New small plates dining concept opens in Suffolk

Ruby beetroot with golden beetroot, beetroot 'sponge' and wasabi oil Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvi

Ruby beetroot with golden beetroot, beetroot 'sponge' and wasabi oil Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

The informal eatery combines cool cocktails and local beers with exciting starter-sized plates of food.

Seared tuna with salad Nicoise Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Seared tuna with salad Nicoise Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

"Traditional menus can get in the way of socialising and having a good time," our server told us. "We're trying to break down the barriers of eating out and make it a bit more fun."

This is el Siete, a new small plates concept from the guys and gals at ICE Café in Rougham, which opened serving Insta-friendly brunches, breakfasts and lunches last April.

It's the first foray into evening dining for the café, which probably has one of the most rock and roll interiors on the Suffolk food scene. Guests arriving for the first time could mistakenly think they've taken a wrong turn, ending up in in a car park on an industrial estate.

But the only mistake would be to fire up the engine, shift into reverse and drive away, because when you fling open the doors to ICE, there's a definite wow factor. The lofty warehouse eatery has an industrial vibe, softened by flowers, animal print and leather-backed chairs, and a huge musical mural dominating the back wall space.

Inside the Ice Cafe in Rougham Picture: xx

Inside the Ice Cafe in Rougham Picture: xx - Credit: Archant

It's cool, without being try-hard. And this, combined with the team's culinary prowess, has meant the place is regularly booked out - especially for weekend breakfasts.

El Siete (The Seven in Spanish) presents an unconstructed menu of plates and nibbles not bound by the conventions of starters, main courses or desserts.

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John Jackaman, managing director, says: "We are really proud of the el Siete menu and how well it has been received so far and we are excited to be bringing this brand new dining concept to Suffolk. It's a bit different but at ICE we're not afraid to break the rules! We have an awesome team of chefs with some outstanding talent and great creativity and this menu and flexible concept gives us a real opportunity to tap into that talent and showcase what they are capable of. So although the menu and format are completely different to our daytime menu, they are both still delivered in the same relaxed and friendly environment and prepared using the very best ingredients, which is what ICE has become known for."

Sampling the new offering (available Friday and Saturday nights), we were encouraged to select any dishes in any order we wanted, with the option to order more at any time if we fancied. Four plates per person was recommended and, being totally greedy, I absolutely went along with that.

One of the sharing plate dishes at El Siete, Rougham Picture: xxxxxx

One of the sharing plate dishes at El Siete, Rougham Picture: xxxxxx - Credit: Archant

To start, from the very, very extensive drinks menus (there is a huge soft drinks selection) we went for a malty, caramelly Old Growler brew from Nethergates, and a lemon meringue pie cocktail - a devilish concoction of limoncello, vodka, lemon curd, Baileys and real meringue pieces!

Whetting our appetites, we kicked off proceedings with homemade focaccia and fruity olive oil for dipping, before the roll call of plates was paraded to our table, as and when they were ready. At one point, five plates spread before us, it felt like we were at some kind of modernist Medieval banquet.

First up was a platter of aged prosicutto with sourdough, rocket and Parmesan salad, which we'd incorrectly read to be an 'actual' salad. Probably not the most exciting thing to order in hindsight, but it was a classic done well.

The vegan ruby beets dish was visually stunning - the beetroot presented almost like steak tartare at the centre, while the rest of the plate was busied by splashes of sharp balsamic to counteract the sweetness of the purple veg and its pastel pink aquafaba (made with chickpea water) meringues. Star of the show was the inky wasabi oil, which gave warmth and bite to the overall eating quality of the dish.

Crisp-skinned pork belly on top of pea soup was a little too fatty (and I love fat) with the meat outshone by its creamy verdant bath, which was beautifully seasoned and gave over the essence of sweet peas.

A second vegan dish of celeriac gnocchi (Roman style) dished out flavour in spades. The celeriac, rather than being overpowering (which it can be) was paired with an almost Sicilian style agro-dolce Mediterranean 'stoup' of vegetables which were at turns sweet, sour and spicy, tempered with a tomato vinaigrette.

Then arrived succulent corn fed chicken breast, so moist it cut like butter, in a savoury, earthy morel reduction with hazelnuts and baby kale, and a deeply smoky pork ramen bowl (apparently this took three months to develop) with slivers of quiveringly tender pork hiding a delicate 62degree egg.

And yet there was more to come.

I devoured the firm, meaty flakes of Skrei cod, which arrived in in a delicate saffron veloute with pearls of green lentils and salty little nuggets of cod, finished with fried parsley.

While on the other side of the table, light work was made of the intensely smoky, expertly charred seared tuna on a peppy Nicoise salad.

A trio of homemade ice creams and sorbets (chocolate brownie, gingerbread and apricot), cannoli stuffed with mascarpone, strawberry and balsamic, vegan apple and cinnamon mille feuille (I'm sorry this one didn't float my boat), and salted caramel chocolate mousse, topped off the dining journey.

If you're looking to excite your tastebuds, to explore interesting new combinations, love a cocktail and hate the formality of fine dining, there are more than seven reasons to visit this place!