Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A thousand curses on Jay Rayner

Or words to that effect. (I know how sensitive he can be!)

It’s Sunday morning and he’s reviewed the restaurant I was hoping to take Mrs. C to the following day. I had been working on the assumption that Monday lunchtime in sleepy Suffolk would be sufficiently quiet that a reservation would not be required. This was due to be a celebratory birthday treat so although the excellent marks awarded by Jay Rayner were reassuring, would it make getting a table difficult? I must admit I panicked and was on the telephone before I had a chance to don my waistcoat and was reassured by Ross, one of the owners of The British Larder, that they could indeed accommodate us and that marauding hordes of Rayner groupies had not as yet descended upon them.

And so it was that the new Cravat mobile (a long story involving an elderly gentleman, Waitrose carpark, and confusion between the brake and the accelerator) set fair for Woodbridge and a late morning shuffle around the excellent cook shop before crossing the river to Bromeswell and The British Larder. Now I knew the place as the Cherry Tree pub in the early 1980s, when I used to hurtle around Suffolk on my motorcycles, and I must admit it did appear to have been spruced up a bit. There remains a bar, with stools for perching upon, but the surroundings are very definitely slanted towards the food side of the business, as their website quite rightly suggests. Stripped floors, muted earth colours, comfortable leather chairs in the bar area, and well spaced tables for dining do follow the current trend with my normal criticism of the lack of sound deadening. Fine for talking (and listening to other peoples’ conversations if you are that way inclined) but when Mrs C’s knife made contact with her plate at one stage I could have sworn my ears bled!

We were greeted by the other half of the ownership team, Maddy, who proved to be friendly, attentive, and very knowledgeable of both the food and the drinks on offer. Other staff were also well trained in the niceties of service and were very pleasant. We settled down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and an excellent pint of Woodford’s Wherry while we perused the menu. Mrs. C is not one for large lunches and as it was her unofficial birthday, I suggested we share the Dingley Dell Pork tasting platter as a first course on the grounds that a) she could eat as much as she wanted, and b) I could hoover the rest. Mains chosen we settled back and chatted about things foody until Maddy escorted us through to our table.

The shared platter was excellent. Even the Pea and Ham soup met with my approval (I have no time for vegetables that require you to expend more energy trying to eat them than they provide during digestion) with the other elements demonstrating skill and sympathetic treatment of the ingredients. Star of the platter for me was the Scotch Egg, perfectly cooked runny yolked egg and with the addition of shards of ham in the coating. Very toothsome. The terrine was dense and full flavoured whilst the warm, slow braised, pork and lentils gave a good earthy kick to the platter. Accompaniments of picallili, celeriac remoulade and beautifully crusted bread from the Orford bakery with salted butter were exactly right and complemented the meats perfectly. My only slight disappointment was the gherkins, neither home-made or inventive – I would have preferred some pickled vegetables but that is a very personal choice.

The restaurant started to fill as we enjoyed a nicely judged gap between courses before we took up the eating irons once more. Mrs. C had chosen the slow cooked duck leg with roasted beets which was presented well, not too fussy, and ate even better. The different beets were tender, sweet and earthy, with the duck was beautifully cooked, moist and full of flavour. The accompanying kale was also deemed acceptable although definitely not one of Mrs C’s favourites! The portion proved to be too large for the bird-like Mrs C, so I was obliged to assist and was duly impressed.

My main course was locally caught Skate wing with cockles, kale, and sautéed potatoes. A very decent sized wing ha been faultlessly cooked, the sticky translucent flesh easily parting from the bone and nicely complimented by the intense cockles. Excellent sautéed new potatoes and the kale (not my favourite either but a good contrast of texture in this case) completed the dish. My only slight criticism is that it was all a bit buttery, definitely not a dish a cardiologist would recommend, but in the interests of research I was willing to take the risk.

Having eaten royally, we declined desserts but watching dishes being delivered to our fellow diners they appeared accomplished and were certainly enjoyed. The bill for the aforesaid, and an additional pint of Wherry to aid digestion, was a not unreasonable £57.  Definitely The Best rating!

Pictures are courtesy of Mrs C's phone. I am greatly indebted.
Toodle Pip Once More!

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