Mad for it
PUBLISHED: 06:58 28 April 2014
I'm a great counter but an extremely bad one. How many cheese straws cut up for guests, how many allium bulbs in the borders for next year? It's a strain to get it right; I'm sure a psychologist would tell me why.
In any case I’ve counted up several times how many articles I’ve written as the restaurant reviewer for the EDP Norfolk magazine and it’s roughly 50. So I am celebrating writing the latest sitting on a balcony overlooking the crashing Atlantic Ocean. Feeding off tourists’ fare at the moment, I long to eat the best in Norfolk again. Although our county has only a very modest number of Michelin stars and AA three rosettes, the standard of cuisine is very high.
This month, serendipity struck in the form of the restaurant tucked away under the tower of St John Maddermarket church, The Maddermarket Kitchen in Norwich. The restaurant has been through several hands, but now it is in the capable and determined care of Stewart Duffield, with his barrister wife and family ensconced upstairs.
The menu is short and changes frequently with the market. Lunch and dinner are priced at a very attractive rate - at dinner, three courses is pitched in at £24.95 and at the moment you can bring your own wine for a corkage of £5 for a bottle of still wine. Stewart is applying for his licence but in the future, even though they will have a wine list, bring your own bottle (BYOB) would be very acceptable. We are sure in time he will replace the wine glasses as even ordinary wines taste must better in decent glasses.
Da had scallops for her starter and was pleased to have a dish which steered away from the standard pork belly combo. Celeriac purée is classic but horseradish added some spice to the dish and the combination of wilted baby gem and veal jus was pure delight. The title of Tunisian lamb parcel with aubergine relish and coriander yoghurt belied the complicated dish. Suffice to say a combination of spices and herbs, orange and lemon juice, with dates and red chilli planted the dish into an intriguing level for me.
The main courses were simple but expertly handled. Spring onion mash, shapely with fine texture, was the buttress for slow-cooked crispy duck leg with intense cherry jus. Maybe detaching the skin and giving a quick blast under the salamander would improve the crispness. Baked fillet of cod with onion purée, leeks and Hasselback potatoes – subtly substantial. Hasselbackspotatis is from Sweden and a good alternative to gratin, sauté, purée etc.
The sweets were again simple in conception but stunning in design. The first was warm, excellent brownie with a quenelle of hazelnut semi-freddo on top. A “cheffy” flash of purée and a slender tube of chocolate balance on top of the freddo completed the dish. A duo of rhubarb (forced and now firmly placed as an English ingredient) parfait with custard parfait on top was Da’s choice. Crisp meringue was scattered around the dish and finished off with a quenelle of raw meringue drenched with icing sugar and blasted with a blow torch – marshmallow fashion. Great innovation!
Our bet is this will go from strength to strength to become one of the leading restaurants in Norwich.
Meet the chef
Stewart’s father owned a catering company, so at eight years old he helped with cooking and serving, and loved the energy, hustle and bustle of the kitchen.
At an early age he was a chef de partie at Norwich Sport Village Hotel before he moved to The Anchor Quay in the city as a sous-chef. After that it was working for Nigel Raffles at St Benedict’s Restaurant, the two years with Tom Aitken, as a chef-de-partie learning his techniques and style, before more experience working with the Flying Kiwi Inns as a head chef, which gave him the courage to start The Maddermarket Kitchen. His ambition is to establish a reputation for excellent food and good service with a regular loyal local clientele. And with the brand name ‘The Maddermarket Kitchen’, based on that, he would like to branch into cookery demonstrations and maybe a new site.
The Maddermarket Kitchen, 20 St John Maddermarket, Norwich, NR2 1DN; 01603 460558; www.maddermarketkitchen.com