Restaurant review, Kesgrave Hall: "Fantastic food, but they need to do courtesy checks"
PUBLISHED: 14:15 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:43 13 November 2017
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis enjoyed the global tastes at Kesgrave Hall but said service needs a little work.
The food choice at Kesgrave Hall is, it has to be said, overwhelming – but in a good way. Between the long menu and the specials, it took us a good 15 minutes to work out what we wanted to eat.
I went to Asia to begin - tempura battered soft shell crab, which was sweet and succulent beneath its golden exterior. I thought the addition of gloriously pink pickled ginger was inspired, preventing the dish from going into fish and chips territory. And the sprinkling of toasted nori added a nutty, intriguing note. The wasabi mayo, for me, lacked power though. And I didn’t see the point of the avocado.
On the other side of the table slices of halloumi had been cooked just-so in their anointment of harissa, with warm hummus tucked underneath. The hummus itself was quite bland (it needed a ‘pow’ of lemon) but eaten with the salty cheese it came to life. A good size too.
Being immersed in the game season I thought it was fitting to sample the venison haunch.
Unfortunately it arrived to the table overcooked (I’d asked for it medium but most of the meat was brown through and well done). I appreciate venison is tricky to get right, but there was no courtesy check so I had to traipse through the restaurant (which wasn’t busy) to find a member of staff to put the meal right. When it returned, the venison had a perfect halo of pink in the middle and its succulence couldn’t be bettered. There was sweetness from the golden parsnips, bitterness from cocoa-rich dark chocolate, and the kale had been prepared well and wasn’t stringy. But the showstopper really was the chip-like cuts of cheesy baked polenta, which, with the jus, bound the whole thing together in a sumptuous nod to autumn.
Lisa’s lamb, doused in a sticky lamb reduction, was given an edge thanks to charred leeks and sweet shallots. While hidden inside a toothsome suet pudding was a rib-sticking concoction of minced lamb and leeks – just what we wanted on a cold, blustery night.
To finish we were blown away by the utter simplicity and thorough decadence of a croissant pudding, all buttery, sugary layers, seasoned with the warmth of cinnamon and slathered in custard and boozy raisins. It’s the kind of thing I reckon you’d find Nigella eating in her dressing gown at the fridge in the middle of the night. A hug in a bowl.
I’d ordered the special of passionfruit panna cotta with lemon sorbet, chocolate soil and meringues. I usually detest chocolate soil – it’s the Devil’s work, destroying the taste and texture of desserts in favour of aesthetics. I have to concede the soil here wasn’t tooth-breaking, and its bitterness, along with the purposefully charred edges of the meringues, earthed the sweetness of this dessert. The panna cotta was fabulous. Creamy, while still having a bit of a wobble. And the kitchen had really managed to imbue it with the sharpness of passionfruit, which is so hard to get right, as is the tartness of lemon sorbet, which here tasted of fresh squeezed lemonade.
There’s an extensive wine list. From it, to go with the crab I cradled a glass of white Rioja which was dry, with a hit of saltiness not unlike that which you get from some sherry. There was a pleasant backnote of toasted biscuit and a bright hit of lemon too. Ideal with fish.
Lisa’s house Shiraz was served at just the right temperature to allow its jammy, heady blackcurrant leaf vibes to escape. The wine had a smooth, soft finish and just a touch of spice.
Kesgrave Hall has relaxed dining down to a tee. The lounge and dining area combine a mixture of American glamour and modern British country house, with bold fabrics covering some of the chairs and adorning the window dressings. It feels like you’re a million miles from home – when in fact you’re just minutes from the A12. It was pretty quiet when we arrived so it was great to see the open kitchen at work, which brought some much-needed atmosphere to the early evening dining room.
As I mention above, it was very quiet when we arrived at 6pm after work, and there were more waiting staff than diners, so we felt the level of service, considering this, wasn’t quite up to scratch. Not that we expected to be waited on hand and foot like royalty, but considering the price, I would expect a courtesy check (if only to iron out any issues and prevent them becoming Tripadvisor fodder). I had to walk from one end of the large restaurant to the other to ask for my venison to be recooked, and when it was taken away and returned noone asked my friend how her meal was. The waitress who served our puds was friendly though, which meant we didn’t leave on a sour note.
It’s not at the cheaper end of the market, but portions are generous, and main courses come with your choice of side, which is an added bonus. The quality of the ingredients is clear too – and you do get what you pay for.
There is lots of parking, including disabled parking right next to building.
Spotless and nicely designed. The aromatherapy soap and hand lotions were dreamy – in fact, we couldn’t stop sniffing them!
The croissant pudding. Give me a whole tray of that and a good book, and that’ll see me right for an afternoon on the sofa.
Kesgrave Hall has a lot to offer. A distinctive, wonderful setting. Nicely balanced menus and well executed food. An all-encompassing approach. Just get those courtesy checks in guys!
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