All was revealed last week when I was invited to a 'Secret Garden' barbecue at Bildeston Crown and discovered the beautiful walled garden, tucked away at the back of the inn. You can book it exclusively for yourself and up to sixteen people for an al fresco meal. It has access through a gate from the car park or via the new very cosy lounge and Champagne bar (more about that another time). It's cook your own on the inset grills which run down the centre of the table, allowing you to barbecue delicious meats and vegetables yourself without having to move. Chef and owner Chris Lee is on hand to make sure no one goes hungry or burns anything they shouldn't. Ice buckets fill the gaps where there's no grill ensuring that the wine is as perfectly chilled as the guests. With delightful service from Hayley and the young, professional team at Bildeston Crown we enjoyed glasses of refreshing chilled rose and were delivered superb side salads, hot side dishes, dips and sauces to accompany the Red Poll steaks, homemade beef burgers, chicken kebabs and marinated pork. We cooked our meat on the grills, slowly grazing away well into the afternoon. If you fancy your own al fresco feast speak to Chris or Hayley who will tailor a menu for you. Prices start at £30 a head and I'll put my money on the cute little courtyard working well in the winter months too. Braziers, patio heaters, hot grills, vin chaud, raclette, Pierre-chaude and fondue ...just an idea.
- the inset grills, fired up and ready
- it was easy to reach the grills from our comfy chairs
- we cooked our own beef burgers
- just some of the hot side dishes
- drum roll .. as the food starts to arrive ... what will we be cooking?
- delicious side dishes kept on coming, including the Bildeston classic lobster Caesar salad
- thick cut Red Poll steaks were beautifully tender
- vegetable kebabs were delicious too
- chilled rose wine, ready and waiting
It was so tempting to have a lick of the plate and the juices left in the bottom of the bowl, once I had polished off the Isle of Wight tomato salad at The Northgate last week. The delicious hibiscus and sherry vinaigrette dressed tomatoes, topped with light, whipped cobnut cream and nasturtium pesto reminded me of a Spanish Gazpacho. And sitting outside on the lavender edged terrace, on what must be Bury's only central, outdoor, dining space added to the relaxed and laid back dining experience at this striking Victorian townhouse. I was invited to try the new menu and to tour the newly refurbed restaurant, cocktail bar and lounge ... all are quite stunning. There's a private dining room seating 14 (complete with giant framed cockatoos looking on). A brilliant and boldly decorated cocktail bar and a Chef's table where you can dine and watch the brigade at work. Head Chef Greig Young uses the best produce he can find, with the Taste of East Anglia menu (£45 a head) offering a selection of seasonal small plates, inspired by the local area and it's producers. And no I didn't only eat a salad, I ate bread made with Pakenham Mill flour, then a crisp and light Norfolk Dapple gougere, next came hand cut beef tartare with pickled mustard, broad beans and red endive, followed by a spiced East Anglian bhaji using local potatoes, and the finale of the savoury plates; fillet of plaice in a seaweed crust with a crisp lobster 'scampi' on a light hollandaise, lifted by slices of pickled cucumber. Greig chose to serve a whipped dark Tosier chocolate, creme de cacao ice cream on a saucy kombucha, caramel espresso as a pre-dessert and then for the main dessert - like I really needed two, roast white chocolate with hibiscus (think Caramac, but better) with roasted red fruit, raspberries and milk ice cream. As well as the superb food at The Northgate staff are also delightful, providing a professional, discreet yet friendly service under the expert guidance of Manager Michael Box.
- the homemade bread
- Norfolk Dapple gougeres
- Isle of Wight tomatoes, juicy with the hibiscus vinaigrette and you'd never believe that with the cobnut cream this is a vegan dish
- Hand cut beef tartare, pickled mustard, broad beans
- Bhajis made with local spud, crips and moreish, vegan too
- A huge lobster 'scampi' aloft the plaice fillet with pickled cucumber hollandaise
- Whipped Tosier chocolate with the slightly sour Kombucha espresso caramel and creme de cacao ice cream
- Caramac! Big shards on milk ice cream and roasted red fruits
- Affordable and interesting lunch menu, perfect for al fresco dining
- The cocktails are excellent too
- Smile! Head Chef Greig Young and Manager Michael Box
It was hardwork over that fire - one minute burning your eye lashes, next minute only just hot enough. But the Junior Johny Cakes' Caribbean experience came to the fore as they stoked it just right, and Inspector x's menu was the best some of the guests had ever tasted, expertly delivered by her hand-picked team of family waiters. And it was a perfect summer evening to be in the woods - so warm and still that even the candles stayed alight all night.
Last call for our joint venture with Pettafiesta. There is still time to book your space at Le Pop-up this weekend...