Review: The Black Lion, Long Melford
- Credit: Archant
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis spends an early autumn evening at The Black Lion in Long Melford
Long Melford is one of Suffolk’s most attractive villages, there’s no doubt about that.
With its high street of independent shops, eateries and antique hot spots, mixture of historic properties and beautiful church, this is one of the most popular spots for Suffolk folk and tourists to visit in the county.
At the northern end of the high street, overlooking the green is The Black Lion hotel.
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Inside, The Black Lion is romantic, relaxing and unintimidating. We dined in the bar area, where beautifully thought out lighting, with the odd lamp here and there and tapered candles at each table.
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The décor is unpretentious and inviting and has a hint of the Highlands about it.
We also liked the fact the tables weren’t crammed in, so you were close enough to others to have an ambience, yet at a distance where you could have a conversation without the neighbouring table eavesdropping.
There’s a formal dining room too, and a lounge area, where the huge fire will no doubt be lit quite soon.
The menu at The Black Lion is due to change from summer to autumn in a couple of weeks time as the late summer’s produce continues to keep on giving.
The provenance of fish, meat, fruit and vegetables is clearly stated, and the kitchen clearly takes pride in using very local sources.
A Market Menu, with two courses for £15.95 and three for £18.95 is available, but we ate from the interesting a la carte options, which take inspiration from all over the globe.
A touch of Italy is found in the English pea ravioli with marjoram veloute and pea shoots and there Hereford beef bresaeola with beetroot and horseradish.
My starter of chargrilled squid, was clearly a reference to the vibrant tapas of Spain.
And my husband’s terrine, was a nod to classical French cuisine.
My squid (cooked perfectly without a hint of rubberiness) was strewn about a bed of peppery rocket and surrounded by proper cooking chorizo, which has a flavour completely distinguishable from the solid, dried versions found in supermarkets.
A mild chilli dressing brought all the elements together, making a fresh, clean-tasting dish.
The smoked chicken, leek and Parma ham terrine with Madeira and brioche was moreish. The smoky flavour wasn’t overpowering, nor was the plate too salty, and the terrine was packed with layers of meat. A few little Madeira jellies were a nice touch and brought a hint of sweet to the starter. While the ditsy brioche was a great foil for mopping everything up.
Main courses at The Black Lion are, again, influenced by several destinations.
India is represented by monkfish tandoori, given a Middle Eastern twist with tahini sauce and smoked tomatoes.
And the Italian-style saltimbocca of poussin with polenta chips, summer beans and sage butter sauce sounded inviting too.
I rarely eat pork at home so treated myself to the Heath Farm slow-cooked pork leg.
As well as looking great, my first impression was “how am I going to eat all this?”
The portion was enormous, consisting of slices of pork crisped at the edges and imbued with the unmistakable aromatics of the Orient, giving off wafts of five spice and anise.
Around the pork were crunchy pak choi, an excellent, deep, meaty, savoury Aspall jus, sweet apple puree and cool apple gels.
Eating the little bun was akin to mopping up the gravy of a Sunday roast with a Yorkshire. The inside of this fluffy delicacy was doused in jus and absolutely heavenly.
The apple elements balanced the plate and worked well.
For me, some of the pork was slightly over, but this didn’t detract from what was otherwise a very good plate of food.
On the other side of the table, being eaten in silence was grilled pink veal with fondant potatoes, wilted spinach and gremolata dressing.
Visually the food was vivid and well executed, with a riot of colours on the plate from the spinach, swirl of gremolata and shredded beetroot.
It was nice to see this underused meat on the menu, which was served soft within and seared without, with lots of interesting flavours going on.
No dinner is complete without a good pud, and at The Black Lion there were so many good options it took us an age to decide what to choose.
From summer berries with meringue and crème Chantilly, to baked figs and treacle tart with Jersey clotted cream ice cream, via hazelnut and honey parfait with pain d’epices and raspberry sorbet, there is something on the menu for all types of foodie.
We sampled the espresso cheesecake with Kahlua syrup and vanilla zabaigone – an excellently judged dessert that went easy on the coffee and brought out the best of this flavour.
The assiette of chocolate was dreamy, combining a smooth, softly set white chocolate panna cotta with a velvety dark chocolate parfait and sweetly sour fresh cherries surrounded by crisp chocolate.
Addictive, naughty, but nice was the summary for this one!
Something that has to be mentioned here was the service. Staff were courteous, attentive and elegant – they really made our night enjoyable.
Hotel owner Craig Jarvis has a penchant for fine wines and has ensured The Black Lion has a variety of bottles that cater for all palates and pockets.
The house wine list is extensive and offers plenty of wines by the glass.
There’s a list of special bins chosen exclusively by Craig too, as well as others from Liberty Wines, Berkmann Wine Cellars, For The Love of Wine and Enotria Winecellars.
We sampled South African Stormy Cape, which has a hint of tobacco, mellowing into luscious fruit.
And the Reserve de Gras merlot from the Colchagua Valley in Chile was soft, and plumy with notes of spice.
As I was ‘des’ and could only sip a few drops of my husband’s wine, I was pleasantly surprised to see a non-alcoholic wine at the bar, which made a refreshing change to the usual glass of juice or lemonade.
Cadet Mauler is a Muscat, so sits on the sweeter end of the wine spectrum. But it was ideal with my squid dish and would be an excellent glass for non-drinkers wanting something with a bit of bubble with their dessert.
Average £28-£30 per person for three courses without wine.
An inviting, friendly place to eat with good food and great staff.
There are 10 high quality bedrooms to stay in too.
The Black Lion Hotel, The Green, Long Melford, CO10 9DN. 01787 312356 www.blacklionhotel.net