Pakenham Mill flour, then a crisp and light Norfolk Dapple gougere, next came hand cut beef tartare with pickled mustard, broad beans and red endive, followed by a spiced East Anglian bhaji using local potatoes, and the finale of the savoury plates; fillet of plaice in a seaweed crust with a crisp lobster 'scampi' on a light hollandaise, lifted by slices of pickled cucumber. Greig chose to serve a whipped dark Tosier chocolate, creme de cacao ice cream on a saucy kombucha, caramel espresso as a pre-dessert and then for the main dessert - like I really needed two, roast white chocolate with hibiscus (think Caramac, but better) with roasted red fruit, raspberries and milk ice cream. As well as the superb food at The Northgate staff are also delightful, providing a professional, discreet yet friendly service under the expert guidance of Manager Michael Box.
- the homemade bread
- Norfolk Dapple gougeres
- Isle of Wight tomatoes, juicy with the hibiscus vinaigrette and you'd never believe that with the cobnut cream this is a vegan dish
- Hand cut beef tartare, pickled mustard, broad beans
- Bhajis made with local spud, crips and moreish, vegan too
- A huge lobster 'scampi' aloft the plaice fillet with pickled cucumber hollandaise
- Whipped Tosier chocolate with the slightly sour Kombucha espresso caramel and creme de cacao ice cream
- Caramac! Big shards on milk ice cream and roasted red fruits
- Affordable and interesting lunch menu, perfect for al fresco dining
- The cocktails are excellent too
- Smile! Head Chef Greig Young and Manager Michael Box
Three delicious ewe's milk cheeses arrived in the post last week, sent to me by Slate Cheese and Provisions. I've been asked to choose my favourite of the three and it's been a hard task. What I received was the April Cheese Club selection, celebrating the arrival of spring and containing the season's most special sheep cheeses, along with a box of Millers's Harvest artisan crackers. First up was Norfolk White Lady, a full fat Brie style cheese made by Jane Murray at Willow Farm Dairy in Deopham, Norfolk, and one of our own very good East Anglian cheeses. It is a soft, mould ripened cheese, with a delicate flavour. I left the cheese at room temperature for 6 hrs to allow it to ooze a little, which it did, although it was not as soft as I would have liked. It was very good with the yeasty three seed crackers and a little chestnut honey that I had in my cupboard at home. Next to try was the Pecorini Sardo, it was a treat to see this Sardinian cheese and although the tasting notes suggested it as a perfect cooking cheese in place of Parmesan, no way was I going to cook with it, but instead shaved it over a rocket and toasted hazelnut salad, where its almost sweet yet salty and piquant flavours really packed a punch. Finally the Cheese of the month for April, a Pave Cobble, made in Somerset by White Lake Cheese at Bagborough Farm, Somerset. A pyramid shaped cheese with a silky, sweet and creamy paste that has a salty citrus tang. The ash coating creating a wrinkled rind. I left this one in my cool pantry for 24 hrs until it started to ooze perfectly under the skin and it was just divine, definitely my Supreme Champion. Who says the French have the best cheeses? If you fancy joining the Cheese Club, you might like to know that boxes are delivered on the first Thursday of the month, either monthly or a bi-monthly delivery. Join in April 2019 and you will automatically get sent your first box free.
- beautiful packed and branded cheese parcel arrives
- tasting notes are included
- Pecorino Sardo Maturo shaved into a rocket and toasted hazelnut salad
- Norfolk White Lady
- Pave Cobble
Yes, I know, I ate three courses at The Unruly Pig pre-launch brunch last week and my daughter did too. But where else can you order Oysters Rockefeller followed by an Omelette Arnold Bennett and then a finale plate of waffles with maple syrup and bacon. The new brunch menu is available from this Saturday 6th April. You must try it!
- great drinks menu with a huge choice of teas too
- cocktails for breakfast ... hic!
- what a fabulous menu with interesting choices
- a brilliant vegetarian menu
- passion fruit spritz
- blackberry, plum and yoghurt smoothie .. the fruity
- oysters rockefeller
- omelette arnold bennett
- wild mushroom rarebit
- desserts included the waffles with different toppings and a pain perdu with pump street chocolate, glazed banana and pecans
Without a doubt the service was a highlight at our #Veganuary outing to the Cosy Club in Ipswich on Thursday night. What a delight Roxana was. Romanian and hard working in the UK for the last three years, I hope we don't lose little gems like this to Brexit. We weren't really sure what to expect, arriving at an eerily deserted Ipswich town centre and heading for the soulless Buttermaket shopping centre. But it's a bit of a surprise when you get inside. A slightly quirky mix of Colonial Gentlemans Club crossed with US laid back speakeasy, if that's possible. Invited to sample the vegan menu which I was delighted to do, Mr SFoodie not so keen, but since converted to the idea that a meal of only plants is actually very good. We shared a Mediterranean Plate of hummus, carrot tapenade, pickled red cabbage and heirloom tomatoes and also Garlic Mushrooms on Sourdough, both very good although varying in size given that they are both £4.95 Tapas dishes. The hummus was nicely coarse which I like and the carrot tapenade well flavoured and seasoned with a hint of cumin. Thai Green Vegetable Curry was excellent declared Mr SF and kept him quiet while I ate my Thai Burger, made of quinoa and served with a fat slice of roasted red pepper in the sourdough bun and layered with vibrant green edamame and pak choi. Crispy fries and a nice chunky house slaw were on the side. I confess to ordering vegan bacon purely out of interest but think I can live without that again. There's wine suitable for vegans, I drank an Argentinian Malbec called Benjamin (fresh and fruity) and one dessert of Chocolate and Orange Torte served with a refreshing and light raspberry sauce. You know what, with this current trend of veganism any fast casual dining restaurant not having a suitable menu is way out of touch. The Cosy Club is well worth a visit.
- Cosy Club Ipswich
- Meditteranean Plate
- Garlic Mushrooms on Sourdough
- Thai Green Vegetable Curry
- Thai Burger
- Don't you love this shield?
- Chocolate and Orange Torte for pudding
There's something about the low sun and the cooler days that tempts me to get out the last of my 2017 green tomato chutney to dollop on a generous portion of game pate and crisp, warm buttered toast. I tried Wild and Game Grouse Brandy and Herb Pate and also their very nice Pheasant, Pistachio and Port Pate. A rather lovely late lunch. Pheasant season starts soon. Whoop!
These little botanical and fruit pockets arrived in the SuffolkFoodie mail box last week and proved to be the perfect excuse to get the gin bottle out and experiment a little. The infusion pockets are fully biodegradable and plastic free (round of applause for that) and have been created by Dominic Limbrey of D.J. Limbrey Distilling to add an additional dimension to a drink. As Dominic suggests, add a different dynamic to your favourite cocktail, pimp up your prosecco or simply add the botanical bags to your tonic. We dangled the cold infusions bags into all manner of mixes and came out with top marks for the Stirring Botanicals in our gin. (elderberries, burdock root, juniper berries, liquorice root, coriander seeds, dandelion leaves, honeybush, elderflower, allspice berry, cardamom, hibiscus, apple, fermented lemon peel, rosehip, orange peel) The Summer Equinox (hibiscus, apple,rosehip,lemon verbena, freeze dried raspberry, freeze dried strawberry) mixed with a plain tonic scored well in our Drinks for Drivers category. Of course Mr S.Foodie enjoyed the lekker flavours of South Africa in his Rooibos Spice infused lemonade. DJ's Cold Infusion Pockets retail at £9.99 for a box of 10 and you'll get a free stirring spoon if you buy a box before 31st December 2018. That's a Christmas present sorted then.
Being in the industry myself I've never really considered hiring a private chef to cook and serve dinner in my own home, but I think I might be hooked! La Belle Assiette offered me the chance to test a stress free dinner party pairing me up with local Suffolk chef Richard Johnson for his Validation Dinner. You see all chefs registered with the online booking platform have to be validated by 'The Jury' to make sure they are of the highest calibre. So my family helped me with the task and six of us sat down to a superb three course dinner last night. Our 'Chef Richard' arrived at 6pm smartly dressed in his whites; I was hoping that the neighbours would spot him because it makes you feel rather grand having a chef turn up to cook the dinner. My daughters wondered if this is what it was like being in the Kardashians because we didn't have to lift a finger, which meant we drank a whole lot more than usual as we made cocktails in the sitting room, while Richard prepared the dinner. We'd agreed a 7.45pm meal time and Richard was relaxed as he served the dinner at a good pace to suit us all. First he delivered a big basket of bread complete with his homemade rosemary, garlic and black peppercorn infused oil with balsamic to dip into. Followed by the starter of his own cured salmon gravadlax with golden beetroot, avocado and dill sauce vierge. So pretty on the plate and causing a few ooh's and aah's as Richard set down the starter in front of us all. A great beginning to the meal with the light, delicious, piquant flavours of the cubed salmon echoed by wonderful aromas of freshly chopped dill. Pork belly followed with dainty and beautifully buttery pomme duchesse, purple carrot, a wafer of crispy Serrano ham and Cognac jus. The pork was meltingly tender, crackling crunchy and all the plates empty when Richard came to clear them. The lemon tart for dessert was a deconstructed affair which included fabulous buttery Breton sable biscuits (Richard is classically French trained also working for many years in France) dollops of homemade lemon curd and raspberries of different textures. The sharp and lemony dessert delivered to the table in a waft of sensational, citrus aroma. Richard has his own coffee roasting company and was keen for us to sample his Mr Beans smooth, rich and robust blend so as a surprise finale he delivered coffee into the dining room and we rounded off the meal. For the first time when entertaining I didn't have to get up from the table, except to fetch more wine, so if there's a downside to this it's the amount of wine I drank because I didn't have to worry about burning the dinner. Richard did everything! What a charming chef he proved to be too, explaining the dishes as he served, cooking the meal and washing everything up afterwards. Not a trace left behind after we said our farewells. The conversation at dinner being 'let's book him again' 'shall we have a party'! There's a simple booking process to bag yourself a top quality chef like Richard, with the La Belle Assiette website offering a £39 Temptation menu, perfect for any occasion; a £59 Prestige menu, a bit more fancy for the gourmets amongst you or the full works Signature menu, £89+ for those wanting to bring Michelin quality into their dining rooms. So choose your location, date and type of menu and the available chefs and their menus will pop up. Make your booking (modifications and dietary requirements can be accommodated) and pay online, it's that easy. The Chef will get in touch, ask about the kitchen facilities and work with you to make sure the meal goes smoothly. You can cancel up to 7 days before your event and make modifications up to 24hrs before. Time slots run from 11am to 10pm with even a breakfast menu offered by a few of the Chefs. Brunch anyone?
- Chef Richard ready to cook!
- The table set by me although Richard would have done this for us
- Richard tells us how he has created the starter
- Salmon gravadlax, golden beetroot, avocado and dill sauce vierge
- enjoying the starter
- My very own Kardashians
- Richard plates the main course
- Main course arrives, The Jury sits.
- Pork belly. pomme duchesse, purple carrot, Serrano ham, cognac jus
- Dessert being assembled by Richard
- Great dinner, happy faces!
- Richard is also has a coffee roasting business called Mr Beans and made us a complimentary pot
This week we've been sampling game sausages, sausage rolls and pies sent to us from new food producer Wild and Game. They are a new not-for profit food business aiming to turn us into a nation of game eaters. I'm not sure if there's much converting to do here in East Anglia, where we eat a lot of wild meat, but the game goodies will be available online to pubs, restaurants, small shops and the general public, so great for those that find it hard to visit a decent butcher. "We're keen to make game more prominent in the UK diet", says Steven Frampton, who runs the business with Michael Cannon. Products are supplied frozen and available all year round. Our box arrived on the hottest day of the year, tightly packed in ice, still frozen solid after an overnight delivery. Best of the products we tasted were the sausages, including the pheasant and pear, pheasant and venison and pheasant and white wine. All were a big hit with Mr SuffolkFoodie and notably very good eaten cold the next day. Keep an eye out for their new products. Pheasant Lasagne anyone?
- beautifully packed in ice, arriving frozen
- enormous pasties
- pheasant meat sausage rolls
- 70% meat content sausages
- pheasant and venison sausages
The food is always very good at The Giggling Squid and it's a particular favourite of Mr SuffolkFoodie who loves a massaman curry. An invitation to try the new summer cocktails and menu last week took no hesitation to accept, so we headed off for supper. Our local branch of the Thai restaurant is Bury St Edmunds, which always seems quite lively and buzzy in the evenings, in fact we both sat by the window and reminded ourselves of how charming the town is on an early summer evening. Cocktails are made with Fever Tree mixers, so high quality and great tasting for a start. I tried a 'Thai Coconut' made with gin and coconut flavoured rum, mixed with ginger ale and fresh lime. Sunshine in a glass! Mr SF enjoyed the strawberry, mint and lime 'Strawberry Cooler,' no alcohol in this one and gets a big tick in the drinks for drivers box. Only gripe is the plastic straws. Food lived up to expectation especially my refreshing starter of Lime and Chilli beef, which was thinly sliced rare, roast beef with a zingy and powerful chilli lime dressing. I'm going to try making this one at home. Thai chicken wings seemed a bit of a safe bet for Mr SF, but actually they were far superior than many and very well seasoned with lots of garlic and fresh coriander. Keang Pa was my choice for main course. The prawn tropical jungle curry was refeshing and again, very spicy with a clear and light broth, rather than the usual coconut milk associated with Thai curries. It was very fragrant with a strong punch of aniseed from the Thai basil and rather tasty pickled peppercorns, which took me by surprise. Beef appealed to Mr SF and an enormous bowl of Beef Rib with Coconut Sauce and a generous quantity of oyster mushrooms arrived for his main course, just a little too creamy for me though. A side of noodles and coconut rice were shared. We also shared a dessert of Caramelised Mango Cake, which although light lacked any real mango flavour and in hindsight we should have remembered that the ice creams and sorbets are always better here. The wine I ordered by the glass was new to the list. Le Secret, Saint Pierre Cotes de Provence Rose, which whilst having a lovely peachy and slightly spicy, strawberry fruit flavour maintained a decent amount of acidity going very well with my curry. Pranee Laurillard, the co-founder of the Giggling Squid is shortlisted for Restaurateur of the Year Award at the 2018 Cateys, one of the most prestigious awards in UK hospitality. Suffolk Foodie wishes her the best of luck!
- Lime and Chilli Beef
- Thai chicken wings
- Keang Pa, Beef Rib and Coconut Sauce, Noodles and Coconut Rice
- Caramelised mango cake