As the sun set across the meadow and I splashed my face with the water which had been warmed by a log burner for our hot tub, the day’s pressures floated away. . .
The distant snort of a wakeful pig and the unexpected chirrup of a surprised blackbird were all that could be heard. Bliss.
Oh, you were expecting a food review? Well I’m getting to that.
We were at Tuddenham Mill – nestled in the lovely countryside between the A14 and the A11 but with none of the road rage. I had been meaning to sample chef patron Lee Bye’s food for many, many months.
Lee, as you may know, is a regular food writer for this newspaper and keeps on stacking up award after award. The Good Hotel Guide has just picked Tuddenham as one of the top 10 best restaurants with rooms in the UK, while the Sunday Times names it as one of Britain’s best places for a Sunday roast.
So we were looking forward to a feast – but also to the pick of their new nooks. These cosy little meadow rooms are set next to the mill stream and a short walk away from the Mill. They are rustic, romantic and each nook offers a blend of cosy luxury, subtle interiors and a fabulous location with uninterrupted meadow views. We nabbed the one with the log-fired hot tub.
People really get the wrong impression of restaurants like Tuddenham Mill. All the accolades can put people off as they imagine the dining will be too fine, too expensive and too serious. Ladies and gentleman, let me blow those ideas out of the water.
The staff serving tables at Tuddenham know their job, love what they do and work as a team. I wasn’t sure if the ‘Bertha’ pigs cheeks with spring onion, hazelnuts and aubergine (£9.50) would be for me but I was put at ease by our very knowledgeable waitress. And what a choice it proved to be! The meat was tender and fell apart and the combination of flavours was memorable. Across the table, my partner had Shetland mussels with Debenham cider, parsley and sage sourdough (£9). She’s an aficianado when it comes to mussels and these got the full seal of approval for a wonderful taste of the ocean.
I love lamb, so the Breckland lamb rump with white bean ragout, roasted leek, girolle mushrooms and honey porter was an obvious – and ultimately thrilling – choice (£24.50). The lamb is cooked pink just as I like it and that, plus the fusion of other tastes on my plate, left me with a satisfied grin. My partner went for Roasted stonebass with slow-cooked ham, mushroom broth, sea cabbage and spelt (£24.50). Again, Lee has got the flavours down to – the broth was outstanding.
After a short break and in the interests of research, we asked for the dessert menu. My partner went for a clear favourite with our waitress – Walnut rice pudding, with golden raisins and apple (£8). Remember to leave space as there was a real bowl full and it tasted amazing with the walnuts offsetting the sweetness of the remainder of the dish. Mention coffee to me and I’m all ears, so the Bitter chocolate marquise, with flat white ice cream and hazelnut (£9.50) had me instantly hooked. It didn’t touch the sides. If you love chocolate, you won’t have any regrets. Trust me.
To book a table or check availability of the nooks or other Mill rooms, call 01638 713552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org You can check pictures via tuddenhammill.co.uk
The Mill has teamed up with Tuddenham Nurseries and is offering a free Reindeer in the Meadow and Christmas Bonfire Night on Friday, December 22 (6-10pm). Visitors will be offered a complementary glass of warming mulled wine or cider and there will be roasted chestnuts, sausage rolls and chocolate brownies. For younger visitors, there will be two special guests – two of Father Christmas’s reindeer and a hand-tame owl. All are welcome.