Restaurant review, The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich: “By far one of the best bits of steak I’ve ever tasted!”

Food at The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich. PICTURE: Archant

Food at The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

The Forge Kitchen lets you take the art of combining food and flavours into your own hands, says Emily Cotton.

Flatbread and hummus appetiser at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant

Flatbread and hummus appetiser at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

Build-your-own-meal style restaurants are hit and miss. Combining flavours is an art and when dining from a normal menu, a chef has already chosen flavour combinations for you. Combinations you can trust, and that you know will work. Although you’re given some chef suggestions, at The Forge Kitchen, the power of creating your ultimate meal is in your hands.

Food

The Forge Kitchen’s website states the restaurant likes to “keep things simple” but one look at the menu made it clear that choosing what I was going to eat, was going to be far from. There is so much choice. And with the added fact you build your meal as you want it – you choose your meat, fish or veggie option and then add to it from a large choice of sides – it’s not surprising it took my boyfriend and I a little while to decide.

We were going to begin with starters opting for two to share, however both really hungry when we arrived for our reservation, these weren’t the first dishes we tucked into. We were very easily persuaded by the waitress into having an appetiser while we waited for our starters to cook. Talk about impatient! We chose the charred flatbread with smoked pumpkin hummus, which was served very quickly after ordering. It was the perfect portion for sharing, and likely enough if you wanted to eat it alone as a starter too.

Chorizo and squid for starters at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant

Chorizo and squid for starters at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

For starters, we chose the charred smoked chorizo (with red peppers and garlic lemon mayo) and the smoke and pepper squid (with sumac mayo). There can be a risk of chorizo being tough or too salty however, both the chunks of meat and the peppers were melt-in-the-mouth and had the right amount of seasoning. Squid is normally my go to starter. This dish was good, but not the best I’ve ever had. It lacked in flavour and, if honest, didn’t taste smoked or peppered. I think a little extra seasoning would make a huge difference.

When it comes to your main course, this is where you can get creative, building your meal how you want it. It’s pretty much an adult pick ‘n’ mix. For many dishes, the menu outlines the chef’s suggestion of sides for each main, but you are not limited to them. This means that you can choose what accompanies your choice of meat and the range of variations on the menu is plentiful.


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I chose the hot smoked pork belly, which the menu suggested I paired with rosemary new potatoes with smoked and salted butter, sprouting broccoli and apple cider sauce. I couldn’t really argue with this recommendation, but did swap the potatoes for the charred and smoked root veg. Pork belly is always going to go well with vegetables isn’t it. Unsure of which sauce would go well with the main, I stuck with the chef’s suggestion of apple cider. This was a good move as the sauce perfectly complemented the meat and sides, all of which were cooked just right.

For his main, my boyfriend chose the sirloin steak. The Forge Kitchen is a smokehouse after all and with its food cooked as nature intended, over smoke and fire, the steak was bound to taste good. He then added to the steak with chunky chips, charred corn on the cob and peppercorn sauce. The prime British farm steak, which the menu states has been dry aged for 30 days, was cooked exactly to how he requested (I had a little bite and it was by far one of the best bits of steak I’ve ever tasted!) and was served with a substantial amount of peppercorn sauce in a little jug on the side.

Sirloin steak, chunky chips and corn at The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich. PICTURE: Archant

Sirloin steak, chunky chips and corn at The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

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I have a sweet tooth, therefore dessert was no brainer. Not able to decide on just one, we choose two to share once again. The chocolate fudge brownie knickerbocker glory was delicious. Many places that serve similar desserts elsewhere are often a little stingy on the brownies, but The Forge Kitchen is overly generous! Huge chunks of brownie, along with vanilla ice cream, cream and chocolate sauce, filled the jar.

For me, chocolate normally wins hands down but the warm waffles, topped with bananas, vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips and roasted marshmallow sauce, was even better than the sundae. The waffles were soft and sweet, and although I would not have recognised that the sauce was roasted marshmallow had I not been told, it was still really good! Overall, our desserts were indulgent to say the least and who can complain about that!

Drinks

As a bar and restaurant, The Forge Kitchen has an extensive drinks list, made up of wines, beers, soft drinks and pretty much every spirit under the sun. There is a long list of cocktails already on offer, but if none take your fancy, you can forge your very own version of some of the classics. Simply choose from one of the bar’s homemade syrups and add to it from a selection of flavours.

Pork belly, root veg and tenderstem broccoli at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant

Pork belly, root veg and tenderstem broccoli at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

Service

When you walk into The Forge, you’re greeted by the bar area first. A member of staff behind the bar was quick to hello and to say that if we had a table booked, to walk through to the restaurant and we’d be shown to a table from there. We were. We were sat at a little table at the top of the stairs by a waitress who introduced herself by name – this was a lovely personal, and often overlooked, touch. Service was really good throughout. The staff were knowledgeable, charismatic, polite and very attentive. We were never forgotten throughout the duration of our meal, staff were extremely punctual in clearing our plates and bringing our next course each time, and one waitress even apologised for interrupting us to ask if everything was okay with the meal as opposed to simply asking in passing. The only downside to mention is that the restaurant almost seemed overstaffed. There seemed to be times when there were up to five staff members standing at the till behind us, this however is understandable for a new restaurant getting to grips with its demand, and some of the staff did appeared to be new and could have been in training.

Ambiance

The Forge Kitchen definitely has a buzz. The original industrial features in the building have been retained, and with the cast iron and wood themed décor provide diners with a really authentic smokehouse feel. Imagine Shoreditch style, but within the heart of Ipswich.

Dessert - waffles and chocolate fudge sundae - at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant

Dessert - waffles and chocolate fudge sundae - at The Forge Kitchen. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

We were seated at the top of the stairs which did mean there were staff and customers continually passing us, however sufficient space between tables meant it never felt like they were invading our personal space and we were provided with a great view across the open-plan restaurant.

Music and diners chatting and laughing meant it was a little noisy, but nothing more than you would expect in bar/restaurant environment and it was definitely still enjoyable.

Price

You’re made aware by the staff when you’re looking at the menu, that everything –meat, sides and some sauces – is priced separately. In total, my pork belly, root vegetables and broccoli came to £15.50, which I would more than likely be happy to pay in an upmarket restaurant anywhere else.

Waffles for dessert at The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich. PICTURE: Archant

Waffles for dessert at The Forge Kitchen, Ipswich. PICTURE: Archant - Credit: Archant

For (technically) four courses and two drinks, the price wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. If you wanted to spend less, you have the option of choosing fewer sides or could even share them out between your party. Another perk of the ‘pick and mix’ style menu. The food (and service) is worth the price you pay, however, if you were paying for a whole family or larger group, you probably wouldn’t want to opt for that many courses as we did, as the price would quickly add up.

Location and parking

Situated just off the waterfront, The Forge Kitchen is about a 15 minute walk from Ipswich town centre. The restaurant doesn’t have its own parking, however there is a large public pay and display car park only 100 yards down the road.

Highlight

By far, my highlight was the steak (and I didn’t even order it myself!) Oh, and the waffles.

Summary

If you’re someone who occasionally looks at a menu and considers asking to swap something in a dish for something else, you’ll love being able to build your own meal. This unique selling point does push the price up a little more, but the food is definitely worth it.

A quick note to add: Book your table in advance. We booked a table almost two weeks in advance and even then were only left with a couple of times to choose between. If you want to dine at The Forge Kitchen for a special occasion, don’t leave it until last minute to organise!!

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