The Review: Charming food and great ambiance at Arlingtons in Ipswich
Claire Holmes gets re-acquainted with Arlingtons in Ipswich
I’m a big fan of Arlingtons and have visited the restaurant and café on numerous occasions since it first opened about six years ago. It’s ideally located close to Ipswich town centre and enjoys a commanding position on the corner of Museum Street and Arcade Street.
The building itself is particularly interesting and has a long history in the town.
It was built as Ipswich Museum and opened in December 1847, with the aim of educating the working classes about natural history. Since the town’s museum was moved to new and bigger premises in High Street in 1881, the building has been used for many different purposes, such as a bowling club and a confectionery shop.
In the 60s, the space was used as a ballroom and dancing lessons were given to thousands.
When current owners Liz and Ken Ambler came on the scene, the former museum was derelict and in need of some serious TLC. They completely renovated the building and transformed it a French-themed restaurant and café which many local residents have now come to know and appreciate – a process which Liz describes as a real labour of love.
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Inside, Arlingtons is certainly impressive.
The main brasserie is situated upstairs in the room that used to be the ballroom. Two huge skylights provide striking features and there is also a gallery overlooking the main room.
Tables for two are dotted along here and a piano also takes pride of place on the balcony.
Despite Arlingtons being among my list of top restaurants to visit in Ipswich, it’s been about a year since I last ate in the brasserie and much has changed in this time.
A central room divider with fixed seating has been removed, while the bar has been re-located from the centre of the room to the corner.
The result is, in my opinion, a more versatile space and a room that feels much larger.
Downstairs is the café and bar area, which has funky décor and wacky wallpaper, and there’s also a separate, cosy room downstairs known as the Henslow Room.
This is used to host various events throughout the year, including the regular poetry cafe.
When we visited Arlingtons on a chilly December evening, the interior was decorated beautifully for Christmas – with greenery draped along the staircase and festive baubles scattered about.
The restaurant was busy with couples and groups of friends of all ages, which highlights the broad appeal of both the food and the atmosphere at Arlingtons.
Staff are very attentive at the restaurant and we felt well looked after all evening, with general manager Oliver Reeves providing useful advice and friendly service.
Head chef Federico Battistetti is in charge of the kitchen at Arlingtons. Since joining the business, he has helped its reputation grow considerably and has put the restaurant in a strong position for the new year.
Federico completed his training in Italy, and then spent four years travelling round the world, learning and enjoying different styles of cuisine. He now enjoys cooking modern fusion dishes, which can be seen on the restaurant’s menu alongside traditional French classics.
We found some great choices among the different offerings and it took us a while to decide what to order.
It was also refreshing to see such a range of dishes for gluten intolerant diners, vegetarians and pescatarians and we counted no less than four gluten free options on the set menu.
We finally chose to start with the kiln roasted smoked salmon with a lemon mayonnaise and toasted ciabatta, and the pear and walnut salad with rocket and grilled halloumi.
Both our starters were fresh and light and we were particularly impressed with the smoky taste of the salmon.
My salad was really tasty and I enjoyed the combination of halloumi, pear and walnut. The dressing complemented the flavours brilliantly too.
Before being presented our starters, we were given some soft bread and butter which was a nice touch.
For the main event, my partner opted for the steak, which came with frites, salad and a choice of sauces.
He asked for it to be cooked medium-rare and when it was served, he was really pleased. The meat was lovely and tender, and cooked just the way he liked it.
I decided on the sauted pork medallions with onions, apples, cider and cream which came with rice.
I loved the sauce, which was balanced and seasoned perfectly. The pork was cooked brilliantly and the apples gave the dish a lovely sweet bite.
For dessert, my partner followed our waiter’s recommendation and chose the sticky toffee pudding.
As a firm favourite among dessert lovers, sticky toffee puddings always have a lot to live up to and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.
There was plenty of sweet sauce served with the soft sponge and a nice dollop of ice cream to set it all off. And, despite proclaiming that he was stuffed half way through the dessert, my partner left a completely clean plate.
I chose the lemon chiffon, which was zesty and light and provided the perfect way to round off my dinner.
There’s an extensive wine list to accompany your meal at Arlingtons, as well as soft drinks and beers galore.
My partner chose his favourite Adnam’s ale (Ghostship), while I opted for a glass of Picpoul de Pinet, which was fresh and citrusy.
One of the things we noticed about the wine list is that the majority of wines are available to buy by the glass (as either a small, medium or large glass) – which is great if you only want to drink a small amount.
Part of the charm of Arlingtons is the fact that food is so reasonably priced.
A set menu is available for just £12 for two courses and £15 for three courses, while main dishes on the standard menu range from about £10 to about £17.
It’s easy to spend a whole evening soaking up the atmosphere at Arlingtons, listening to the café-style music and enjoying great food and drink.
It really is a place for all occasions and I will definitely be returning.
Arlingtons brasserie restaurant and café-bar, 13 Museum Street, Ipswich, IP1 1HE.
Tel: 01473 230293