Relish the moment
PUBLISHED: 10:44 07 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:44 07 February 2014
For some reason Relish had not been on my restaurant network until relatively recently when friends who had lived in the area "discovered" it, had a great dinner and recommended it. We went mid-week during one of the usually depressing months of the year for a restaurateur (for me, November and February were always consistently bad) but the car park was full and outside lights were blazing, a welcome sight.
We were persuaded to have a drink in the lounge in front of the fire, sadly out. But when we moved into the restaurant, the contrast was magical. It was stunning! Blessed by low, old and beautifully coloured beams, the designers have made a huge effort to place lights strategically, providing enough illumination to eat by yet remaining very muted and atmospheric. There was big hurricane lamp on an adjacent table with an enormous candle inside lighting the immaculate table - great mise-en-scène, plus a charming patronne looking after us.
The pre-starter was pumpkin soup, warm and appropriate for the time of the year, but we both stretched for the salt – not there. Was the absence of the cruet fashion, forgotten or the attitude of the chef? The famous Nico Landenis had the infamous arrogance of saying his food was perfectly seasoned and left the salt off the table (he did have a Michelin three stars to back him up!)
The head chef and patron makes dishes complex in ingredients and with my simple brain I needed to eat with the menu beside me. Duck breast carpaccio - an interesting diversion from beef carpaccio - was sweetened by a glaze of Pedro Ximenez, the sweet wine called PX by the officiados. It was on my sweet wine list in the 1980s, neglected by my customers and ignored by myself for a long time until I drank it - it was a wine drinking sensation which I will always remember, so a very good starter. Norfolk Quail was Da’s choice, the two ways was extended to three with a perfectly fried quail egg and a cumin and pumpkin purée completing a well-balanced and satisfying dish.
What is Bouillabaisse? The icon Elizabeth David said “It is useless to make it away from the shores of Mediterranean” (by the way this year is the centenary of her birth. I met her once and I was totally tongue-tied - though her contribution to our conversation was “I’m an old lady and I just want to go home!”) However this classic fish stew was traditionally hearty, although Da thought the gremolata potatoes were unnecessary and too far away from the real McCoy. My red deer and clap shot - inspired by their recent holiday in Skye - had an intense sauce and the loin was good and rare.
After a delicious mini lemon posset amuse bouche, Da chose brioche pain perdu, while I reminisced with a glass of Pedro Ximenex to accompany a splendid hot marmalade pudding.
Relish Restaurant and Bar
Old Street, Newton Flotman, Near Norwich, NR15 1PD; 01508 470548; www.dinewithrelish.com.
Meet the chef
It’s a time for big celebrations for Jeremy - his 40th birthday coming up, Relish won the Best Food and Drink Expertise category sponsored by Waitrose in the EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2013, and his restaurant is quietly becoming well-known. And as well as that, he’s the father of three children. Jeremy’s grandfather was a keen baker and his father was a chef in the RAF, his mother also took a qualification in hospitality management, so chef genes are in his blood.
In the early 1990s, The White Lion in Aldeburgh gave him a good platform to study at college while also learning in different disciplines. Now his ambition is to create “a mini-Morston Hall” in south Norfolk. His influences range from the driven Marco-Pierre White, seasonality from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, the classic food from Blanc and Roux and, recently, Michael Smith from The Three Chimneys in Skye.