Review: The Angel Hotel, Bury St Edmunds: ‘Over-priced, average food and poor service’
- Credit: Archant
Mark Heath and his wife Liz visited the recently refurbished Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds for dinner on a Wednesday night. Here’s what they made of it.
Ah, The Angel Hotel. One of the jewels in the crown of beautiful Bury St Edmunds, an iconic building in an iconic town. As someone who's lived in Bury for almost 30 years, I confess to having a serious soft spot for the Angel.
So, when my food editor sent me off for a review of the newly-refurbished hotel, I couldn't get the car started quick enough. Sadly, at least based on our experience, it's probably better just to drive on by and visit one of Bury's many other excellent eateries.
First things first. The new-look dining room looks tremendous. We were both wowed when we walked in - plush, modern decor and a very welcoming environment in which to enjoy a meal.
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We settled in to a corner booth and ordered up some tap water, bread and a carafe of Rioja while we perused the menu, which looks cracking.
Starters duly ordered, the minutes continued to tick by with us sat at an empty - at least food and drink-wise - table. There were only two others occupied in the restaraunt, so it's not like they were rushed off their feet.
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Finally, after asking again for our wine/bread order, it arrived - a good 20 minutes after we'd first asked for it. Not good at all.
The bread was almost worth the wait too - especially the garlic-infused effort - but I'm afraid I rather take issue with having to pay for it at a quality restaurant - it should just be provided as part of the welcome you are afforded.
Anyway, at least we had nourishment to sustain us until our starters arrived.
I'd plumped for the moules mariniere and, if I was worried about going hungry, all those concerns vanished when this arrived. It was a HUGE portion - so big, in fact, that I double-checked with our waiter that they hadn't accidently sent the main course helping!
It did the job though - plenty of mussels, bathing in a creamy sauce and served with more bread, which for me was the highlight. I've had better, but I've also had much worse.
Across the table, Liz opted for the crispy duck egg which, according to the menu, was served with bacon, tomato and brioche. But, when the plate arrived, although the presentation was nice enough, the bacon and tomato elements were noticeable by their absence, and instead replaced with a lump of caviar on top of the egg. Disappointing.
The egg itself was fine but not exactly mindblowing - essentially it was a soft boiled egg coated in breadcrumbs. Pricey too at £9.
So, all in all, not the best of starts at the Angel. Surely our mains would be better - plucked, as they were from the 'favourites' section of the menu and both priced northwards of £20.
I'd ordered the braised beef short rib, served with feta hash browns, parsnip, parsnip puree and chimichurri.
As you'd expect for a £22 piece of meat, my beef was nice and tender, and worked well with the sweet, garlicky sauce, and the fresh crunch of broccoli. For me, the sauce was probably a bit too sweet, but a matter of personal taste.
The real winners of the dish though were the feta hash browns, something I've never seen before, but would happily order again.
Continuing the waterfowl theme of her meal, Liz opted for spiced duck breast with carrot, bok choi and spiced hazelnuts for her main course. The dish was well-presented, tasty and the spicing mild, while the nuts added welcome texture. The accompanying sauce was on the sweet side, becoming a little overwhelming by the end, and although the duck was nicely cooked the portion was again fairly small.
Again, as was becoming a theme, the dish was fairly expensive for what it was, coming in at a not-insubstantial £21.
And so to dessert. Let's cover mine first, because it was probably the best food I had that night. I plumped for the lemon tart with yoghurt ice cream and meringue.
The tart was pretty, well-made and boasted a nice citrus tang, plus crunch from the meringue, though the ice-cream was rather subtle and underwhelming.
Sadly, across the table, an unwelcome first was developing. A big fan of berries, Liz ordered the raspberry cheesecake with raspberry sorbet and coulis.
However, when the plate arrived, all three elements were vivid yellow and clearly mango flavoured - not something she would have chosen.
We queried this with the waiter and heard him mention it in the kitchen, but no explanation or apology was offered when he came to pick up the plates.
After enquiring, we were told the wrong menu had been printed, but no offer was made to remove the unwanted item from the bill, which to my mind should have been automatic.
I've been fortunate enough to eat in a lot of very good restaurants - and some not so good - and I've never, ever, been presented with a dish which was totally different from what was ordered.
To not follow that up with an apology, at the very least, was staggering.
Sadly, it left a very bitter taste in the mouth after what was a distinctly average, but very pricey, diner.
As I've previously said, the new-look Angel is fantastic and a fittingly grand interior to such a beautiful, historic building.
Hopefully in due course the food and service will match the superb setting.
Incredibly poor, some of the worst we've ever had in a restaurant which, one imagines, sees itself as a top notch eatery.
Service is so, so important and, even if the food's average, good service can still see you going away happy. Not the case here, where I spotted that, to add insult to injury, they'd even added an automatic 12.5% service charge to the bill. That was quickly removed!
There is, of course, a large car park right outside the front of The Angel - it's free at night too. Good luck finding a space though!
More likely, you're looking at the Ram Meadow car park, about five minutes' walk away.
Expensive. For the prices we paid, you'd expect first class food, not the pretty average fare we were presented with.
One gets the feeling you're paying for the prestige of The Angel, and the location, rather than the quality of the food.
None of the dishes will live long in the memory, although the cheesecake incident certainly will!
I guess I'd say my lemon tart, while Liz's duck was her favourite course.
We were so disappointed - a meal which smacked of a restaurant trading off its name and location, rather than the brilliance of its offering.
Over-priced, average food and poor service - Bury deserves better.
The hotel says:
We are obviously disappointed it didn't go right on this occasion but a negative experience can also be a positive one - you don't learn otherwise. We've had plenty of good reviews, but this shows there are some things we still need to look at.
Regarding the dishes, the starter did have bacon and tomato on the plate. It was a tomato aioli and had treacle cured bacon crumb around the edge.
And it's a shame the wrong dessert menu had been put down. When the ticket comes through to the kitchen it simply says 'cheesecake' so we didn't realise the error. I did say to the waiter at the time if they want another dessert it's not a problem but unfortunately I don't know if that was communicated.
It's a young, new team at The Angel and this is a training issue. We'd only been open three months and have new people starting every week which is always a challenge in any business.
We're human being, we make mistakes but we hold our hands up and say let us learn from them.
It's clear there are certain training elements we need to go through again but in the future we'd love to have another chance.
Scott Taylor, executive chef, The Angel
Our food reviews are always independent. They are the opinion of the reviewer based on their experience of the venue when they visited. The establishment is not aware of our visit, is not informed we intend to write a review and bills are paid by the reviewer. The choice of places reviewed is also independent and is not based on venues which do or do not advertise in our publications.