Restaurants Tracey MacLeod

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Review by Tracey MacLeod of the British Larder Suffolk in the Independent Magazine.

Text of Restaurants Tracey MacLeod

  • Restaurants Tracey MacLeodLarder essentials

    FOOD & DRINK

    The British LarderOrford RoadBromeswellSuffolk(01394 460310)

    Food DDDDDAmbience DDDDDService DDDDD

    Around 25 each for three courses, before wine and service

    Tipping policyNo service charge; all tips go to the staff

    Its Monday lunchtime, andin country pubs across theland, under-employed staffare polishing glasses andstaring into the middledistance. But here in Suffolk,a newly opened pub on a

    quiet rural road is doing brisk business.The place vibrates with the

    unmistakable static of anticipation moreusually found at a big restaurant opening.And thats because many of the lunchershere have made a special pilgrimage,drawn by the reputation of the pubs chef-proprietor, Madalene Bonvini-Hamel. Shedoesnt appear on TV, and hasnt acookbook to her name (yet). But her foodblog, The British Larder, an inspirationalrecipe diary chronicling her obsessivelove of cooking and eating, has won her abig enough fan base to encourage her tolaunch a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.

    South African-born Bonvini-Hamel,together with partner, Sugar Clubgraduate Ross Pike, has bravely given upher day job as a development chef, andtaken over a roadhouse a few miles fromthe Suffolk coast. They aim to give theirfans a chance to taste and touch what yousee on the British Larder website.

    Their menus, which change daily anddraw heavily on the regions abundance ofquality suppliers, artfully steer a coursebetween traditional pub fare and the moreambitious dishes documented on the blog.The remodelled pub has been gutted anddecorated in the kind of unshowy goodtaste all sombre heritage paint tones,tongue and groove panelling and exposedbrickwork which is easy to take forgranted until you glimpse the lastsurviving trace of hellish swirly carpet inthe unmodernised ladies loo.

    A small bar area serving Adnams beerand superior bar snacks ensures that itstill feels like a real pub rather than arestaurant in mufti, while the lunchtimemenu ranges from sandwiches through toroasts with all the trimmings.

    A long wait for our starters was repaidby a quartet of dishes which produced arapt chorus of oohs and wows!.Everything looked exquisite, with drizzledsauces and filigreed herb shoots giving apolish to even the simplest fare. Swoonilycreamy celeriac soup came swirled withherb oil, while a dainty scroll of pea shootsadorned an open tart of caramelisedbeetroot and airy, whipped goats cheese.

    Trinity at Crown andCastle HotelAwarded a Michelin BibGourmand and two AArosettes, the gamedishes, like guinea fowl(16.50), are a must. Market Square, Orford(01394 450205)

    Maison Bleue Maison Bleue offersFrench cuisine andseafood at its best. Trythe Dover sole (26.95)or halibut (15.95). 30/31 Churchgate St, Bury St Edmunds (01284 760623)

    The New Roundhouse The father and son team here offer localseasonal produce and a simple menu,highlighting the qualityof their ingredients. Thorington (01502 478220)

    breast meat (from nearby Sutton Hoo) ,springy leaves with a mini kilner ofdressing and as a little extra, a ramekin oftarragon-fragrant potted chicken.

    With a couple of shared puddings,including an ambrosial goats milkpanacotta with merlot-steepedblueberries and orange polentashortbread, we paid around 25 a head,which felt like excellent value for food thisgood. Before we left, we coaxed Bonvini-Hamel from the kitchen to share her tipsfor cooking mackerel. Her enthusiasmbodes well for the cookery school plannedas phase two of the project.

    The British Larder was only a fewweeks old when we visited, so theneophyte restaurateurs can be forgiven iftheyre struggling to cope with thetransition from writing recipes to turningthem out at speed on a daily basis.Assuming Bonvini-Hamel can crack that,I predict blog-to-riches success for thisfoodie Girl With a One Track Mind. E

    Waiting staff are numerous and efficient;the delay clearly emanated from thekitchen, where Bonvini-Hamel was,unusually, cooking solo.

    Our mains, when they eventuallyappeared, proved that she is an intuitive

    and gifted chef (she trainedwith Rowley Leigh, andworked in the GordonRamsay empire for manyyears). Only one choice some dense and heavy pea-fritters with a mushroomragu was less than first-rate. Big, clear flavourscharacterised a dish of

    pan-roasted hake, with steamed clams,roasted tomatoes and a seasidey tangle ofsamphire, in a chervil-scented white winesauce. Perfectly poached salmon withlemon crme frache was a more delicatepleasure, while chicken Caesar salad wasdeconstructed into its separate elements silverskin anchovies, slices of roasted

    The fine visual sense extends to thetableware; we admired the hand-thrownbowls and slate platters. A heavy woodenpaddle supported the lavish assortment ofsmoked fish that comprised the Orfordsmoke house experience. A heap of silkysmoked salmon dressed withcaperberries, a bowl of shell-onsmoked shrimps, a kilner jar of smoked trout pt simplecomponents, elevated by theelegance of their accessories.

    Best of the starters was asizzling tranche of pan-friedmackerel, its golden skin crisp, theflesh melting, surrounded by atracery of herb shoots and scattering ofpeas and shelled broad beans.

    Those shelled beans were called toaccount, when another long wait for maincourses had us pondering the slower-than-acceptable download times; is thatkind of attention to detail compatible withthe hurly-burly of a busy pub service?

    SideOrdersSucculentSuffolk

    A long wait forour starters wasrepaid by aquartet of disheswhich produced a chorus of oohsand wows!

    The Independent Magazine 35

    RESTAURANTREVIEWER OFTHE YEAR