OK, I confess, I had never visited Suffolk. I discovered a strikingly beautiful county with coast, pasture, chocolate-box villages and historic towns. I discovered Woodbridge!
The Crown Hotel (read my review here) houses its eponymous 2 AA Rosette restaurant, which is recommended in the Michelin Guide. It’s found at the top of The Thoroughfare which is the town’s high street, in what is quite an anonymous building. Its exterior hides contemporary, cool design with international quality and local charm. The food here is as good as you will find in any capital city.
Head Chef Darran Hazelton is wedded to fresh local produce. Not just for the sake of it: it’s just that there is truly so much here to excite any professional cook or discerning diner. There is seafood from that aforementioned coast, and some of the best meat in the UK comes courtesy of local farms. There are the best of ingredients at The Crown and the dishes offer both traditional plates along with innovation.
Flavourful brown crab
This is a 16th century building but the restaurant is bright and fresh. Windows which look out over the bustling street are etched with silhouettes of local historic buildings – and the town is blessed in that regard. Tables are well-spaced and cater for couples or larger parties. Staff are knowledgeable and discreetly attentive, and the food will likely guarantee a return.
Suffolk grows asparagus but it has a relatively short season, making it a delicious local treat. If you are lucky enough to be visiting The Crown in those short spring months then you might find asparagus and cheddar quiche as a starter or served with a poached egg as a main course.
Cromer is a seaside town in East Anglia and it’s famed for its crab, so I ordered Potted Cromer crab with tarragon mayo, avocado and pink grapefruit, along with sourdough, as my starter. That bread was topped with flavourful brown crab meat which is, in my opinion at least, the most delicious part of the crustacean. An attractive presentation of salad leaves and Kilner jar.
Local produce with flair
‘Pinneys’ smoked eel, bacon, apple and ginger dressing with lemon crème fraîche was my guest’s starter. These fillets of eel were pale in colour but had a marked and balanced smoky taste. They were moist and marvellously paired with the bacon.
Adnams is a local brewery and their beer is a key ingredient in The Crown’s Dry Hop battered fish, served with rosemary fries, crushed peas and tartare sauce. This must surely be the most classic of British dishes, and therefore unmissable here.
That fish dish did appeal to me, but brill was also on the menu and I had never tried that. Poached fillets of brill, tomato consommé, samphire, crayfish ravioli and cockles was a picture of vibrant vegetables and pearly-white fish. This should be a signature dish, and it showcased local produce served with flair. A winner!
My guest’s main course was Guinea Fowl supreme, wild garlic and spring vegetable with pearl barley risotto, wild mushrooms and truffle. A great presentation of this game bird and the garlic added another dimension. This is another vegetable with a short season and it was savoured by the diner who pronounced the dish to be memorable.
Adnams sourdough treacle tart
The dessert menu offered twists on British favourites along with classy innovations. For those who enjoy a nod towards traditional then they will want to try Adnams sourdough treacle tart with a scattering of almond streusel, served with mascarpone ice cream. That local brewery has a hand in dessert too!
My guest ordered poached local rhubarb, yoghurt pannacotta, citrus Chantilly and ginger crumble. Rhubarb crumble is indeed traditional but this version was somewhat deconstructed and the garnishes elevated this pud to smart restaurant fare.
Chocolate delice with rum-soaked oranges, chocolate crumb, and orange marmalade ice cream was my choice. This was a substantial and sweet finish to a first-class meal. It was sophisticated, rich from the chocolate truffle, with refreshing tang from the fruit. The last bite of dinner was just as satisfying as the first. So the Crown Restaurant didn’t put a foot wrong.
Breakfast: Monday to Friday 7am – 10am. Saturday and Sunday 8am – 10am
Lunch: 12 noon to 2:30pm daily
Afternoon tea (book in advance): 2.30pm – 6pm daily
Dinner: Sunday – Thursday 6pm to 9pm, Friday and Saturday 6pm – 9.30pm
The Crown Restaurant
Suffolk IP12 1AD
Phone: 01394 384242
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018