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Restaurant review, Tuddenham Mill: "The set lunch menu here is one of Suffolk's best kept secrets"

PUBLISHED: 17:36 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:19 22 January 2019

Croquette of pig's head with rhubarb and coppa  Picture: Archant

Croquette of pig's head with rhubarb and coppa Picture: Archant

Archant

Our food and drink editor said this place took the humble soup and a retro dessert to the next level.

Cauliflower soup with apple and Jerusalem artichoke crisps  Picture: ArchantCauliflower soup with apple and Jerusalem artichoke crisps Picture: Archant

Food

Tuddenham Mill. I know right? You’re looking at the name. You’ve seen the accolades flooding in. You’re metaphorically clutching your purse/wallet. Yes, it’s not the cheapest restaurant in Suffolk but...don’t right it off quite yet.

Like anyone, we were starting to feel the post-Christmas pinch when we visited last week. Payday just a week’s grasp away. We wanted somewhere ‘nice’ to eat but without taking out a second mortgage. And I couldn’t believe the set lunch menu at Tuddenham was just over £20 for two courses and a little over £25 for three (similar to the price of a main from the a la Carte).

But did it live up to the hype during the day?

Long Melford partridge with chard and salsify  Picture: ArchantLong Melford partridge with chard and salsify Picture: Archant

A nice touch not expected with the set menu was the arrival of an amuse bouche and bread.

A cubelet of lamb shoulder cooked down until it barely required cutting, bound in its own savoury juices with a hint of mint and rosemary before being paneed. My husband doesn’t like lamb at all (we have to cook him his own chicken at Easter) but even he agreed this was really rather good, as were the bread rolls, sticky as Eccles cakes with their sheen of honey and freckles of herbs.

To follow were cleanly presented starters planted firmly in the season. Pig’s head croquette was a sexy, unctuous marriage of gelatinous snippets of meat and soft fat, bound in crumb, cooked to crispness and seasoned by a sharp, electric pink rhubarb sauce and the almost metallic, salty twang of coppa.

To describe our other starter of cauliflower soup as a soup does it a disservice, for this was no bog standard grainy meeting of veg and stock. Given just a kiss of truffle this was a bowl of earthy white velvet with more body than a souped up (excuse the pun) sports car. Nuggets of apple brought a cleanness and bright pops to every mouthful and Jerusalem artichoke crisps added texture.

Pork belly with lettuce and heritage carrot  Picture: ArchantPork belly with lettuce and heritage carrot Picture: Archant

The Long Melford shot partridge was promised pink but arrived cooked through. Some hardcore game fans may have sent it back but I still enjoyed the bird nonetheless. Patron/head chef Lee Bye is expert at using the bounty around him and at ensuring nothing on the plate is fighting against the other elements. Served here with the game bird was a simple but carefully made powerful jus, al dente seasoned chard, that underused slim elegant vegetable, salsify, given a classic cooking in spiced red wine, and finally a teensy sausage roll with leeks, made even better thanks to its gooey crust of caramelised pork juices on the underbelly of the pastry.

The pork belly with spelt, lettuce, heritage carrot and a herby green sauce was good but, if I’m honest a little underwhelming. It ate well. The pork was melting, the flavours good, but I couldn’t help but feel it lacked the wow factor of the other plates.

To finish, a dainty quenelle of mousse-like dark chocolate marquise was paired with a beautiful flat white ice cream and sugared pistachios, but the stand out plate was the baked Alaska.

Ooh this was a beaut which did more pirouettes on my tongue than Darcey Bussell in her ballet heyday. Mallowy meringue and toasted flaked almonds hid a pale apricot-coloured plum sorbet which looked deceptively banal but was actually bright, sherbetty and sharp. Completely exemplary. The additions of almond essence to the sponge, a spoon of honey and petals of fresh thyme made every bite a sensory pleasure from sweet to fizzy to creamy to warm.

Golden plum baked Alaska with honey, thyme and almonds  Picture: ArchantGolden plum baked Alaska with honey, thyme and almonds Picture: Archant

Quite simply this is astonishing value and if you feel priced out of AA Rosette restaurants in the evenings, lunch here could be a good option for you. The afternoon teas which passed us by looked incredible. I think we’ll be back for those next time.

Location and setting

Just 10-15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, not far from Lackford Lake or West Stow. You could make a day of it.

Chocolate marquise with flat white ice cream  Picture: ArchantChocolate marquise with flat white ice cream Picture: Archant

As you drive into Tuddenham there are wide country vistas, ancient trees, grazing livestock. It’s a stunning place to be.

Service

Was friendly but not as slick as my last visit for dinner a few years ago. These will sound like silly things but it’s touches like not having our costs taken on arrival when there was an obvious hanging space (where other folks jackets had been taken) and not taking the butter off the table for the whole meal having removed the bread plates, which were little gripes. Also last time I visited the waiting staff were bursting with raw enthusiasm to tell us about the ingredients and sourcing of the produce. It would have just been nice to see that engagement and spark on this visit because I feel that’s one of the things that sets Tuddenham apart.

Accessibility

I’m sure I spotted a lift to the upper floor restaurant but there is seating downstairs by the bar too.

Parking

The hotel has plenty of spaces for its guests.

Drinks

A fine wine selection. I had a glass of Rioja tinto. Off dry red with tobacco forward notes and punches of cassis. It stood up well to both main courses.

Husband was pleased to find Adnams Mosaic on tap.

Price

Three courses with amuse bouche, bread plus a glass of red pint of beer and large bottle of mineral water was 63.

Highlight

The soup was perfection and a master class in the joy of simplicity done well.

Summary

There are some restaurants you just have to tip your hat to and give a round of applause. This is one of them. The price is not to be sniffed at and takes Tuddenham from the realms of special occasion only to pissible regular haunt. Certainly there are some chains whose lunchtime sets are on par price wise but do they offer the setting and standards of fine independents such as this? I think not.

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