Restaurant review, The Ram: 'My friends say this is one of the best places they've eaten in Hadleigh'
PUBLISHED: 19:30 12 December 2019
Food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis visits The Hadleigh Ram to see what it's like under new management.
Earlier this year I reviewed tapas at The Greyhound in Lavenham and had a disappointing experience. While I haven't revisited yet, I've been assured things have improved. The Ram in Hadleigh is another of the former Stuart Inns group's premises to have been given the wine bar and tapas treatment under the leadership of Stock & Bailey. Friends of mine had been in a few times and loved the experience, so I was lured in pre-Christmas to see what the fuss was about.
Under its previous guise, The Ram had become somewhere often reserved for special occasions - the prices/portions were prohibitive for many seeking a place to eat out mid-week without breaking the bank.
What the town has needed for a long time is somewhere affordable, quick and relaxed, but also somewhere that feels a little bit special. And I think Stock & Bailey may have hit the nail on the head here.
Sensibly, rather than going for the 'tapas' descriptor on menus, the decision has been to label dishes as 'small plates' which removes any expectations that you're going to get an exact replica of what you devoured during that holiday on the Costas.
We ordered a selection of tapas, a sharing board and a seafood paella with our server reminding us it would be up to 40 minutes' wait for the latter, but that other dishes would come out as and when they were ready. I have to say, I agree with my chums. The food is good. I would go so far to say faultless, as I didn't find anything on the plates which could be bettered. Portion sizes were ample (I'd aim for three to four tapas per person). And the presentation was simple but attractive.
First to arrive was a charcuterie plate, bringing with it the homely aroma of freshly warmed bread. Garnished with fruity olive oil, lovely olives, gherkins and cured meats.
Next came the small plates.
1. Tempura baby squid with aioli - so light in colour it threatened to be insipid, but this was actually a crispy-crumbed treat, retaining the squid's delicate texture.
2. Crispy belly pork with beetroot and apple- a match made in heaven. The pork was soft, with melting fat and crispy edges.
3. Slow-cooked beef cheek on mash with red wine jus - the slices of beef were feather light and falling apart into the buttery mash. A splash of extra jus wouldn't have gone amiss though.
4. Cod croquettes - crispy, but molten inside, with a generous helping of flaked cod and pepped up with herbs.
5. Prawns with chilli and garlic - these were whoppers. They had plenty of seasoning and were juicy, plump and flavoursome.
6. Lamb meatballs in tomato and rosemary sauce - tender and filled with flavour. The sauce was heavy on rosemary but it stood up well to the lamb.
7. Patatas bravas - not drowned in Frank's hot sauce as I'd experienced before. Chunks of golden potato with a dollop of aioli and a piquant, well-judged, lightly spicy tomato base underneath.
8. Triple cooked chips with truffle mayonnaise - just yummy.
Along with everything else we sampled, the paella easily split between four of us (and we didn't even finish it all). It was garnished beautifully and I could see straight away the rice was cooked to perfection, being a little al dente, and with that dry finish you'd expect to find. The seafood was still tender (even the notoriously hard to cook squid rings) and there were bursts of spice and lemon. It was only missing that crispy socarrat layer around the edges and underneath but as good attempt as I've had anywhere in the UK.
We didn't really have room for pudding but, it's nearly Christmas…
A chocolate fondant, served with a cool quenelle of thick cream was sensational, having a thin, cake-like exterior which exploded into a pool of seductive chocolate goo. I could have eaten it several times over. And it actually wasn't too rich.
And the puffy-edged pastry tart filled with apple and berries, served with a crème anglaise was just great. Not overly sweet and a pleasing way to finish what was a cracking meal.
You may also want to watch:
There were some interesting wines on the list. The organic Verdejo we tried was ripe with stone fruits on the nose but burst with fresh grapefruit on tasting, with a rounded edge of pear drops. Very drinkable. I was on driving duty and the bar team made me a nicely garnished fruity non-alcoholic cocktail which was very much appreciated.
Décor is relaxed but smart, with snuggly cushion-laden banquettes to cosy-up on, and the smooth tones of Christmas tunes humming in the air.
The team appeared young but had clearly been trained well, being both friendly and professional. Water was topped up without question. They were clued up on the menu. And they were generally very pleasant, happy and accommodating.
There is free parking opposite and less than five minutes' walk away on the high street. I advise parking opposite the library during the daytime as the parking spaces opposite are regularly full, being right next to the health centre.
The dining area is split but there is level access to both sides. If you have a wheelchair let them know so you can be placed on the side of the toilets and won't have to navigate the step in the centre of the building.
Eight tapas dishes, a paella, platter, two desserts, a mocktail, glass of cider and glass of wine was just shy of £95.
I really can't decide.
Affordable, plentiful, and tasty. Welcome to Hadleigh.