Review: New tasting menu at The Brewers Arms, Rattlesden - 'Outstanding. A gifted team building something very special'
PUBLISHED: 13:56 08 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:09 08 July 2019
Mark Heath and his wife Liz went along to the launch of the eight-course tasting menu at The Brewers Arms, a Suffolk gastropub making waves on the local food scene. Here's what they made of it.
Full disclosure. This isn't my first review of The Brewers. We visited back in January when the nights were dark and cold, and our drinks were alcohol free.
We were hugely impressed - so much so in fact, that I gave it the highest rating I've ever given anywhere I've reviewed.
So, when we heard that they were launching a tasting menu and - be still my beating heart - were lucky enough to be invited along on the opening night, it's fair to say we went with pretty high expectations.
Were they met? It's far too early in this tale for the grand reveal, I'm afraid. You'll just have to read on!
First things first. We were seated in the Brewers' new upstairs dining room, which is both modern and stylish, and an excellent alternative to the bigger and more relaxed eating area downstairs if you fancy making your meal even more special.
The new room can both be booked out entirely for a table of up to 16 diners or just picked if you want a more imtimate setting, regardless of what you're planning to eat.
Anyway, back to the food. After gazing excitedly at the menu and taking pictures of everything we could without the usual hint of embarrassment - how liberating to be around fellow foodie bloggers! - the first of our eight courses duly arrived, following some excellent bread.
The Salmon/Wasabi dish was a fine intro to the feast ahead. Beautiful cured salmon, rich and full of flavour, with a nice heat from the wasabi mayo, sweetness from some compressed apple and a great bit of crunch from a lotus fruit crisp.
The paired wine - Akarua Rose Brut - worked well too, really complimenting the delicate flavours of the dish.
On to round two - White Bean/Pomegranate. This looked tremendous - a really aesthetically-pleasing plate of food - and offered really subtle flavours, feta cheese working nicely with the beans, a sweet crunch from the pomegranate and welcome moisture coming from a perfectly-presented baton of cucumber.
Two courses down and so far, so good. A couple of eminently eatable dishes, no doubt, but would head chef Dan Russell be going up through the gears as the dining experience progressed?
The answer - a definite yes - came with the next course - Lamb/Salsa Verde. First of all, it looked nothing like I expected - two golden croquettes arrived in front of us - and secondly, as some of our party raised, we had no cutlery!
That was very much deliberate - you eat this course with your hands. And what fun it was - delicious, moist lamb shoulder, flaking apart as you crunched into the croquettes, which you could dip into the salsa as you saw fit.
I appreciate there are some who may rally against eating with your hands in a restaurant setting and to these folks I say - get a life. It was good fun, a real talking point, and the only real issue was having to use your finger to wipe up what remained of the salsa!
Anyway, now we really were cooking on gas, and course four, Crab/Corn, was with us.
I'm a big fan of crab, thus bound to love this dish, but my better half is very much not - so the fact she cleared her plate tells you all you need to know.
A rich bisque really carried the dish, which also boasted little chunks of sweet crab meat and charred corn. Excellent.
Now, earlier you'll remember my making reference to chef Dan moving through the gears. Well, with the fifth course - Beef/Onion - he slammed the clutch right to the floor and shifted all the way up to fifth.
In front of us was one of the most appetising beef dishes I've ever seen - two thick, pink slices of beef, a charred spring onion and two more onion shells, filled with pomme puree. On was poured a dark, indulgent jus, and we were all set to dig in.
At this point, I have to give a shout out to Lavenham Butchers, who supplied both the beef and the aforementioned lamb, and applaud the confidence of Dan and his team, who didn't bring out steak knives, as one would usually expect with a cow-themed course.
There was simply no need - the beef just fell apart and duly melted in the mouth, aided and abbetted by that delightful jus, the creamy pomme puree and the sweet tang of the onions. Simply exceptional - and I don't say that lightly. In fact even now, two weeks later, I'm still talking about that dish with anyone who will listen!
The hits kept on coming too - the first of our dessert courses, Peach/Elderflower, was another winner. Simply presented - half a peach with an elderflower sauce - it was exactly what was needed after the indulgence of the beef.
Both sweet and refreshing - and general manager Jake Bennett-Day, who personally selected the wines, picked a blinder here too, a Pink Moscato from Innocent Bystander, which was perfect with the dish and probably my wine of the night.
Next up was Chocolate/Raspberry, a combination of the two classic bedfellows featuring a creamy, rich chocolate mousse, topped with raspberry and a single gold flake and accompanied by a tangy raspberry sorbet.
All too quickly then, we'd arrived at the eighth and final course - Baron Bigod/Truffle.
Goodness me, what a closer - an incredibly generous portion of the potent, powerful cheese, served on thinly-sliced sourdough and topped with a couple of truffle slices.
Strong cheese is right up my street, so I was all in here, but probably one to avoid if you're more of a traditional cheddar sort of diner!
And thus our meal was complete. The standard throughout, both in craft and presentation, was excellent and, though there were a couple of things I'd change - the White Bean/Pomegranate course was maybe a touch too subtle for my neanderthal palate, and the cheese perhaps a little too heavy to finish - the highlights were numerous and superb.
A brilliant and exciting addition to the offering at The Brewers.
I've not listed the wines in the flight individually because, frankly, I can't recall exactly my reaction to each.
Instead I've mentioned the two which stood out for me, and will say that Jake's eye, nose and palate for a good wine is top notch. His enthusiasm too, is catching.
Only one of the eight missed the mark for me - the Pedro Ximenez 'El Candado' sherry was very rich and sweet and I couldn't get through the generous glass served up. I understand though, that a smaller offering will be the norm with the menu itself!
As I mentioned before with my original review, the only issue I can forsee with the Brewers is potentially lack of parking.
There's a small area to the left of the pub, and a few spaces just down the road, but as folks hear about the food and word spreads - and it will - there may be a problem getting parked nearby.
You can either have a five course tasting menu for £50 (minus the Salmon, White Bean and Peach dishes) or pay £69 for the whole shooting match.
The flight of wine is £30 to accompany the five courses, or £45 with the eight.
For me, I think that's about right - some may say that it's a touch expensive, but for the quality of the ingredients, the food itself, the skill of Dan, Jake and their team and the experience as a whole, it's very much worth it.
The Beef/Onion dish was exceptional - one that will create waves on the local foodie scene.
The Lamb/Salsa Verde comes a close second. I loved the idea of eating with your hands!
Outstanding. A gifted team building something very special in rural Suffolk.