Lights, cameras, flavour

There’s more than a touch of theatre to a night out at Ipswich’s latest Waterfront restaurant, says Mark David. But it’s the fantastic food that will make you return time and again

I have visited The Quayside Bar and Restaurant twice since its recent opening in late 2009, once for a quick snack lunch and once for a quick drink. I warmed to it straightaway for several reasons.

You walk into a “film set” with stage lights adorning the high ceiling, vast plate glass windows partially overlooking the harbour, an inviting balcony (Upper Circle!), with intimate, softly-lit tables and cosy private dining area and a clever moving picture of the harbour and passing traffic projected on to a large wall.

And you can sense immediately that it is not just another chain/theme establishment. It is a genuine one-off.

I nearly forgot to mention the magnificent ‘roll of honour’ just inside the front door, a huge list of those who bravely fought in two world wars. Owner Max Moussa tells me he rescued it from the site manager’s office when he took over the building. “I had to get it up on the wall, it seemed to belong,” he says. “I also rescued an old winch and decided to feature it in the restaurant, as I thought it right not to forget what these waterfront buildings used to be, part of our trading heritage.”

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Before I talk about food, I want to introduce you to Max, a vigorous, lively, passionate entrepreneur who hails from Manchester, where he helped his mum run a successful AA rosetted and Michelin-starred hotel and restaurant.

His mum decided to sell up and take it easier and Max decided to move east and be nearer relatives in Martlesham. With a child on the way he thought he ought to get a day job and plumped for the post of restaurant manager at the renowned Seckford Hall where he remained for several years.

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“I loved it there,” says Max. “But my feet began to itch and I wanted to do my own thing. It must be in my blood!”

Like anyone setting up a new business, Max has gathered a strong team around him. Head chef is Stephen Carrick, with whom he worked for a number of years at Seckford Hall.

The front of house is run by a young team with a bar manager and restaurant manager. The bar is the “face of the place,” bright and bustling with comfy informal seating nearby as well as eating tables. At weekends, the licensing hours are extended to 1am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with occasional live music.

And now to the food! Max describes the theme as modern British and the menus offer a good but not overwhelming choice. I had trouble deciding what to eat because the dish descriptions are so tempting!

How can you resist sticky pomegranate-glazed quail, carrot and ginger salad or breast of duck served pink with carrot and star anise puree, jasmine rice, honey lime and ginger sauce? I chose seared scallops, watercress salad, chilli jam and cr�me fra�che to start. It came as a generous portion, with perfectly cooked scallops (literally introduced to the pan!), simple squeaky watercress salad and a home-made chilli jam, sweet and punchy, just right!

I followed with fillet of fresh bass sitting on a bed of noodles, snake beans and prawn dumplings, all in a chilli, ginger and coriander broth. I chose both these dishes deliberately as both are difficult to get right. I couldn’t fault either.

The bass was juicy and tender, the prawn dumplings simple and bite-size, the broth superb, setting off the bass with a subtle but distinctive flavour. This dish was a brilliant example of low-fat without being boring!

Although the oriental theme is obvious I still think “Modern British” is a good description of the food. It encompasses “Fusion” cooking honestly and practically.

I finished with rhubarb soup with ginger pannacotta – a light, set ginger cream tower surrounded by a moat of simple pur�ed rhubarb, sweet but not overly so.

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