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Restaurant review, The Cookhouse, Wherstead: “Marked improvements have been made”

PUBLISHED: 14:36 08 May 2018

Shepherd's pie.

Shepherd's pie.

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Food

Child's burger and chips.Child's burger and chips.

“We’re not going shopping are we?” My youngest exclaimed as the car rolled into the Suffolk Food Hall car park. “Nope,” I returned.

And then it dawned on him… “Mum are we going to the restaurant?”

I nodded and got a look of dismay from the back of the car. You see, at the end of summer last year we visited The Cookhouse and, aside from a decent starter and fish and chips, found the rest of the meal lacking – especially the slapdash children’s plates.

But with a new chef in the kitchen, I thought we’d give it another crack. Unlike last time, when you could hear a pin drop it was so empty, on this visit (Saturday lunchtime) the restaurant was packed and had a really pleasant busy feel about it. Good so far.

Fish goujons and chips.Fish goujons and chips.

Our order delivered to the kitchen, we nibbled on cheese straws. A decent portion for £2 – five really big straws. They tasted great but the texture was a bit chewy – they were on the cusp of almost being stale – not that my daughter minded as she wolfed them down.

The real test was those kids’ meals. Ella reordered the burger. Last time it was a hefty, tough shotput of a thing served in a roughly cut out bun with frozen fries. Hoorah because they’ve got it right now. Just cooked through, but not rubbery, the homemade burger was extremely flavoursome, its beefiness not undermined by other additions such as herbs etc (as some places like to do). The addition of a pint-sized burger bun was much more balanced, and there were fresh salad leaves too. It was good to see the thin French fries replaced by skin-on chips as well.

Ethan’s fish goujons were about 30 seconds to a minute overdone, in my opinion – the fish becoming very dry inside. He didn’t mind, but I wouldn’t have been able to eat them like that.

Husband chose local chicken breast, with roasted potatoes, a medley of seasonal veg and a thyme chicken gravy. The chicken truly was succulent and just-cooked which is a skill in a commercial kitchen where it can dry out in the blink of an eye. And every other element on the plate of what was essentially a roast Sunday lunch, was just right.

Rocky road fool.Rocky road fool.

I ordered lamb shoulder shepherd’s pie. The quality of the lamb was evident from its rich, prominent taste, and it was married with an exceptional sauce, laden with mushrooms, onions and carrots. The mash on top was a refined pomme puree, carefully piped on. But, and a big but, there was only about 2tbsps lamb at the bottom of the dish, and it became a case of ‘hunt the lamb’ while I was eating it. If only a more generous hand had been on that section – it could have been the perfect shepherd’s pie because it was expertly seasoned and cooked.

To finish Ella went for a rocky road fool – a jumble of chocolate mousse, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauces, nuts and chocolate biscuit pieces. It was a proper little beauty on the taste scale. If I’m being picky I’d say the texture wasn’t as it should have been. Either the mousse had been near a hotplate, or it was made the day before, because it had lost its body and become slack.

My sticky toffee pud was ace. It was on the lighter side and came in a pool of endless caramel sauce. I liked the fact they’d gone to the effort of making a brandy snap to serve the ice cream on top. I’d just have liked a pinch of salt in the sauce to balance out the sweetness (I added my own at the table).

An iced nougat parfait came with a rock solid biscotti rather than the billed almond sponge, which was a bit of a shame, because there was already an element of ‘crunch’ on the plate from the nut brittle. The parfait itself was the essence of Montelimar nougat and had the right consistency (neither too frozen or moussy). And the cherry sauce was a perky addition – but there needed to be more of it.

Despite a few niggles, we left much happier this time, and the kids even said they’d go back.

Drinks

They’ve got some decent local beers and nice soft drinks on the concise menu. I had a glass of L’Embleme Rouge with my lamb. It was a mouth-fillingly ripe, softy luscious red with bold raisiny flavours and not a hint of oak. Very easy drinking.

Ambiance

A marked improvement on last time – the room is too big for it not to be noticeable when its empty. Almost every table was full of families enjoying their lunch, and the views over the river.

Service

The serving team were young and friendly but could do a bit more to ensure a great customer experience. For example, we weren’t courtesy checked and I think that’s such an important part of service in these Tripadvisor times.

Price

It was just over £70 for three soft drinks, a small glass of wine, cheese straws, two adult and child meals and three desserts. The children’s menu (£8) is about right but I thought £15.50 for our main courses was a bit much – it’s nudging into gastropub territory in what is a café-style setting. I would have been happier to pay that had there been more lamb in my dish.

Parking

There’s plenty on site. Just follow the pathway to The Cookhouse.

Accessibility

There’s a lift to the first floor. The café downstairs in the main shop is easy to get to if you’re in a wheelchair or are less able, but call ahead if you want to visit the restaurant to see what they can do for you.

Highlight

The roast chicken. It was scrumptious and well executed.

Summary

While we had a few little niggles on our visit, we all felt there’d been a marked improvement food-wise and we all said we’d go back there (which wasn’t the case last time). Food for thought for them would be looking at pricing/portion size on some dishes, and making sure staff do those all-important checks.

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This is a list that Suffolk should be proud of - 100 women who are positive role models for future generations, women who have achieved success in a diverse range of fields from business, the arts, sport and education to the third sector.

The list was put together by a panel of judges this summer after we asked readers for their nominations.

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