Stowmarket restaurant The Mill is a real find

The Mill Bar and Grill in Stowmarket - Mercury Success Stories.

The Mill Bar and Grill in Stowmarket - Mercury Success Stories. - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis says The Mill at The Maltings is a surprising find

The Mill Bar and Grill Stowmarket, chicken, bacon and ham hock terrine

The Mill Bar and Grill Stowmarket, chicken, bacon and ham hock terrine - Credit: Archant

Residents of Stowmarket. Do you know how lucky you are to have the Maltings on your doorstep?

I went to check out the venue this week and was very impressed by what the location had to offer.

A tour with manager Charlie Garnish (previously of the TA Group) revealed The Mill Bar and Grill to be a really funky, smart eatery with colourful uplighting, fairylight lit trees and upbeat music.

The Mill Bar and Grill Stowmarket. Beef wellington

The Mill Bar and Grill Stowmarket. Beef wellington - Credit: Archant

He showed us a further, more intimate dining area above, which looks over the ground floor from a mezzanine and has its own cocktail bar (perfect for private parties).

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And, if you’re feeling energetic, there’s even a nightclub, Carbon, on site for afterwards – but don’t worry, it doesn’t open until late and it’s quite separate from the dining room, so it won’t spoil your quiet dinner for two.

Meeting head chef Joe Fosker, who’s been at The Mill for 16 weeks, it was clear to see the young but well-travelled cook wants to make a name for this place. He has, he said, been putting blood, sweat and tears (though not literally) into the menu and creating dishes that he’s really happy with.

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I suspect many of his stand-out dishes are on the specials board, several of the plates from which were recommended to us by our lovely server Jade.

The Mill Bar and Grill Stowmarket, Jaffa Cake cheesecake

The Mill Bar and Grill Stowmarket, Jaffa Cake cheesecake - Credit: Archant

The regular menu brims with time-honoured favourites such as homemade soup, local buttered mushrooms in a creamy garlic and white wine sauce, homemade lasagne and chilli, pan-fried duck in rich plum sauce – there is something to please everyone, even the fussiest eater.

The specials menu offers items with something a touch more special, a little more technique.

We ordered exclusively from the specials menus as everything sounded delicious.

I began with a terrine of chicken, ham hock and bacon with house chutney and pickled cornichons. Presented on a wooden board and looking more like a ballotine than a terrine, this was a hearty starter that balanced the smokiness of ham and bacon well against the sweet, beautifully textured chicken. It wasn’t dry at all as these things can be, and was complemented well by a juicy cranberry relish and lots of buttery, crunchy croutes (the type you’d get in France over a bowl of fish stew) finished with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Lisa enjoyed her goat’s cheese parcel wrapped in Parma ham. Sometimes a cheese starter can be overwhelming but the saltiness of the ham and portion size ensured it wasn’t too claggy.

We shared our main courses as we just couldn’t decide!

On Lisa’s side of the table was guinea fowl cooked two ways. I am, and have been for a long time, a champion of this game bird which is lean and packed with so much more flavour than any piece of chicken can offer. The French-cut breast on the wing couldn’t have been cooked better. Think golden skin and melting flesh. It burst with that almost turkey-like flavour. And the confit leg was falling from the bone and totally gnaw-worthy. Served with greens and a buttery fondant it was some excellent cooking. The lightly boozy jus was perfectly made too.

On my side of the table was chef’s speciality beef wellington. A word of warning, Joe likes to serve this blue through most of the middle so if you like it cooked a little more (I like mine medium rare to medium) do let the server know.

Once chef had got mine to medium/medium-rare it arrived back at the table. Now, a marker for me of a great cook is how accomplished they are at sauces. I could smell the jus that came with the wellington before it even arrived at the table. It was glossy and rich yet cut through with that essential acidity you need with such a decadent plate of food.

The wellington itself couldn’t be bettered. The beef fillet, smeared with a little mustard and wrapped in pancetta, a mushroom farce and delicate layers of burnished puff pastry, was excellent. The meat barely required chewing and had an exquisite flavour. Garnishes of mash, carrots and green beans weren’t an afterthought here (as they often are in restaurants these days). Each element had been cooked and seasoned to bring out its fresh, sweet flavour.

I would most definitely come back here for this dish alone. Only I wouldn’t share next time!

Lisa couldn’t believe it when her pudding of Jaffa Cake cheesecake really did taste like those yummy little cakes. On top of the biscuit base was a luscious layer of dense moussey chocolate cheesecake, crowned with the zing of a slick of orange gel. Oh, and a crown of wispy sugarwork (which we did eat).

I opted for the white chocolate panna cotta. I adore this dessert but have so frequently been disappointed with it that I rarely order it anymore. However, based on the skill of the previous two courses, I decided to give it a try.

Chef admitted the dessert wasn’t as he would usually serve it (it had a touch too much gelatine within). While it didn’t have the requisite wobble or ‘about to collapse’ tenderness of a traditional panna cotta, the pud had a good eating quality. It wasn’t at all rubbery and collapsed in my mouth into a silky pool of unctuous white chocolate flavour- again, something chefs often find hard to do.

With a teensy bit less setting agent this would have been an A star panna cotta, but it still hit the mark regardless.

We finished the night with a couple of well-made hot drinks and headed back out into the biting cold feeling like we’d discovered somewhere that’s really on the up and doing great things.

By the sounds of it (Valentine’s Day saw the restaurant fully booked for three days) you’ll have to call quickly if you want to secure a table for upcoming Mother’s Day.

The menu looks incredible and includes gateaux of poached smoked salmon with smoked salmon lardoons, pickled cucumber ribbons, lemon and dill dressing, rolled pork belly with apricot and sage farce, Aspall poached apple, confit potato, crackling and sage cream, and white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake.

Contact: The Mill Bar and Grill, Station Road East, Stowmarket

Call 01449 674674

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