Simon Weir and his girlfriend Ali went to the north Suffolk gastro-pub to discover how dining-out has changed (spoiler alert: it’s still excellent).

East Anglian Daily Times: Sea bass. Picture: Simon Weir.Sea bass. Picture: Simon Weir. (Image: Archant)

Eating out mid-week always feels like a bit of treat – it’s a school night, after all – but as we emerge from the lockdown it feels like a positive luxury. But things have changed; they’ve had to, as hospitality businesses adapt to new ways of working to keep everyone Covid safe. The Cadogan in Ingham, outside Bury St Edmunds, does a good job of making things feel fairly normal, though.

The Cadogan is a relatively unprepossessing, traditional-looking white pub - apart from the carved wooden totem pole planted opposite the main entrance. Inside it’s spacious and light with wooden floors and inviting leather furniture, white walls dotted with modern pictures. And a sanitiser station by the door, some clear plastic screens and social distancing marks, with a one-way system, leading to the bar - beside which is a wall hung with AA Rosette plaques, as the Cadogan has earnt one every year since 2011.

Careful babysitting negotiations had released my girlfriend to join me – really, we were just extending my birthday celebrations by a week. Tables needed to be booked in advance to ensure there’s no overcrowding and, on a Thursday, the Cadogan was quiet enough that we had our pick of inside tables or one of the outside ones. As we arrived at eight and most of the other guests were already outside, we plumped for a quiet table indoors.

The Cadogan has opened with a limited set menu, which changes weekly. You can preview it online, so Ali and I had already pretty much decided what we’d have before arriving, but we were told the waiter would bring the board over. I was expecting one of those foot-high ones you usually see for desert... but no. This was a six-foot easel that we later watched the friendly and polite waiter waltz around the outside dining area, leading it between tables as gracefully as a ballroom dancer.

East Anglian Daily Times: Heritage tomato salad. Picture: Simon WeirHeritage tomato salad. Picture: Simon Weir (Image: Archant)

The Cadogan is one of five Brewshed properties in the Bury area (along with The Crown in Hartest, The Fox in Bulmer Tye, and the Bull and the Beerhouse in Bury itself) so I had a pint of the Brewshed Best – a nice, light but malty bitter. Ali had a glass of the pleasant but unremarkable house Sauvignon Blanc.

There were three starter options. Ali was tempted by the cod-cheeks but, as she’s pescatarian, swerved away because it came with nduja sausage, so opted for the salad of heritage tomatoes, feta and olives. As an unreconstructed carnivore, I plumped for the salt-beef bonbons. When they arrived – literally to the second that I thought “I wonder where the starters are?” - we both had the same reaction: that looks great.

Both dishes were neatly grouped in the centre of large white plates, which made the well-judged portions look smaller than they actually were. The bonbons had a fantastic texture: crispy exterior, giving way to a softly salty and chewy interior. They came with leaves and a fantastic mustard mayonnaise and cubes of piquant gherkins and pickled beetroot. Ali’s salad was well-dressed, with a generous amount of the smoked feta, salty firm olives and sweet tomatoes. Both starters tasted great.

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The set menu expands on Sundays to include two roast options, but we had three options – and neither of us plumped for the summer vegetable risotto with roast brie. Ali went for the sea bream with rasam (“let’s find out what it is,” we said) and coconut potatoes – though as we weren’t certain how they’d be, we also ordered a side of parmesan and rosemary fries. I was magnetically drawn to the confit duck leg with braised gem lettuce, peas and new potatoes.

Again, the wait between courses was timed almost spookily to the moment that I was starting to think, “Come on now, where’s the... oh, here it is.” Ali’s rasam turned out to be a lightly spiced tomato sauce, surrounding the lightly flavoured and delicious potatoes that sat beneath the well-cooked sea bass. All the more parmesan fries for me, then... These were noteworthy because it wasn’t just a bowl of chips with some cheese melted on top; freshly grated parmesan clung to every well-seasoned fry from the top of the bowl to the bottom - really delicious.

As was the confit duck, which was packed with flavour and falling off the bone. If I had any criticism, it was simply that where the sauce had been poured over it, the skin had lost its crunch – but the unsauced top section was sensational. The rest of it was merely delicious, as were the very lightly scorched lettuce and the well-cooked potatoes. Both courses were a treat.

But of course the real treat is the dessert – and we chose well from the four options (though I was sorely tempted by the cheese option with bacon jam). Ali had lemon meringue pie, the browned top caught seconds before actually burning, with a crisp and crumbly pastry case packed with fabulous set citrus curd. It was served with a smudge of raspberry sauce and an orange sorbet so fresh and zesty it was impossible not to smile after every mouthful.

Naturally, I went for the heavy option – the chocolate delice topped with honeycomb and the best salted-caramel ice cream I’ve tasted. The delice was dark, rich and dense, packed with cocoa goodness and simply wonderful. I found myself practically fencing with my dessert spoon to defend the caramel ice cream from Ali. “Those were the best deserts I’ve had in a long time,” she concluded - and I agree.

Two courses from the fixed menu at the Cadogan is £20 and three is £25. With drinks and the extra fries, our bill for two was £70. For food of that quality, served in an atmosphere that manages to make you forget things have had to change to keep it Covid-19 safe, I’d say that feels like bargain. I wonder what’s on next week’s menu?

The Cadogan, The Street, Ingham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP31 1NG. Tel: 01284 728443

All our reviews are carried out independently without the restaurant’s knowledge.