Cuts the mustard
PUBLISHED: 09:02 03 March 2014
My world is not full of iPads, tablets, apps, mobile phones etc. Maybe I'm an old fogey, but for many they're are just unnecessary, expensive accoutrements.
We were on the bus the other day, totally surrounded by people using their mobile phones –were they playing music, games or waiting for a phone call or talking to their friend? – a sad situation, I feel.
The rule in our house is that at the table mobile phones are totally banned. For me though, my modern, efficient, but not expensive, laptop is a necessity. Another tool I need is a simple, small mobile phone – for making calls, not for taking photos, sending emails, reading weather reports or football results.
Viewed by me previously as a toy, I admit I have bought a sat nav. It works pretty well - last week we were within half a mile of our destination but quite lost. Punching in the village, we were there in three minutes. Not so successful when we keyed in the name of our destination restaurant, however. Our clever machine didn’t recognise it, so we had to enquire at a nearby pub. And so, at last, we found Stoke Mill Contemporary Fine Dining, the first place where chef Andy Rudd will fly his own flag. Several years after working at Adlard’s restaurant when he was 19, he is now hanging up his knives in his very own kitchen. The mill was originally owned by Colmans, who began production of their famous mustard there 200 years ago, and it has been a restaurant in recent history. Andy should shake it up and put it in the ranks of leading Norfolk eating-out destinations. It’s a big building and looks like there is plenty of potential to expand. With its new lick of white paint it presents smartly. Inside there has been a make-over, smart polished floors, new tables and comfortable chairs.
Although the restaurant is big, they have reduced the covers so there is space between the tables, good for intimate conversation! A jiggling around with the table and ceiling lights using maybe cosy candles would make a lot of difference to the atmosphere, but it’s early days on this learning curve.
We sat on a leather sofa in the small lounge for our aperitif, a chardonnay from Rives-Blanques, a “going-places” vineyard in Limoux run by an English/Belgian couple, together with an amuse bouche of a small, hot ball of mini-fishcake – a good start.
At the table, eating long parmesan cheese sticks and with the warm bread nestling in diminutive Colman era sacks, we chose our menu. I was immediately seduced by truffles, choosing truffle buttered duck liver parfait. The pear chutney was nestled among a kaleidoscope of tiny vegetables – a good looking and tasty dish. Da chose the classic of scallops, belly pork and apple and ginger purée. To avoid the rubbery texture of the mollusc it was cooked on one side, an interesting technique. This elegant dish was served on a cold plate, another interesting format.
We both chose fish for the main course. Da’s fillet of sea bass was dominated by the delicious lobster bisque sauce and for me the colourful, creamy paella with saffron and turbot had an undisclosed ingredient which made it a special dish – again lobster.
Among the mainstream desserts were hot chocolate fondant, tarte tatin and crème brûlée but I chose an odd-ball de-constructed banoffee pie. A trio of teaspoon-size ice-creams, chocolate, fudge and caramel were quenelled on to the plate in a regimental line, with a nut biscuit to garnish. In the same arrangement were slices of banana neatly in line on top of a shortcrust pastry and caramelised. Simple
and distinguished, my sweet kicked the original version into touch.
While drinking a good espresso we talked to chef Andy and I thought he hadn’t changed too much over the years. Cheffing must be good for him!
Stoke Mill Contemporary Fine Dining, Mill Road, Stoke Holy Cross, NR14 8PA; 01508 493337; www.stokemill.co.uk
Expect to pay:
Lunch: Two courses £14.95, three courses £17.95
Dinner: Two courses £17.95, three courses £19.95
A la carte also available.