Eat lobster, Big Bertha buns and choux box desserts at ‘secret’ Suffolk garden restaurant
PUBLISHED: 12:30 07 July 2020
This award-winning dining spot has opened its grounds and transformed them into an informal eatery with beautiful countryside views.
If quaffing chilled rose and twirling your fork around luxurious lobster pasta while looking out over unspoiled meadows sounds like your idea of perfection, it could be time to make a return to Tuddenham Mill.
The multi award-winning hotel and restaurant, north of Bury St Edmunds, re-opened to the public on Super Saturday (July 4) with a cool new concept – The Secret Garden.
While the internal restaurant and rooms remain closed for the next few weeks, chef patron Lee Bye says he’s been delighted at the responses of diners to the concept, and remains “optimistic” about the future of the business.
“It’s definitely been strange times,” he says. “We didn’t know what was going to happen, even in the last few weeks. But the first weekend Super Saturday was more like Super Sunday for us. On Sunday the sun came out and it felt very much like we were back open.”
Lee has made no secret in the past of wanting to shake of the perception that Tuddenham is all starched linens and formal service, and The Secret Garden - boxed meals served in a stretch tent in the meadow and seating 40 at a social distance – has allowed him and his staff to introduce casual dining to the venue.
“We’ve always been able to serve food in the front garden but we wanted to come back with a bang! We’ve got this beautiful tent, which is meant to be at Hyde Park at the moment, and we’ve put in loads of nice touches like festooning it with lighting. We’ve added patio heaters too so it’s well lit and well heated. Cutlery is in branded packaging and comes in a posh bag so people can help themselves, and the menu has maps on it of the one-way systems around the site. The food is all influenced by what we usually do in the restaurant but in a more informal way.”
Start off with a small box of arancini made with Dingley Dell charcuterie, taleggio and polenta croquettes, sea trout pastrami with wild fennel and lemon, or focaccia. A sharing box of starters is priced at just £11.
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“For the large boxes [£15.50] we’ve kept on things like Felixstowe Ferry lobster but as a linguine. And where we use Goosnargh duck on our restaurant menu, with wild cherries and meadowsweet, for outdoor dining we’ve done duck street noodles. It’s also great we’ve been able to cook meat and fish on our Big Bertha. One thing we’ve done is create a Bertha Bun. That’s brisket from retired Suffolk dairy cows, ground down by us, in our own milk buns with pickled jalapenos, pimento fries and allotment salad.”
Fire breads (like a posh pizza) feature on the menu, with toppings such as truffle, pecorino and mozzarella, too, as does good old fish and chips, with Lee’s twist seeing hake fillet being coated in lemon and herb crumbs and served alongside triple cooked fries with aioli.
The chef’s especially proud of the kooky, playfully-named ‘choux boxes’ (£4) pairing light, airy pastry with fillings such as tiramisu, English strawberry and meadowsweet and Norfolk lavender and lemon curd.
You can also stop by for a pint, or perhaps a coffee served with a box of the kitchen’s homemade sea salt fudge.
“We’ve got the tent for a month,” Lee says, “and we’re talking already in the business about keeping it for another month as well. If we get the demand we might make it a permanent fixture. It would be fantastic for weddings and parties going forward.”
The Secret Garden is open from 11.30am to 9pm seven days a week.
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