Food review: Arlingtons Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 20:00 14 December 2018
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis tries out tapas sized dishes at the new Arlingtons in Ipswich.
I’ve had a mixed bag of experiences at Arlingtons. A few years back it was an OK-ish place to eat – but we were put off by incredibly bad service.
Then, reviewed last year when Ken Ambler opened the café in the evenings as a fish restaurant, I thought the food was fairly good.
Ken and Liz have since retired and now the historic Ipswich building, which formerly housed the town’s museum, has a new owner, a smart new look and a brand new team in the kitchen.
Visiting on a midweek lunchtime we found the upstairs restaurant and café below quite empty which was a shame as it meant they lacked a bit of atmosphere. Anyway, let’s concentrate on the food.
There a collection of quite eclectic small plates from all around the world, catering for vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike. We ordered a selection to get a good flavour of what’s on offer and while we waited were given a bowl of garlicky, crisp Italian music bread to snack on. Rather nice thank you.
Most of the plates came out within a few minutes of each other and as it wasn’t busy, we didn’t have to wait long.
First to try was the bread - locally made but the waitress couldn’t tell us where. There were four decent slices of cheese, garlic and herb, rye, brown and white bread with decent olive oil, they were stone cold. A little warm through was needed here.
Next out came a bowl of giant onion bhajis. They could have done with a touch more seasoning and spice but actually these were really good. Rather than stodgy and oily, they were light, crisp and dare I say it, dainty. They remained crisp throughout the meal and were lovely to pick on. A sauce on the side would have taken them to the next level though.
An autumn salad of chestnuts, roasted squash, seeds and rosehip dressing was delightful. Generous in size it could have made a single lunch dish by itself (I’d say anything in the £6 to £7 bracket here is perfect for midday dining on its own). The squash was soft without disintegrating into mush. The leaves were almost as fresh as if they’d just been picked. Seeds gave an interesting nutty crunch. And the rosehip dressing (something I’ve never had before) was a unique little twist, being at turns sweet and sharp. Just lovely.
We all felt the chorizo and chicken empanadas were a tad undercooked. The pastry was quite pale and needed a couple of minutes more maybe to be golden and crisp. Inside, the filling had a good bite and packed a punch with classic Spanish flavours, but the red pepper sauce on the side lacked oomph and couldn’t be tasted when we dipped in the pastry parcels. A touch more chilli or tang could lift the sauce.
The mini fish pie was piping hot and filled to the brim with smoked haddock, salmon and prawns bound in a creamy sauce- which there could have been more of as it was just a little dry. A good flavour though.
As with the empanadas, the baby beet, red onion and feta tartlet was a tad underdone on the pastry front, however our veggie diner rated it and said she’d order it again.
One of the star dishes was the Suffolk lamb Kashmiri-style biryani, which came with poppadom crisps and a little pot of spicy mango chutney.
The rice initially looked dry but was actually just right texture-wise. Every grain of rice was coated in a blend of ground whole spices, the seasoning was spot-on, and nuggets of sweet raisins and toasted cashew nuts brought body and interest to every bite.
We also enjoyed the vodka cured salmon, served on a homemade English muffin with a gin and dill dressing. That hint of vodka flavour was there, and the salmon was just so succulent and melting. It paired wonderfully with the fresh, light dressing. But perhaps the muffin could have been toasted lightly as it was a bit on the dry side.
And we couldn’t get enough of the crisp, but juicy inside fried cod cheeks with tartare sauce.
All in all we were very happy diners. Flavours were bang-on and the presentation was appealing, showing a lot of care had gone into each plate.
We visited early on a midweek lunch so I do wonder how busy it got later on in the afternoon. Inside, the décor is sleek and fresh. Lots of dark, comforting blues downstairs which give an air of comfort, while upstairs is light, airy and unfussy, dressed with greenery and fairylights to show off the building’s original features. I reckon on a packed out evening it could be very atmospheric indeed.
No soft drinks or coffees were listed on the menus we were given – only beer and wine – they really could do with having these printed as lots of people choose not to drink alcohol when they go out, particularly at lunch time.
We stuck to water, cola and lemonade and I was sure to try a latte to see if their coffee making skills were up to scratch. Now while my coffee didn’t come topped with a feather or heart design, the temperature was just-right and there was a good silky head of froth on top. Not bad at all.
While friendly, the knowledge of the team seemed a little lacking when it came to the food. With a bit more training it’s nothing that couldn’t be tackled.
Very good indeed. The front door is automatic and there’s a lift to the first floor restaurant, which has plenty of space between tables for moving around buggies or wheelchairs.
Eight dishes plus a portion of chips, bread and three soft drinks came to £60 which is quite reasonable as we were all full afterwards.
There’s no onsite parking and very limited on-road parking nearby. The closest is by Crown House and Crown Pools or behind M&S.
The Kashmiri lamb. Full of flavour.
What a great addition to Ipswich’s dining. All-in-all the concept is strong, the portion sizes represented value for money, and the flavours worked very well indeed. It’s wonderful to see local ingredients – from Suffolk meat, to East coast cod and honey from Holywells. And well done to the kitchen for thinking outside of the box with some of the flavour combinations and additions, such as that rosehip dressing. We think it’s an ideal lunch spot and would be an excellent place to stop for a quick bite pre-cinema or before heading to the New Wolsey Theatre. You should definitely check it out. Let’s support these local restaurants this Christmas.
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