Head Chef Stuart Drane, formerly of Aurora in Ipswich and more recently Chef Lecturer at Suffolk New College, has taken up the reigns at the Suffolk Food Hall, heading up the brigade in the Cookhouse. I was invited to try the new Spring menu and after a heatwave weekend, the day I went was freezing cold and wet. So I was quite happy to see a slow cooked featherblade beef with roasted root vegetables and roast potatoes on the daily specials and ordered that for my lunch, preceeded by three very crispy and tasty fishcakes with homemade tartare sauce. The new slightly shorter Spring menu offers a very good element of mix and match menu items, and had it been warmer I would have easily been tempted by the Suffolk Gold Rarebit with a side salad. As I took Mr SuffolkFoodie I got to dip into his roasted tomato soup which had dollops of mascarpone, grated Parmesan and olive oil dotted across the surface, and also tried his Shepherds pie, which was rather delicious as it was made from slow cooked shoulder of lamb rather than the traditional minced lamb. Portions are very generous, and being conscious of the amount of food I've eaten recently judging for the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, decided that sharing a dessert would be the healthy option. I saw some fantastic ice cream sundaes being delivered to other tables, but couldn't resist the sound of the vanilla cheesecake with burnt orange caramel and orange sorbet. The sorbet packed a punch of flavour against the creamy cheesecake and the contrasting burnt caramel flavours and was easily big enough to share. The garden centre and farm shop proved to be a good chance to walk off some of the lunch, but as always, with the next meal in mind I managed to leave with a whole oxtail to cook for the weekend. And that was delicious too!
- roasted tomato soup with mascarpone, Parmesan and olive oil
- crispy fishcakes with tartare sauce
- slow cooked featherblade with roasted root vegetables and roast potatoes
- lamb shoulder shepherd's pie
- vanilla cheesecake with burnt orange caramel and orange sorbet
Check out the new Kitchen Club Masterclasses at The Suffolk Food Hall! I took part in a game masterclass last week which was enormous fun. As well as being informal and informative I made five new foodie friends. I am glad that I arrived hungry because we were served coffee and croissants while we listened to the enthusiastic Food Hall team telling us about the Broxstead Estate produce. The provenance of the ingredients supplied for the days cooking, and used on site is incredible, with as much as possible sourced from the farm. Mikey from the butchery gave a great demo on preparing a pheasant. De-boning, rolling and tying up ready for the oven.Then it was up to us to practice what we had learnt and to remove the breasts off our birds to make our own Pheasant Kievs. Head Chef Steve Robson was on hand throughout the day to talk through the recipes and share his expert knowledge and tips. We made our own garlic butter to stuff the Kievs and were also taught the technique to confit the legs of the pheasants and confit a beautifully carved (by ourselves) piece of potato. Steve kept us busy as we went on to prepare a Red Onion Tart Tatin. This was a carefully thought out menu, perfectly timed, because after two hours of chopping, rolling and stirring we got to take our finished dishes up to the restaurant and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Time to chat, ask Steve questions and swap notes with each other. There was far too much to eat in one sitting, so leftovers are boxed up to take home to enjoy later. More coffee, then back to the kitchen (which had been tidied in our absence) then on to work on our dessert recipe which was a Chocolate Fondant with Blackberry Compote. By the afternoon we were really getting in to it and enjoyed the challenge of spicing up our own blackberry compote and seeing who could get the perfect gooey middle to their pudding. Puddings were revealed at 3.30pm, with lots of oohs and aahhs, as we went back up to the restaurant to enjoy our astonishingly perfect puddings and more coffee. A great day out, with absolutely everything provided including a fact sheet, recipes and I hear a little gift to be added too! Masterclasses cost £75 per person with a very generous discount if you book all four in advance.
- The Masterclass team
- Mikey the butcher
- Duck fat for confit
- Pheasant legs ready to confit
- Making tarte tatin
- garlic butter
- Head Chef Steve
- Simmering confit potato
- Chocolate fondant from the oven
Yis' day on my visit to The Cookhouse at The Suffolk Food Hall for lunch, I had the chance to chat to owner Oliver Paul, who jointly runs the business with his cousin Robert. This is diversification on a hooge scale, with former cattle rearing units and silage clamps converted into a massive food hall, garden centre and cookhouse. There are commercial food production units complete with ice cream parlour and a large play area for kids with beautiful views across to the River Orwell. This is the kind of place you can wander for hours, with one area leading you into the next and something new round every corner. The provenance of this food doesn't get much better. Keeping it on the family farms with milk-fed pork, game, carrots, potatoes and onions coming from Broxtead while the Freston farm provides the Red Poll beef. The butcher in the food hall even sends the chicken carcasses to Steve Robson, the head chef (and our new Dish of the Day) to make stock. Nothing is wasted.
I ate a starter of lemon and herb hummus with flatbread and olives, chosen from the Summer Set Menu (2 courses £15.50/3courses £19.00 and hooly good value). Then I chose the Deben mussels which are from local supplier Simpers of Suffolk. Last time I tried their mussels I thought they were on the small size, but these were plump and succulent, although a bit hard going served with two thick doorsteps of bread and chips. There isn't a commercial deep fat fryer? They must be soft in the hid, I thought, but these homemade chips were great. I'm a fan of bite size desserts because you can pretend that you are aren't eating so much, so I pretended that I wasn't eating very much and chose 'A couple o' three'. A properly made mini apple and elderflower turnover, a slice of summer puddin' and - best on the plate - raspberry and balsamic sorbet. A roight old Suffolk feast.