Review: The Brewers, Rattlesden: 'A taste of the season'

Glazed duck with celeriac and plum at The Brewers Rattlesden

Glazed duck with celeriac and plum - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

There’s something about a tasting menu that really appeals to me. It's not that they’re considered ‘fancy’ or ‘a bit posh’. I couldn’t care less about that. No. It’s that great leap into the unknown. Heading out for dinner without an inkling of what might be placed on the table in front of you. 

For someone who usually wants to order everything, the tasting menu is a weight lifted. All I need do is sit back, order wine and wait for the succession of plates to arrive. 

Another thing I relish about tasting menus is their ability to spark conversation. Unusual combinations and pairings, offbeat ingredients, and demonstrations of technical brilliance become talking points – especially in a communal dining situation. 

Which is where I found myself on Tuesday night. I’d been invited with my friend Jo to join a bevy of East Anglian chefs for a special tasting dinner at The Brewers in Rattlesden, held as a bit of a treat to boost their spirits after the slog of Covid, and as they launch into the busy festive period. 

Chefs' dinner at The Brewers Rattlesden

Inside the chefs' dinner - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2020 Chef of the Year Sam Sturman of The Brewers in Rattlesden

Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2020 Chef of the Year Sam Sturman of The Brewers - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Guests included Lee Cooper of Bedford Lodge, food writer Tessa Allingham and the former head chef and new head chef of the Leaping Hare. 

We were on the, I’m going to call it, ‘lively’ table, consisting of chef patron of three pubs out west (including The White Pheasant at Fordham) Calvin Holland, The Bildeston Crown and Three Kings’ Chris Lee, wine guru Ed Keith, and Mark Poynton. 

I confess, I hadn’t tried Sam Sturman’s food until this point. The last time I ate at The Brewers was when its first chef under new ownership, Dan, was in situ. Sam (formerly Dan’s sous) is now proudly chef patron of the establishment, and has high aspirations for what was named Best Newcomer in our 2020 food and drink awards – with Sam himself named Chef of the Year. 

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After a fizz reception we took our seats for the main event – the menu giving nothing away – sage and onion, salmon, pomme souffle, raw scallop, duck, brill, venison, pineapple and coconut, pumpkin panna cotta. 

We were all intrigued. 

To begin, crisp shelled, soft centred homemade rolls which, when paired with the soft whipped butter, gave hints of sage and onion. My roll was just ever so slightly underbaked. But I wolfed it down nonetheless! 

Cute cones of smoked salmon, aerated goats’ cheese, beetroot and gingerbread crumb arrived pushed into a pot of corn kernels (it’s the trend these days). This one wasn’t for me – I just don’t do goats’ cheese) but Jo assured me it was delicious. 

It's rare to find pomme souffle (crisp, puffed golden shells of potato) on a menu in this day and age, but Sam and his team had it cracked, with the puffy rounds (similar in appearance and texture to Indian pani puri) filled with creamy mushroom goodness, and topped with shaved truffle and pops of pickled tarragon. Delightful.

Cod ceviche with lime and jalapeno granita at The Brewers Rattlesden

Cod ceviche with lime and jalapeno granita - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

 

Our ‘starter’ course certainly caused a stir around the room. Not everyone can stomach raw fish, and shellfish at that (definitely not my mate), but I thought the thinly sliced pieces of super fresh ceviche style scallop were wonderful, topped with a sweet Nashi pear puree and sliver of radish. What made it for me was the jalapeno and lime granita spooned over at the table. Cooling and a touch sweet to begin, but packing a punch as it warmed in the mouth.

Offal tacos at The Brewers Rattlesden

Offal tacos - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

 

The duck breast, coated with whole spices including aniseedy fennel, had clearly been cooked and rested properly and looked ‘bluer’ than it actually was. In eating it was tender and buttery soft. The bird arrived with a sweet/sharp plum puree, roasted plum, caramelised celeriac puree and, something I will definitely be making at home – honey glazed roasted celeriac, which was a sticky, delectable joy. 

It was 50/50 at the table over the accompanying ‘taco’ of ground duck offal (I’m guessing liver and heart?) topped with more of the celeriac puree and truffle shavings. Jo and I enjoyed it. 

Brill with a cucumber, horseradish and oyster sauce, topped with a deep-fried oyster The Brewers Rattlesden

Brill with a cucumber, horseradish and oyster sauce, topped with a deep-fried oyster - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Our next course was brill – an often overlooked flatfish that’s interchanged quite a bit with turbot due to its similarly meaty qualities. 

Steamed until tender, the subtly flavoured fish, with a crowning of dill dust, was served over a cream of oyster, horseradish and cucumber, with a yummy deep-fried oyster on top. We couldn’t really pick up the individual flavours within the sauce, but agreed it was very tasty indeed – the sharpness cutting through the oyster like a knife. It was interesting to see hen of the wood mushrooms used as a veg underneath. 

Venison with salsify at The Brewers Rattlesden

Venison with salsify - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

A favourite dish around the room was the dainty round of perfectly pink venison, served with a salsify puree, roasted piece of salsify, and a syrupy, savoury, spoon-coating jus which would have taken days to make. On the side, a venison hot pot of confit meat bound in cooking liquor, topped with creamed potato, chive and Parmesan. 

I really enjoyed the pre-dessert – largely because tropical fruit floats my boat. 

A pineapple and coconut dessert at The Brewers Rattlesden

A pineapple and coconut dessert - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

An almost caramelised crisp of pineapple, with a crown of smooth, sweet, iced coconut, concealed a super-thin tartlet encasing a pineapple and mint salad, and a tropical fruit curd. I want the full-sized version! 

Our table was, again, split on the final dessert- but, as I said right from the top, this is what a tasting menu’s about – discussion, trying new things, experimenting. 

The vanilla panna cotta, set with a pumpkin topping, had a gentle wibble, and hadn’t been over gelled. It was served over a pumpkin puree with orange granita, candied orange and puffed wild rice, with a generous dash of nutmeg. 

In a world where pud can be too sucrosy, this was a dessert that almost entirely relied on the natural sweetness of its elements. I found it a well-thought-out piece of cooking, if a teeny bit overpowered by the nutmeg. Bursts of bright orange, and the genius addition of nutty puffed rice for texture meant every mouthful was different. 

The finale was Sam’s homemade chocolates – a lockdown project for the chef, who says they’ve become a huge passion for him. 

Sam's homemade fudge and chocolate at The Brewers Rattlesden

Sam's homemade fudge and chocolate - Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Presented in a box by the man himself, the confectionary gleamed like jewels, with flavours including lapsang souchong (which I tried – very smoky), clotted cream and sea salt fudge, peanut and lime, caramel and spiced pear. What a treat. 

The Brewers’ tasting menu is £75 for nine courses with wine flight pairings available, and typical dishes include pigeon breast and beetroot roly poly, blackened tuna with charred sweetcorn and puffed rice, assiette of local hogget with artichoke, onion and ale, and apple and blackberry tart with blackberry Chantilly and hazelnut and clotted cream parfait. 

Thebrewersrattlesden.co.uk 






 
 
 
 

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