Stylish and different

There are several qualities that set a Milsoms restaurant apart from others in East Anglia.

There are several qualities that set a Milsoms restaurant apart from others in East Anglia. The stylish interiors, the very good and competitively priced food and, everywhere, great attention to detail.

But there’s something else – the fact you can’t book a table.

Garth Wray, the young and savvy, general manager at Milsoms Kesgrave Hall smiles when I mention the subject. “Well, we did take bookings on Boxing Day! The rest of the year we don’t and it does not affect our business. It enables us to maintain our prices and keep a relaxed dining environment, there’s always a nice buzz when you come to our restaurants.”

So what can you expect after arriving at this splendid former school and air force officers’ headquarters on the outskirts of Ipswich?

“British style cooking using seasonal, local ingredients,” says head chef Stuart Oliver. “Local produce influences our dishes. We get beef from Dedham, chicken from Colne Valley, sausages from Lane Farm at Brundish and fish from Pinneys at Orford. We smoke our own salmon. We like to teach people in the kitchen different techniques of preparing food.

“I’m left to devise my own menus but sometimes the Milsom chefs (there are hotels at Dedham and Harwich too) get together to have tastings and compare what we are doing and try new dishes. It’s all about getting consistency across the group.”

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Wine is supplied by Bibendum who Stuart and Garth praise for their “incredible customer service” which includes staff training and tastings. Greene King ales are also available.

Looking around the restaurant and open-to-view kitchen there are examples of wit and invention. A sign over the large serving hatch says “engine room” rather than kitchen and the multi-layered menu flips round for food on one side and drinks on the other.

You order using a pencil and notepad then hand to one of the waiting staff.

“It’s a system that works well and is a bit of fun,” says Garth. “I think one or two other places are doing it now.”

“We get a good mix of couples, families and business people coming from as far afield as the coast, Essex and mid Suffolk.

“Luckily we haven’t been hit by the recession – you could say we have gained from people trading down from fine-dining but still looking for good quality.

“Similarly, some people are coming to us looking for something more than a pub meal.”

Milsoms, Kesgrave Hall, Hall Road, Kesgrave, Ipswich, Suffolk IP5 2PU. Call 01473 333741 for accomodation booking.