Restaurant review: 1921, Bury St Edmunds: “This place left me speechless”

Ham hock and foie gras terrine.

Ham hock and foie gras terrine. - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis fell head over heels for the food at Suffolk’s Best Restaurant.

White chocolate and thyme panna cotta.

White chocolate and thyme panna cotta. - Credit: Archant

Food

Allow me to illuminate you dear readers as I prepare to unashamedly gush about the best meal I have eaten this year.

I really did save the best for last when I visited 1921 with a friend recently, and I can only agree with the judges of our food and drink awards, who crowned this Best Restaurant for 2017.

The interesting canapes piqued our interest to begin. An unusual but utterly delicious tikka frog’s leg (which was nothing like an I’m a Celebrity challenge, so try it). Then a mound of silky trout tartare. A tomato marshmallow with Parmesan. And, my favourite, a pastille-shaped moon of cod, bathed in a cure of vodka and lemon. There was an almost meaty texture to the fish, and a salty whack of heat from wasabi. They were easy on the eye too.

A cheeseboard at 1921 Bury St Edmunds.

A cheeseboard at 1921 Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant


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Gregg’s starter of ham hock and foie gras terrine was declared “delightful”. Indulgent and heavy on the liver, it was a real treat.

But I was even more enamoured with the hay smoked monkfish cheeks which were just so delicate, and garnished with expertise – a pop of vinegary artichoke here, a lick of bacony smoke there, a caramelly allium hum from black garlic. What a dish!

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To follow, the fillet of beef was just extraordinary, almost collapsing under the knife it was so tender. The sauce beneath, reduced to a black sticky mass of gloriousness, clung to the meat like a sexy velvet coat. And the chefs had been so clever again with the accompaniments of charred onion, pickled onion, potato and oxtail galette and creamed sprouts (so much better than anything I’ve eaten on Christmas Day). Each mouthful opened the senses to a new texture or flavour combination.

On the other side of the table was a plump tranche of hake, golden-skinned and oozing the juices that only a fresh fillet can. Paired with gnaw-inducing chicken wings and girolles it was superb.

I finished with what looked like a fried egg. It was actually a white chocolate and tarragon panna cotta which, for me, was much too overset (no wobble in sight) but was saved by peppy clementine gel, an aromatic sorbet, and nuggets of aerated white chocolate that took me back to my youth.

Gregg polished off a sophisticated cheeseboard of remarkably well kept fromages – Oxford Isis, a smoked cheddar, goats’ cheese rolled in ash, and The Duke and The Duchess – both made in Cambridgeshire. With these, a homemade chestnut bread roll, homemade crackers, celery and truffle honey.

What an absolute pleasure and a joy. I cannot wait to take my husband there on date night!

Drinks

Our waitress was incredibly helpful. I was driving so she recommended a mocktail of apple, cucumber, lemon and ginger beer, which was refreshingly delicious. Gregg had the alcoholic version and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Our waitress was also very happy to recommend wine and knew the list inside out, upside down. She was excited to introduce Gregg to a Lebanese wine with his main course.

We ordered lattes to finish, which were the correct temperature and came with expertly made petit fours – a teensy custard cream, peanut butter cup, white chocolate and cardamom truffle and pate de fruits.

Ambiance

The décor of 1921 is very muted and unfussy, but with a sense of luxury. A neutral colour scheme, low lights, well-cushioned seats, polished glass and pressed linen on the tables gave it a sense of occasion without the place feeling stuffy.

Location

Just off Angel Hill and a short walk from the centre of Bury St Edmunds.

Parking

There’s some on-road parking and a small car park at the top of the hill.

Service

The lady who served us (I think she may have been the front of house manager) blew our socks off. She was switched-on, knew her menu, and took pleasure and pride in describing the dishes, making recommendations, and talking about the preparation of the food. She’s a real asset to the restaurant, as is the young guy who served us dessert.

Price

It’s not cheap. Three courses is going to cost you a minimum of £35 before you’ve ordered drinks, but by God it’s worth every penny.

Highlight

To be honest I couldn’t pick a favourite dish as it was all exceptional so I’m going to say the highlight was the service. When you’ve had great service it puts that extra sprig of holly on top of your night.

In summary

While you might find the a la carte expensive, 1921 offers early dining set menus to take advantage of and I urge you to go and try the food for yourselves. The setting, food, drink and overall feel of the restaurant is something else and we’re so lucky to have this restaurant in Suffolk.

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