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Restaurant review, Number 10, Lavenham: "This restaurant is an absolute asset to the village"

PUBLISHED: 18:30 12 November 2019

Chocolate fondant at Number 10 Lavenham

Chocolate fondant at Number 10 Lavenham

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Our food and drink editor visited this family-run wine bar and restaurant in the heart of the medieval tourist hot spot.

Smoked duck salad at Number 10 LavenhamSmoked duck salad at Number 10 Lavenham

Food

I'm loathed to throw about cheesy superlatives…but this week I make an exception because I'm going to use the cheesiest of them all - 'little gem'.

No two words could better describe the experience of eating at husband and wife-run eatery Number Ten. From arrival, through service, to leaving the 15th century property, everything about this place was like a big warm hug.

We arrived, weather-beaten to the core, pushed open the ginormous (and beautiful) wooden entrance door and found ourselves stepping out of the biting cold of the night, into a surprisingly buzzy bar area, subtly lit, accented with candles, and with a friendly, genuine smile awaiting.

Devilled chicken livers at Number 10 LavenhamDevilled chicken livers at Number 10 Lavenham

Once perched at our table (it was surprisingly busy for a Tuesday) the owner (our server for the night) soon rattled off the day's specials, handily explaining how many of each dish was still available.

The menu isn't ground-breaking. There's no jus, and froths and gels and other cheffy jargon. Instead, the list reveals proper, hearty, home cooking. The kinds of dishes you really want to sit and eat after a tough day. Nourishment. And the prices were keen too, with no main course venturing over the £14-15 mark.

To start, a generous plate of devilled chicken livers with pancetta and Madeira, lounging over a bed of toast. Just the thing to get the engines running, this had some clout. The gamey livers were a touch sweet and perfectly tender, bound in a sauce that really punched out some heat - beware if you don't like spicy foods. Despite the chilli factor, we could taste every element of the plate and if we'd dared, could easily have licked it clean!

A second starter of smoked duck salad was quite simple. The duck wasn't overbearingly smoky and sat on a nicely dressed gathering of rocket with sundried tomatoes and a dollop of fig chutney. The tomatoes, I admit, I thought looked superfluous, but they did work rather well when paired with the duck, chutney and peppery leaves. I would have liked a bit of crunch though. Some croutons maybe, or cubes of pickled veg.

Lemon and lime cheesecake at Number 10 LavenhamLemon and lime cheesecake at Number 10 Lavenham

By the looks of our main courses (both specials) we were going to have to metaphorically unbuckle our belts. Portion sizes are very generous. I ordered the Irish stew. It wasn't very traditional in appearance or taste, being thicker, and seasoned with a hint of mint and rosemary, but it was damn tasty. Plentiful, falling-apart lamb. Savoury gravy. Potatoes and carrots tender but still holding their shape. On top was fresh granary bread from the local baker. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

On the other side of the table there was silence as my husband hacked into a creamy pork pot pie. The puff pastry on top of the melting mushrooms, leeks and diced pork, could have been cooked a little longer, but otherwise this was a cracking dish. Complemented by smooth mash, al dente seasonal vegetables and a well-judged sauce there was very little that could be bettered.

I'd reserved a little space in my tummy for dessert (as usual) and as soon as I clapped eyes on the menu knew the chocolate fondant was for me. It certainly looked the ticket when it arrived at the table, but then there was the 'will it, won't it' moment as I pushed in my spoon, praying for a flood of gooey chocolate to ooze out. And…they nailed it. A river of molten goodness flowed out over the plate and was eagerly shovelled into my gob.

Our other dessert was the cheesecake of the day, on our visit lemon and lime. Often this pud is unforgivably rich, having too much filling/topping. The ratio of crumbly biscuit base to cheesecake was perfect here, and the acidity/sweetness well judged. The sorbet on top erred on the sweet side though and would have benefitted from a spritz more lemon.

Well worth a visit.

Ambience

A cute, higgledy-piggledy building, with wonky beams and quirky little touches of fun, including map wallpaper in the main dining area. The lighting was spot-on, low but not so low you couldn't see anything. And good music too.

Drink

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A great selection of real ales representing local breweries, including a drop from Adnams, Crouch Vale and co. And, being a wine bar, a plentiful selection, with Champagne and many other bottles by the glass. Our knowledgeable server recommended a glass of Primitivo with my dishes. It was the ideal match. I don't think I've had a fruitier red than this. Ripe, juicy and bouncing with berries, it had forward notes of blackberries, melting into vanilla and smooth dark chocolate. On the beer front we went for the locally made Venture from Nethergate. A hoppy, light, biscuitty ale with a great deal of fizz and barely any bitterness. A good match for the pork pie. It'd work well with fish and chicken dishes too.

Service

Faultless. You only ever remember the very good and the very bad when it comes to service, and Number Ten fell into the former. Service was attentive, knowledgeable, super friendly and genuine. We could just tell how much love the owners have for their business.

Parking

You have to park on the road (beware double yellow lines) or head up to park by the village hall a short walk away.

Toilets

Quite playful. I never would have guessed from the décor of the restaurant there'd be pin-up girl paper in the loos! Nice and clean, with White Company toiletries and individual proper handtowels.

Price

Three courses for two, with a small glass of wine and two pints of beer was a reasonable £68.

Highlight

The devilled chicken livers. They embody what this place appears to be about. Simple done well.

Summary

Running a restaurant is hard work, with hours and hours put in behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. But the team at Number Ten made it look easy, offering a winning formula of great service, good food, and reasonable pricing. We certainly will go back. Maybe for the homemade pizzas on Sunday evenings with the children in tow.

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