Review: The Crown at Woodbridge
- Credit: Archant
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis reviews food and drink at The Crown, Woodbridge
It’s been quite a while since I last ate at The Crown in Woodbridge. Back then, Stephen David was still at the helm and it was, by all accounts, a great meal with a great host.
Returning a couple of weeks ago to sample the food of the new head chef, I was full of anticipation.
It’s always exciting (to me at least) to see what fresh blood will bring to the table (so to speak).
And I was delighted to meet the man himself, Hungarian Daniel Perjesi, who has worked in some top kitchens in southern UK, including a spell with Richard Corrigan.
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Despite having been in Suffolk for a matter of months, Daniel has embraced the bounty of local produce and made vital links with the food community. It was clear to me, from speaking to Daniel, that his heart is firmly linked to cooking and ingredients. His food is about taking a few simple things and making them special without too much mucking around. And there are touches of his Hungarian heritage thrown in for good measure here and there too.
Foodie colleague Amy popped along for the experience with me on a Friday night, when the bar area was already a hive of activity and full of people.
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The dining area spans across a few rooms and is actually quite big, but this is cleverly disguised by the partitions throughout which create nooks and hideaways so you can enjoy those intimate dinners a deux without all eyes on you.
We started with expertly made mojitos (they make a cracking cocktail here) and tucked into a tranche of chewy, holey sourdough from The Cake Shop bakery up the road.
I was pleased to see the menu was completely seasonal, with the kitchen taking into account the best of what’s available right now.
From the starters, which included smoked pig’s cheek, onion porridge and mussels, and warm rabbit terrine, I began with a plate of partridge.
Hats off to chef for perfection. Being so teeny it’s not difficult to err on the side of caution and undercook, or (worse) overcook this bird.
Neither was a problem here. The partridge breast, with its crackling skin, was sweet and mildly gamey with a beautiful moist texture, contrasted by a crunchy confit leg. Underneath was a sweet, earthy, savoury pool of soft mushrooms cooked in brandy and a touch of almond liqueur, which I happily would eat on their own with a pile of bread. And to finish the dish there were chips of set, fried polenta with the gentle herbal notes of tarragon running through without overpowering the partridge.
Amy’s unusual starter was a sous vide egg that was all at once thick and runny, bursting into its bowl of leeks and potatoes and their juices, pulling the whole thing together into a rich sauce. She’d never had anything like it before and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Main courses ranged from lemon sole with roasted cauliflower and cabbage to local venison with a juniper crust.
In the mood for something hearty, I opted for the crispy skinned cod, served atop a bowlful of saucy cassoulet. The cod was flaky and tender as it should be and the cassoulet was just stunning. Soft beans, chunks of Lane Farm chorizo, a homemade ketchup-type sauce flecked with herbs. And, as an extra touch, Daniel’s own recipe sausage with hints of caraway and cumin, made for him at Five Winds in Melton.
Oh, and the ‘crispy seaweed’ style kale on top was much appreciated as well.
Amy chose the pork belly and loin. Pork is another meat that’s tough to cook, but this could not have been better. The loin was delicate and had a hint of smoke to it, and the belly had that requisite crunch you want. Also on the plate were smoked onions, purple heritage baby carrots, fondant potato and sauerkraut that was so well done – not too vinegary and mouth-puckering.
Clinging to the plate underneath was a genius glaze of bacon, vinegar and other seasonings that coated the contents of the dish thickly and gave the overall flavour of a deep south, down home barbecue.
I don’t think anything remained on her plate.
For pudding I just loved the idea of the poached quince with chocolate and chestnut. I mean, could that be any more autumnal?
Between layers of featherlight, intensely chocolatey sponge was an airy, fluffy cream speckled with chestnut. The quince was a breath of fresh air and had been poached in cinnamon and star anise, which combined with the fruit’s rosy notes to bring a sweet air of mystery to the flavour.
And on top was a wafer-thin tuile that they’d managed pack the chocolate flavour into as well.
The only gripe was that the chestnuts that scattered my plate were hard and inedible, but the kitchen admitted that mistake apologetically and made sure the rest of the night’s puddings wouldn’t go out the same way.
As soon as Amy saw the pudding menu, her eyes lit up. She does love a carrot cake, and there it was. But this wasn’t just any carrot cake. It was moist, tender-crumbed and Christmas spice scented. Carrot puree brought bursts of zing to the dessert in both flavour and colour. And there was just the right amount of cream cheese to make the pud indulgent without becoming cloying.
We were both super impressed by The Crown. By the atmosphere and setting, drinks, knowledgeable staff and, most of all, the food.
Neither of us can wait to go back! In fact I have to go back at lunchtime to try the Cake Shop Bakery’s trencher bread filled with the stew of the day. It sounds too delicious to miss out on.
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