9 of the best tasting menus in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
If you want to take your taste buds on a culinary journey, check out what these restaurants have to offer.
In the past few years some chefs have been on the fence about tasting menus. Most notably Cambridge's Daniel Clifford, who threw them out the window (only to reel them back in later on). More recently Michelin starred chef Sat Bains has flown the flag for the dining experience, gaining the support of fellow foodies and restaurateurs who rapturously agreed with his comments, made in a recent interview. "The way I look at a tasting menu is similar to going to the theatre or watching a film; you need that contrast of the peak and flow of the meal, so it's got to be thought out. You can't be lazy with a tasting menu, as you have to be thinking about contrast, balance, texture and temperature. When you nail that, your guests are left with a world class experience."
With that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best places you can exercise your tastebuds in the county. But there are a few rules…
1. Always book in advance and inform the kitchen of any allergies in good time, and be aware the whole table usually has to take a tasting menu.
2. Don't be put off by dishes on the menu you wouldn't usually order. That's the whole point. Experiment. Experience. Let the chef take you on a journey.
3. If you're not driving, order the wine flight. Restaurants often put a lot of work into these and they work out at exceptional value.
The ICE Lunch Bar, Rougham
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So popular is this experience that it's no exaggeration to say it sells out months in advance. Bookings are currently being taken for 2020! Why the fuss? Well, only 12 diners can take part at any time, and all the food is cooked and prepared right in front of your eyes in the kitchen. ICE really put their guests front and centre of the action. And with access to high-tech kit and some incredible ingredients, they certainly can take you on a ride. Lunch costs around £50 for multiple dishes and you must pay in full at booking to secure your seat! They don't really give much away on the menu. A line-up could include: 'knobs', beetroot, venison, apple, pear, coffee and petit fours.
The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds
Head chef Grieg Young has, in just over a year, breathed new life into this quirky boutique guest house with rooms. A real treat is booking the chef's table where you can see the masters at work. Everything is crafted from scratch, from bread, to smoked goods made at sister restaurant The Weeping Willow in Barrow. Greig even forages some ingredients and loves to pickle and preserve -look for the jars lining the kitchen wall. His menus tip their hat to the best East Anglian produce and if you book the chef's table (up to 12 people) you'll taste the best of what he has to offer. Maybe something from, or a variation of something from, the a la carte menu, or dishes prepared especially for you. The menu this year has included hand cut beef tartare with pickled mustard seeds, black garlic and endive, and a divine whipped dark chocolate with crème de cacao ice cream and sour espresso caramel.
The Brewers, Rattlesden
This place is becoming a rising star on the dining scene. Inside, the beautiful pub restaurant has an unfussy, comfortable ambiance with the focus on great local ales, hand-picked wines and a menu of exceptional food to match any of the county's fine dining restaurants. Five courses are £45 and eight £60 with optional wine flights to pair. As with the majority of the county's tasting menus, this one is based on the freshest seasonal ingredients, but dishes in 2019 have ranged from pigeon with beetroot, to lamb and olive, and Baron Bigod with truffle.
The Bildeston Crown, Bildeston
One of only a clutch of restaurants in Suffolk holding three AA Rosettes. Chris and Hayley Lee offer a warm and hearty welcome to their inn in this petite Suffolk village. It's a lovely place for a mini break, taking in country walks and visits to nearby wool towns such as Hadleigh and Lavenham. The flavours Chris uses may be bold, but he has a delicate touch when it comes to plating, so expect intense tastes with an elegant finish. His tasting menu offers diners the crème de la crème of what the kitchen can offer, and there are special tasting events too - the next, a game dinner with wines from Piedmont, on November 22. The six course supper (£75 per person) includes game consommé with a galantine of local mallard, pistachio, apricot and confit leg hash, served with Nas-cetta del Comune di Novello, and pot roasted pheasant with smoked shepherd's pie, cabbage, bacon and onions, paired with Brolo Bussia Riserva. Tables are running out so book fast to reserve yours.
An award-winning chef patron, award winning hotel and award winning restaurant - this place has it all. Lee Bye champions East Anglian produce( including his granddad's homegrown veg) and is passionate about supporting, training and mentoring young chefs. His menu offers them the opportunity to work with some of best ingredients in the region, and to produce innovative plates diners can't get enough of. The tasting menu showcases Tuddenham's excellence and shines a light on the best of the season, at £70 per person with wine flights an additional £40. So far this year guests sampling the menu have tasted plaice 'curry', sea buckthorn with walnut and apple crumble, and squab pigeon with heather, rapeseed and roots.
The Fox and Goose, Fressingfield
This pub/restaurant has long been renowned for its glorious food, catering for all budgets with an a la carte, pub and tasting menu. Boasting two AA Rosettes and listings in Michelin and Hardens guide, their tasting menu blends local ingredients with the finest flavours from around the world, and it's only £50 per person for seven courses (wine an extra £25). This year diners have been treated to hot roast smoked salmon with pea and coconut panna cotta, cashew nuts, lemongrass powder, and mint and mango salsa, and tonka bean panna cotta with cherry sorbet, hazelnuts, cherries and tonka bean crunch.
Forage Kitchen, Rougham
From game, to wild mushrooms and seasonal fruit and vegetables, at the weekends the private dining space at Forage Cookery Schools opens its doors to a limited amount of diners who are served up a fine dining tasting menu which changes as the wind blows. It's only £49 for eight to 10 courses of hyper-seasonal cuisine. You must book in advance. Who knows what delights you'll end up sampling?
The couple behind this family-run restaurant take such care in what they do, and little has changed at this restaurant since they opened more than three decades ago. And why should it? They have a winning formula of excellence in both service and food, with all dishes made from scratch, including smoked fish, which often finds its way into the canapes you can nibble on in the lounge before settling into the restaurant. You need to pre-order the four or five course tasting menu, which is £42.50 for five courses including canapes, bread and seasonal vegetables. A recent menu included oak smoked salmon with pickled cucumber and lime dressing, Cornish crab with mushroom and sweetcorn pasta, and pan-fried fillet of turbot with steamed spinach, clams and a white port and chive sauce.
1921, Bury St Edmunds
This award-winning restaurant is stunning in every way. Elegant is the best word to describe the dining room, service and food. Chef patron Zack sources the best local ingredients to conjure his menus, and only the best of everything ends up on the regularly changing tasting menu (£75 per person with wine flights £50). Begin with canapes before sampling the main events which have ranged from Mersea crab with wasabi pickled mooli, green apple and avocado, to rillettes of Gressingham duck leg with liver parfait and peach, and chocolate and cherries.