The menu at Arlingtons is now 50% veggie - we tried it out
- Credit: Rachel Edge
The restaurant and bar in Ipswich has undergone a radical change since it came under new ownership last autumn…we found out more.
There's definitely something different about Arlingtons.
The former lecture space, museum and dance hall dining room feels uplifted somehow. Like the cobwebs have been metaphorically swept away, and a wave of new life has breezed in. Greenery breaks up the eating area (possibly one of the largest in Ipswich). And a collection of local art, with hugely polarised themes and styles, from a Pop Art inspired portrait of David Bowie made from his records, to a Goya-esque painting of an artist's boyfriend, line the walls.
In the kitchen, where once a rollcall of brasserie-style dishes were brought out course after course, new head chef Ashley Robertson (alumni of West Suffolk College) has developed an impressive collection of starter-sized tasting plates, taking influence from his travels all over the world, and sourcing most of his ingredients from within 30 miles of the restaurant.
From European salads strewn with roasted peppers, to peppy Asian-style street food, and Middle Eastern spiced koftas- there is, it seems, something for everyone. And in particular those who're becoming part of the shifting tide towards a plant-based diet.
Mindful of the 'trend' which he says is "only going to keep growing", Ashley has ensured 50% of the new menu is vegetarian, and that 25% of it is vegan. That's great news for diners in the town, who are becoming better served at lunchtimes if they are eating less meat, but can struggle to find a lot of choice in the evenings.
"When I first started training to be a chef we didn't even know what a vegan was," he smiles, "but now we're hot on it and we're trying to please more of these customers. You go to some places and you're lucky to get one vegan dish. The trend's only going to get bigger as more people look at what they're eating."
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Ashley says he's been excited to develop more meat-free dishes, relishing the challenge it's posed for him and the small kitchen team. "It's all good. We've managed to create some lovely little bits on the menu."
It's recommended you order around six plates between two as a guideline, but there's now a new a la carte pre-theatre menu too, priced between £18 and £23, and served from 5pm to 6.30pm, changing with the seasons.
Which dishes is he most proud of?
"I think the cauliflower bang bang is a really good one. We make it using Romanesco cauliflower, which a lot of people won' have seen before. And a simple one is the artichoke salad with sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, rocket and a nice dressing. You don't see artichokes used a lot. And I recommend our dragon fruit cake. It's been really well received and everyone seems to enjoy it. We keep our dessert menu quite small and change them regularly, putting our love into them."
We tried out some of the new dishes…here's what we thought:
Smoked duck with walnut and blue cheese salad
Yes, it's not vegetarian or vegan but we couldn't resist. Ooh this was lovely. Their own smoked duck, lightly pink and not overly oaky, on a creamy salad with the tang of blue cheese and crisp nuggets of walnut. The addition of a homemade beetroot sorbet on top took it to another level, bringing earthiness and a natural sweetness which paired beautifully with the game bird.
Homemade vodka-cured salmon with chive pancakes and horseradish cream
Our second non-veggie indulgence. These were generous tranches of silky soft cured fish, with a delicate flavour accented by the piquancy of the horseradish cream. The chive pancakes were very fresh and melting.
Wild mushroom, spring onion and olive empanadas with house tomato sauce
A lively, crispy take on a Spanish snack, with a touch of smokiness from the sauce.
Grilled Jerusalem artichoke salad with olives, roasted pepper and baby chard
Big enough to be ordered alone a lunchtime. A fresh, interesting, but very simple dish. It just needed a bit more texture - something crunchy.
Garlic and Parmesan coated cauliflower with bang bang sauce
Almost meaty, chunky, al dente nuggets of Romanesco coated in a crispy breadcrumb and fried. These weren't greasy at all. When dunked in the spicy, creamy sauce they were gorgeous. A hit with all our tasters who polished off the lot.
Carrot, almond, Parmesan and chilli fries
We were expecting fries topped with maybe a carrot pickle, toasted almonds and cheese. But no, these were a bit of a surprise. They were actually batons of carrot in a seasoned batter. Tasty enough, but they needed a bit more Parmesan and chilli for our liking.
Spicy peanut quinoa salad
This one really packed a punch. The grains were coated in a thick, hot, fresh peanut sauce with bites of fresh green pepper. Scooped up with bread it was delish. Worked well with the cauliflower bang bang too.
Bavarian cream dragon fruit cake with strawberry ice cream
This passed the 'sexy little wobble' test. A pretty in pink almost panna cotta-esque cream set on sponge and infused with exotic fruit and berries. One thing's for sure, you won't see anything like this anywhere else in Suffolk at the moment.
Sea salt chocolate tart with honeycomb and mocha ganache
Smooth dark chocolate. Truffles infused with good quality coffee. And superbly made shards of honeycomb.