Suffolk summer on a plate

26th July 2016

Article by Anne Gould, Essential Suffolk

The Crown at Westleton has a reputation that seems to spread far and wide with countless people recommending it as their favourite, or one of their favourite places to eat. Anne Gould drops by for supper.

It’s at that time of year when the evenings are light and because it’s hot and the sun is blazing time seems to just slip through your fingers. Or in other words – you are so absorbed in what you are doing, whether that’s work or play, you realise that if you are going to make supper yourself it’s going to be very, very late. The spontaneous and delicious alternative of course, is heading off in the direction of the coast and eating out – and for me that’s one of the real joys of summer.

So after a hard day in front of a laptop with the Essential Suffolk deadline looming the time was very much right to check out The Crown at Westleton, take in its amazing garden and soak up the atmosphere of an establishment that has seamlessly blended the architectural beauty of an old Suffolk pub and its beams and inglenooks, with the needs of contemporary dining.

To tell the truth my heart was already starting to be won over in the car park because I simply loved looking at the building, which dates back to the 12th century, and it’s various roof levels all sloping at different angles drawing you in to see inside. Further marks too for the simple but wonderful natural flower posy on our table that screamed “Instagram Picture”, before I’d even sat down.

Garden Room at The Westleton Crown
Garden Room at The Westleton Crown

So what to eat? The maitre’d was on hand to advise about the Specials menu and the soups – tomato and basil or pea and mint. Decisions, decisions chicken liver pâté, tea smoked duck breast, smoked haddock and cockle chowder or salmon and cod fishcakes to start. For mains fish and chips, 28 day hung steak, pork belly, Barnsley chop, sea bass, cod loin all looked tempting and there were also great vegetarian options to choose from. The menu, for those who are gluten and diary intolerant, also helpfully indicates with a G or a D what people on a special diet can and can’t eat.

In the end I chose Bruschetta with olive tapenade, wild mushrooms, Somerset brie and wild rocket while my friend had crispy lamb breast with cous cous, which arrived in an orange red tagine sauce and was garnished with slivers of radish. The visual delights continued, but luckily the chef, James Finch, isn’t one of those flash kitchen artists who prioritise style over content. Every mouthful of my starter really delivered a great combination of flavours and surprises. For instance there were a variety of different mushrooms on the Bruschetta and I was impressed how the brie was a great foil to tapenade, which on its own can sometimes be strong and overpowering.

Lamb breast
Crispy lamb breast starter

Sticking to the specials menu my main course, seared sesame seed tuna steak with wasabi mash, garlic ginger vegetables with miso sauce and pickled ginger, was an absolute show stopper. Served on a rectangular slate it was topped off by a spectacular tempura spring onion and got a gasp of approval by fellow diners as it was brought to the table. Of course this combination of Oriental flavours has become increasingly popular in recent years and is sometimes served with a heavy hand but the chef manged to balance the dish with great subtlety. I particularly liked the vegetables cut into superfine batons and served in a separate bowl (with spoon) in the miso broth. The sesame studded tuna was highly memorable, cooked just enough retaining a tender pink interior and tasting quite beautiful. Over the other side of the table my friend was sticking to much more traditional flavours; roasted breast of chicken, fondant potato, sauté Savoy cabbage, bacon, peppers and Madeira cream sauce. Her verdict was simply, “amazing.” Now at this point we could have both looked at the dessert menu and decided we had probably better not have any more. But... having avoided pudding, and regretted it, on a number of occasions it was clear that ‘the diet’ was, as ever, going to start on Monday.

Caroline went for her all-time favourite – sticky toffee pudding, which was served with banana, ice-cream and an artful sprinkling of nuts. Meanwhile I had a whipped orange posset with raspberry and lime compote – mainly because I had never eaten a posset but read about them in novels and historic cookbooks. I can report it’s like a citrus fool or syllabub, and wonderfully textured with just about the right amount of zest. The raspberry topping was sharp and a brilliant way to cut through the rich creamy pudding beneath.

Sticky toffee pudding
Sticky toffee pudding

So did The Westleton Crown live up to its reputation? Well the answer is undoubtedly yes – there’s clearly a real passion for excellence at this establishment, not just with the superb food that comes from the kitchen but the clear attention to every detail from the team, the decor to the flowers on the table. If you haven’t been yet I would highly recommend going. On a perfect summer’s day The Crown’s beautiful gardens I can imagine are the perfect setting for a lazy lunch before heading to the coast for the afternoon or in the evening as an excellent destination to round off your day.

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