Tuddenham Mill restaurant, High Street, Tuddenham, Suffolk IP28 6SQ
It had been one hell off a week, in fact it had been one hell of two weeks… So when we were given to opportunity to dine and stay a night at Tuddenham Mill we packed an overnight bag and jumped in the car for an unwind weekend. (For a full review on the hotel click here.)
The restaurant, set in a historic converted Suffolk watermill, is headed up by award-winning chef Paul Foster. Previously of Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in California and Sat Bains. Oh, and also the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2011 young chef of the year. He’s created a contemporary menu taking influence from his chic, yet somewhat rustic, surroundings. Wherever possible he sources local produce and so the menu is varied, depending on what’s ‘out there’.
We were ushered through to the bar where we ordered a good bottle of Merlot, for around £25 and were given the menus. The bar area is dominated by the original water wheel that’s dramatically lit behind a huge glass wall.
Once we had ordered our meal (from the comfort of the bar), and enjoyed a glass of wine we crept up some creeky stairs through to the restaurant. A calming space, similar decor to the bar, heavy beams and muted tones, with the mill workings again taking centre stage. And be sure you take a look through the glass panels in the floor.
The table is simply set, just a plain napkin and Riedel glasses – no fuss here! We were sat on possibly the biggest table for two I have ever seen, we felt miles apart which slightly took away from the intimacy. Another couple had nabbed the star table, perched slightly higher than the rest behind the mill workings.
Some delicious freshly baked bread and locally produced unpasteurised butter was served along with an ‘amuse-bouche’, or pre-starter to you and me. This was two small breaded balls of white flakey fish, sat atop sweetcorn and capers… How do they get the sweetcorn to taste so good? It’s only sweetcorn!
But this was just a small delicious sample of things to come. To start,’ I had the Pork neck carpaccio, crackling, pickled golden beetroot £7.75, which was a work of wizardry. The pork carpaccio so delicate that I honestly think I could have cut it with a feather. I later found out that it was cooked sous vide, a method of slow cooking the meat whilst sealed in an airtight bag in a hot water bath, I’ll defiantly be looking out for this again.
The cracking was very similar to the ‘exploded’ pig skin that we last tried at Heston’s The Crown at Bray. But the star of the dish were the dice-sized pig head croquettes – mini mouthfuls that pack a porky punch. (I’ve been practicing my alliteration).
Saff’s Goosnargh duck breast, date purée, pickled shiitake mushroom, toasted seeds, £8.50, was a lighter affair, the addition of seeds gave it an almost healthy feel. She wolfed it down, but seemed slightly envious of my starter.
Now on to the main event, I had the Cornish hake, ham hock and potato hash, aubergine, pine nuts, £20.50. I don’t usually order fish as a main but after the amuse-bouche I thought I’d try my luck. The reason I avoid fish is due to a ‘bone stuck in my throat’ incident on a diving holiday in Egypt, a long story… But this time I needn’t have worried. The snow white Hake just fell apart in big flakes while the skin was so crispy it virtually shattered. The hash wasn’t what I expected, sizeable chunks of ham mixed in with halved new potatoes.
Saff ordered what would have been my second choice, Dedham Vale beef cheek and loin, artichoke purée, turnip pickled in horseradish, £25.00. A beautiful dish, the star of the show being the huge hunk of deeply succulent beef cheek. Joined with the juicy cut of loin, the mix was perfect.
For dessert Saff went for the Bitter chocolate textures, malt ice cream, salted caramel, £7.50. It looked stunning and must have tasted stunning too as she didn’t even offer me one spoonful! Again, what she loved most was the mix of textures, the crumbly dusty chocolate scooped up with thick, sticky salted caramel was pure heaven.
I found the Egg custard tart, buttermilk, apple textures, nutmeg, £7.25 a little of a disappointment. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, the mix of fresh and cooked apples added texture to a smooth and sweet tart, usually there would be no complaints…Perhaps I just had chocolate envy… But the dessert is usually the saving grace for the main course, here there was no grace to save! A fantastic meal, with relaxed but efficient service.
As we walked back to our room to sip the homemade sloe gin that was by our bed, we were wishing the night away, for then it would be time for a Tuddenham Mill breakfast… Sweet dreams.
Nearest stations: Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds