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104 High Street, Bildeston, IP7 7EB
Located in the heart of Suffolk's picturesque countryside, close to the wool towns of Hadleigh and Lavenham and perfectly placed for visiting the Dedham Vale and Constable Country, Gainsborough's birthplace Sudbury and historic Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich, The Bildeston Crown is an original 15th century coaching inn, which was imaginatively renovated and refurbished in 2003.
The 30-seater dining room which showcases the creativity and talents of Head Chef Zack Deakins and the reason behind why the Suffolk inn has held AA 3 rosettes since 2007. We are passionate about good food. This means quality produce, sourced locally whenever possible, and used when in season to get the best results.
As Giles Coren says -"the best little progressive kitchen in Suffolk”
We stopped at this lovely pub & restaurant quite on the spur of the moment one cold January lunchtime whilst driving through this part of Suffolk. Welcoming with wooden floors, beautiful Inglenook fires, beams and the requisite dog plus bowl of water, we sat at the bar and had a drink. Bar snacks are available including a haute Fish Finger sandwich served with ketchup or tartare sauce but we decided to sit in the main restaurant- a room painted in heritage smoke blue and pleasantly stripped back in design although not in service and warmth.
The menu is Modern English in style with classical French underpinnings and a carefully edited selection of starters including Smoked Haddock & Hens Egg Fishcake with Chive Veloute, Potted Shrimp and Melba Toast and English Snails with Parsley Butter. I ordered the Jugged Hare w/ Chestnut Gnocchi with the less usual pairing of Rocket and Parmiggiano salad as a starter instead of a main. Wise choice as generous in size, it would suffice as a main. Sticky, reduced and intense enough to coat the back of a spoon and clearly finished with a good chunk of butter, the hare virtually disappeared on the tongue, cooked to tenderness and as rich and Wintry as anything Jugged should be. The gnocchi could have been little carb bombs but they were instead light, fluffy yet bosky referencing Autumnal/Winter woodlands. The bitter greens of the rocket cut any richness perfectly reflecting the Italian Le Marche regional hare or boar dishes served with Bitter Greens.
My husband had the Curried Parsnip Soup accompanied by Spiced Apple and Walnut Bread. The soup was frothed, a parsnip milkshake and delicately spiced albeit a tad under seasoned to my taste. However being a salt hound who is partial to a few flakes of Maldon salt on their own, I am prepared to concede this opinion. Husband loved it.
Much vicarious pleasure is to be had from watching other customers demolish narrow towers of Crown Burgers topped with one of my favourite local cheeses- Suffolk Gold accompanied by little chip fryer baskets full of chips but Husband decided to go for the Fish Pie w/ Greens and Smoked Haddock Croquette. Being Pescetarian he often struggles to find adequate options on a meat heavy menu but found the opposite here - Wild Mushroom Risotto with Poached Duck Egg; Fish and Chips; Eggs Benedict w/ Smoked Salmon; Spinach, Feta & Pinenut Tortilla. Spoiled for real choice.
The Fish Pie came with virtual reality waves of piped cream potatoes in the manner of the great Joel Rebuchon's -melty, butter loaded and super luxe with a crunch coated croquette (obviously) that offered some textural contrast and was delicious-well worth risking a stab with his fork to steal a bite. The chef clearly aims to breathe new life into classic dishes be they bar food (burgers) or 'faine dining' (Chicken Liver Parfait) concentrating on local good ingredients, seasonal...Fresh.
The oft neglected skill of the patissiere and Chocolatiere is finally making a well deserved and lauded comeback and the Crown has some spectacular themed puddings ('Tropical') alongside traditional Creme Brulees, Apple Crumble and Fondat de Chocolat. Being rammed to the gills we settled for Petit Fours w/ coffee and were duly presented with four little mouthfuls so cute that I wanted to take them home as pets and name them.
Pate de Fruit of pear was pure essence of grainy pear showing a light hand with the gelatine. No bouncy Meltons fruit jelly here. Next up was a dark chocolate bonbon filled with a berry sorbet, a chocolate casing with liqueur filled mousse (Baileys? Brandied cream?) and finally a peanut butter fudge square.
Why haven't we been here before? We will be back. The prices are excellent and far better than most chain eating places offering a fake version of what they do for real here. Kudos to head chef Zack Deakins and his stellar team!
Mumsnet Suffolk paid for their meals and the restaurant did not solicit this review nor knew we were coming.
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