Good restaurants are in short supply in my part of Suffolk. If you know different, please feel free to message me. Please, I’m begging you.
I’ve tried everything from fayne dayning through ethnic to pub grub and although there are some decent pubs (and a lot of very average ones), there are two restaurants that I think stand out.
I’ll apologise in advance for the quality of the pictures, which don’t do the food in either place justice. I know people tend to photograph everything they eat these days but I feel as embarrassed using a camera in a restaurant as I would a mobile ‘phone. Consequently my pictures are taken in a rather furtive fashion and I’m afraid it shows. But if you are in the area, both restaurants are well worth a look.
The first is the excellent Fox and Goose at Fressingfield, which my husband remembers being taken to as a youngster. In those days it was run by a famously irascible man who, if he took a dislike to a customer, sometimes chucked their dinner out of the window into the neighbouring churchyard.
Happily, these days, it’s changed hands and the staff are charming. The food is seasonal and local and on the four occasions I’ve been there the menu has been interesting, delicious and perfectly cooked. Their fresh fish is outstanding.
There was one occasion when I failed in my attempt to describe exactly how I like my steak (medium-rare in France, rare in Britain, bloody but not still twitching on the plate or cold in the middle) and the chef was so worried he’d overcooked it he sent me another one, perfectly done to my taste. How can you not like a restaurant like that?
The second, closer to home, is the 745pm restaurant at Middlewood Green, run by David Wickes. It’s only open for two nights a week and as it only has room for two dozen diners it gets booked up incredibly quickly.
Partly owing to this and partly to my own lack of organisation, it took me a year to book a table there for my birthday. Mind you, it’s taken me nearly as long to get round to writing this post. Sorry, David.
7.45 offers a five course set menu at a bargain price of £35.50. It’s not a tasting menu but five balanced courses of imaginative and delicious food. If there’s something you really don’t eat, David will cook you an alternative, but mostly you get what you’re given.
And you’ll get no complaints from me. David is the first person who has ever presented me with beetroot in a form I actually enjoyed. There is no higher praise.
His menu, again, is seasonal so it will be very different now to when we ate there, but stand-out dishes included a chicken liver parfait smoother than a baby’s bum and rather more appealing on the plate, topped with a port wine jelly and served with a dinosaur egg (not a fossilised reptile remnant but a stickle-backed bread roll); a subtle chicken dish with pasta and olives that slipped down a treat and a damson and amaretto trifle that was so good I’ll be experimenting come damson season to try to replicate it, as David politely ignored my hints to share the recipe.
The beetroot came with the Fish Pi – a piece of hot smoked salmon with a pi-shaped piece of a creamy beetrooty thing (you can tell I’ve misplaced the menu), a pastry ‘plus’ sign and a round of colcannon. It was amusing but for me it didn’t quite add up. I’d have liked some kind of sauce to help it all down.
David imports the restaurant’s wines himself and sells them at correspondingly low prices. You just help yourself to bottles from the wine cabinet, open them yourself and then leave the bottles at the end of the table to be totted up at the end of the night. My kind of restaurant.
David’s an interesting man who wore a lot of hats before donning his metaphorical chef’s toque (I’m fairly sure he doesn’t wear one): software design, graphic design and furniture making, and his passions include competition croquet and gardening the land around the moated farmhouse that’s been in his wife’s family for centuries. I don’t know how he finds the time.
The restaurant is in a converted farm building a few steps from the house and he runs it with just one indispensable helper in the kitchen and a couple of wait staff. Turning out five course meals twice a week for a couple of dozen people is a tall order in the circumstances but David clearly thrives on a challenge. He’s got his eye on a mention in the Michelin Guide but to qualify he’d have to open on Sundays too. Watch this space.
He’s close to retirement age – in fact he had officially retired until he got twitchy and opened 7.45 – but has no plans to hang up his kitchen knives. “I’ll probably be doing this until I drop down dead,” he says. And grins.