Restaurant review: Bistro on the Quay, Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 14:03 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:25 31 July 2018
We tried out this long standing Ipswich restaurant on the town's Waterfront.
You have to admit, there’s something pretty smart about Ipswich Waterfront. It has a buzz and a bit of Suffolk glitz to it. People are far too quick to slag Ipswich off these days, but as a worker in the town, I’m rightly proud of this part of it. The sensational historical buildings. The independent restaurants and bars. Now we need the rest of the town to sharpen up its act to match! A restaurant that’s been a mainstay along the waterside for many years is this place – Bistro on the Quay.
I’m sure I remember, as a kid, having a school visit to this, or one of the other buildings along this stretch of the water and the restaurant certainly retains that sense of history, with quirky porthole windows and capacious ceiling height in the lofty main dining area.
We stopped in for lunch – looking for value and sustenance. The bistro has a keenly priced set menu and offered a list of specials priced at around £10 or under.
Many ingredients across the menu had an asterisk, denoting local provenance, which was a nice touch, and seasonality had been considered across the a la carte, set and specials menus.
From the specials, we picked out some classics to see if they’d pass muster – fish and chips, moussaka with Greek salad, and a steak sandwich with roasted red onions, grain mustard mayo, gherkins and fries – all typical lunchtime plates.
The fish and chips were definitely up to scratch. It was a decent hunk of fish for £10.95, and was cooked right on the money – the cod flaking into meaty, juicy pieces underneath a savoury golden batter. I noted the peas weren’t shrivelled to within an inch of their life too – they were actually edible!
A decent steak sandwich is truly something that many places find hard to get right. The bread has to be fresh, the steak (usually a lesser cut) must be tender enough to bite through cleanly (nobody wants tough-as-old-boots meat), and the sauces and relishes should lubricate and flavour the whole thing. The Bistro’s version was quite a plateful. As you’ll see from the picture, the steak was perfectly pink, and still juicy. The bread was bouncy, with a crunchy crust. And the grain mustard mayonnaise and gherkin brought salinity, perkiness and extra juice to the party. There were loads of fries and a pretty decent-sized salad on the plate too. It was excellent value.
My main dish of moussaka had plusses and minuses. I hate it when restaurants decant food like this into small bowls. Moussaka needs to be cut up, so to ‘get at it’ I had to try and scoop the Greek-style lasagne onto my plate. It got a bit messy (to say the least). I’d have preferred to see it in a longer, oval-shaped dish, which would have been easier to eat from. The moussaka itself was built from layers of ever-so-soft aubergine and lamb mince in a sauce that was filled with the authentic sweet-spice notes you’d expect, and was covered in a thick, eggy, cheesy béchamel that didn’t ooze grease into the layers. It was a good version, although I’d have liked more oregano and cinnamon to punch through the tomato. On the side was a ‘Greek’ salad. I put that in inverted commas as it wasn’t a proper Greek salad owing to the addition of peppers and the use of sundried tomatoes instead of fresh. A true Greek salad is a simple beast of sliced ripe tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, Kalamata olives and whole, salty blocks of feta, bound in oil, salt and oregano. Less is more, and had the kitchen put fewer ingredients in, and dressed them traditionally (I couldn’t taste any dressing) it would have come together better.
For dessert out came the restaurant’s signature Malteser cheesecake which has probably been on the menu since the place opened (I’ve never seen it come off). Well, if you like chocolate this is the pud for you. On top of the crisp base is a crowning of smooth, creamy cheesecake, a layer of Maltesers and thick, dark, unctuous chocolate. The portion is pretty hefty so you could definitely share it. I imagine if they did take it off the menu there’d be uproar from regular diners. Big tick here.
The Eton mess was presented nicely, having been spooned into a large quenelle on the plate. It had obviously been made freshly as the meringues still had a bit of chew and bite. Nice.
But I was quite disappointed in the dark chocolate tart with caramel ice cream. The pastry was expertly made, but the filling was quite one dimensional – it needed a touch more sweetness or a pinch of salt cutting through. And it was either the last slice or overbaked as the cooked chocolate centre was rather dry.
A nice wine list and a few cocktails. We had coke, sparkling elderflower and a beautifully refreshing prosecco-based drink (the Hugo) consisting of prosecco (of course) lime and elderflower. Perfect for a sunny day and priced at less than £5!
The Bistro isn’t in-your-face when it comes to décor, being quite understated and classy, with pressed linen napkins, polished silverware, and a genteel atmosphere. It’s quite a nice place to find yourself for a lunch or romantic evening soiree.
It was fine. More functional (getting people seated, serving and clearing) than overly friendly, which is OK for a busy lunchtime.
There is seating outside, and many of the inside tables are on ground level so you shouldn’t struggle.
You can park quite reasonably next to Cult Café on the other side of the Waterfront, or there are various NCP car parks close by.
Four main courses, three desserts and four drinks (one alcoholic) came to just over £60 which I think is decent. I liked the fact if you had a dish from the specials you could choose a dessert from the set menu for an extra £4.
Come on now – it has to be the Malteser cheesecake. Worth expanding your waistline for.
If you’re after a decent lunch in a lovely location, Bistro on the Quay should tick your boxes.