Review, Hall Farm Cafe Restaurant, Dedham: “A really decent Sunday roast”
- Credit: Archant
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis gives family dining at this award-winning cafe a try.
I last ate here around six or seven years ago. It had won in the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, and offered a nice cosy haven from the cold for a friend and I, with our then-toddlers in tow.
Returning as a family with two tweenagers and hubby at the weekend, I had high hopes for lunch. I know everything is cooked from scratch, and the kitchen use lots of local ingredients, including meat from the farm.
The Sunday lunch menu is extensive, with several roasts, vegetarian options, and even a separate page of light bites – something for everyone.
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Having seen the portion sizes we jumped straight into the main courses. I was dished up one of the biggest plates of roast pork I’ve ever seen. You can tell they’ve made a few roast lunches in their time here, because it was spot-on. Big slices of melting pork shoulder, the wibbly, unctuous fat pulling away from the meat effortlessly. Proper duck fat roast potatoes (four of them, I found one hiding under the pork) with thick crisped golden crusts and a fluffy interior. An enormous, proper, puffy, crunchy Yorkshire pud, honey-roasted carrot, Parmesan parsnip, broccoli and cauliflower cheese. It was all doused in an Aspall Cyder cream gravy. I was stuffed halfway through. Foodie bliss. The only negative was the broccoli, which was very mushy and overcooked.
Ella chose the farm’s own roasted lamb. Again, a more than generous portion, with all the same trimmings. She lapped it up. And my son Ethan said the roast chicken supreme was the best chicken he’s ever eaten. High praise indeed.
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Mr Jarvis was stuck between a few options but went for the Adnams Lighthouse battered haddock with homemade chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. The fish was flaky and fresh, and the batter really did taste of beer and was super light and not greasy in the slightest. As for the chips? Flawless.
As ever, we found room for dessert. There’s a dizzying array of homemade cakes at the counter and Ella and Ethan found the lure of the prettily piped chocolate gateau too alluring to miss. The sponge was moist and nicely dense, with a thick layer of icing. The kids found it a bit too sweet and said there was too much icing, but I don’t think you can ever have too much frosting! A pinch of salt would have balanced it better.
My other half was silent throughout the eating of his mixed berry cheesecake, which was soft, creamy and not-too-sweet, with a punch of tartness from the berries.
I’m on the fence about my plum tarte tatin. It was served cold which put me off straight away. And the pastry was a bit anaemic. I wanted it sticky, hot and a little burnished. However the sharp plums matched nicely with the vanilla ice cream and it tasted pretty good.
All in all, a great family lunch.
It was nice to see such a big choice, and with lots of local options too. Adnams and Calvors beer, three types of Marimba hot chocolate, Maynard House Orchard juices. There were Folkington and Fentimans drinks too, plus Belvoir cordials, which could be served warm or cold.
The bucolic setting, overlooking the farmland, with alpacas and long-horned cattle grazing, and lambs gambolling was a real treat. From the outside the barn looks untouched by time. Inside it’s all soft greys, Country Living-style furniture and twinkling tree lights. It was very busy throughout our visit, which made the restaurant feel alive. And the animals were so close, we could literally reach out the window and touch them if we wanted. It was a little strange eating lamb while watching them playing outside – but at least (we told the children) you could see they were having a good life. You can take a walk around the farm before or after eating, and a visit to the farm shop is a must.
There were lots of waiting staff on and they were good at keeping up with clearing and resetting tables, and went out of their way to look after everyone. They took our kids’ quirky requests in their stride, such as swapping the red wine gravy on the menu to regular gravy, and having vegetables on the side, rather than on their plates!
There’s lots of parking just outside.
It’s not the cheapest Sunday lunch in the area but it was more than worth it. We ate like kings (and queens). Drinks and two courses for four was £88. If children were eating off the kids’ menu it would have worked out closer to £65.
All the meat. It was succulent and tender and came in generous portions none of us could finish!
This place could become a regular favourite haunt of us on Sundays. Although there were a couple of small niggles when it came to dessert, they were nothing that couldn’t be forgiven, and those roasts were absolutely stonkingly good.