Restaurant review, The View at All Saints Hotel, Fornham: 'So tasty we wanted more'
- Credit: Simon Weir
It’s great to be going out for dinner again. Lockdown 2.0 may have been relatively short-lived, but heading out – for a substantial meal, naturally – feels being let out of class at the end of a long and dull day at school. Our destination for tonight is The View restaurant, part of the All Saints Hotel complex in Fornham St Genevieve, just outside Bury St Edmunds and helpfully signposted all the way from the A14 roundabout.
I’ve always liked the Fornhams – a series of picture-postcard villages with plenty of timber frames, thatched roofs and traditional churches, all decked out in twinkling lights as we make our way through in the full dark of a December evening. I couldn’t recall the hotel before setting off – but that’s because it’s relatively new. It surprises me how thoroughly modern, almost industrial-looking it is – quite at odds with the half-glimpsed olde-worlde charm of the village we’ve just driven through. “It’s like something you’d see in America,” notes my partner Ali. It is indeed: complete with golf course, gym, health spa and even a gallery...
Inside it’s very clean and modern, with an almost industrial chic. Doors are automatic, there’s sanitiser and screens on the reception desk... and it is very much a hotel reception. For a second I’m not sure if I’ve missed the restaurant – are we even in the right place? Yes: The View restaurant is upstairs and to the left. It’s another slightly industrial space – quite unusual though as it’s pitch black outside we don’t get to enjoy the view, which would be out over the golf course.
We settle in with the menu and order drinks – and I do have a complaint here. I can only have one, because I’m driving, so I’d like a nice pint but there are no handpumps and the only ale (Adnams Southwold) is off, so I have to settle for a bottle of Old Speckled Hen. “Not very good in Suffolk, home of good beer,” Ali says, taking her time perusing the rather more extensive wine list before settling for a Pinot Grigio.
There’s not a long wait for the starters. The descriptions of the courses are on the terse side, so there’s a slight element of guess-what-it'll-really-be with ordering. The 'Suffolk ham, cauliflower, curry emulsion' turns out to be generous slice of a ham terrine, with beautifully bronzed cauliflower, some cosmetic green splashes of a green oil (maybe a basil oil?) that doesn’t add much in the way of flavour, with a few blobs of the gently sharp emulsion. This isn’t strongly curry flavoured but is delicious - for the amount of ham, I’d have liked twice as much of it.
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Ali’s gone for the starter of 'celeriac, black truffle, smoked egg yolk' which turns out to be a neat circle of nicely cooked celeriac with a beautifully silky, almost confit-textured egg yolk that adds a melting richness to each mouthful. “Not much evidence of the truffle, though,” she points out, but she’s still happy with her choice.
One thing that does impress with The View is the range of choices. Ali’s a pescatarian and there are two fish starters as well as the vegetarian one she opted for (plus potentially the soup of the day). There were only two meat-based starters. For mains, there were four meat options, two fish ones and two vegetarian ones.
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For her main, Ali’s gone for the 'stonebass, bok choi, yuzu, spring onion vinaigrette' which is a nicely cooked piece of firm but flaky fish. Despite all the Oriental ingredients, it doesn’t feel like Asian cuisine – just a nice, playful fish dish with pearls of vinaigrette popping on the tongue, the contrasting pickled and braised veg and silky green puree bringing it all together beautifully.
My main course is 'corn-fed chicken, salsify, mushrooms, bacon dashi' mostly because it includes the word bacon. The chicken is moist and tasty, the salsify continues to make me wonder what it really adds to any dish, the mushrooms are slippery and lovely but the dashi – a light broth – is disappointing. It does have a nice hint of bacon, but it’s too thin as there’s nothing to soak it up and this isn’t a dish you eat with a spoon. I’d have given anything for a thick and glossy gravy type sauce (especially a bacon-flavoured one) to coat the other elements and really bring the plate together.
We also have two side dishes – the superbly crispy, fluffy, salty triple-cooked chips (“Lovely, even if they’re served in a cutlery drier,” says Ali) and the honey roast roots, which are basically baby parsnips and carrots – mercifully without lashings of honey as they’re quite sweet enough anyway.
These are accompanied by a brief discussion about portion sizes, as the hake looks three or four mouthfuls too small for a main course to me (I’m embarrassed about taking even a small bit to sample) and two pieces of chicken, three short lengths of salsify and single-figure quantities of mushrooms definitely seems mean. Ali disagrees (though she’s a foot shorter than me). “They’re just right, but you do need to have the side dishes – you wouldn’t be full without them,” she says.
The desserts are definitely fully formed and both are really good. I’ve gone for the 'IPA and date pudding, caramel, brown sugar ice cream'. There’s not a huge amount of the ice cream, but I can forgive that because the – let's call it what it is – sticky toffee pudding is perfect: light but sticky, sitting in a lake of truly fabulous caramel/toffee sauce.
Despite being intrigued by the option of the Baron Bigod donut with fig jam, Ali has helpfully chosen - without prompting - what would have been my alternative choice 'Chocolate cremeaux, honeycomb, roast white chocolate, orange', which turns out to be the star of the meal. The cremeaux is six inches of smooth, solid, not-too-sweet chocolate heaven, though the orange is a bit forgettable – it doesn’t quite take it into chocolate-orange territory. It’s all overshadowed by the roast white chocolate, which melts in the mouth in a fun, fabulously tasty way. The whole desert is a triumph.
With the pudding on board, I am full but not stuffed: I’d have liked a bigger main, but I’m definitely not leaving hungry. It was a substantial meal, after all. Better still, the standard of food was excellent, the service was good and, as well as being a pleasant venue, the Covid-secure aspects all seemed really well handled. It’s good value too. With our drinks, the final bill is £84.40: we’d both expected more for food of this standard. We’ll certainly be back for more.
We pay for all our meals and restaurants do not know they are being reviewed.