Is this the best-value gourmet dining in Ipswich?
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
Want to enjoy a gourmet tasting menu for a snip?
Interested in supporting the skills of the next generation of star chefs?
If the answer to one or both of the above is a resounding ‘yes’, get yourself over to Suffolk New College’s Chefs' Whites restaurant.
Open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday evenings (with a themed dinner pop-up every fortnight), the restaurant brings together the cumulative experience of the students across culinary and hospitality courses at the college. And it’s good!
There’s often a fear associated with eating outside of the traditional ‘high street’ restaurant setting. And yes, it might not sound very glamorous to be going to dinner at a college. But a lot of effort has gone in here to create an experience that mimics what you’d find in the ‘real world’, all under the stewardship of director of service industries, Mike Mulvihill – well-known in the East Anglian hospitality sector for his dedication to bringing up some of the region’s best chefs.
Mike has a true passion for cooking and service, which he brought with him to the college when he joined during lockdown, and this passion, and his key industry contacts, have already had a ripple effect throughout the department.
Partnerships have been formed with local chefs and restaurants, to help create a hub of excellence here. And students will this year begin working with Otley College to rear their own livestock and grow their own fruit and vegetables.
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Book an evening midweek table here and for only £18 for three courses, you’ll find yourself dining on the likes of honey and soy-glazed pig cheeks with burnt orange, blood orange mayonnaise and pork skin, barbecued Korean-style poussin with fried leg, sticky jasmine rice, pickled daikon and tempura spring onions, and chocolate delice with caramelised banana bread, chocolate soil and caramel ice cream.
Themed nights on the diary range from St Patrick’s Day (March 16), to A Taste of Spring (April 6), a French Taster (April 27) and A Taste of the USA (May 11).
We visited recently for a pop-up with award-winning head chef Luke Bailey of Ipswich’s Salthouse Harbour Hotel. Luke’s known for his modern European cuisine, which was reflected heavily in the menu (£30 for five courses).
The restaurant is airy and very pleasant, and filled up quickly with 50 or so guests, formed of students, staff and (like us), diners from ‘outside’.
Young serving staff were eager to please, polite and friendly, making sure we had everything we needed- including a really sumptuous and surprising Chardonnay, ripe with plump tropical fruits and a hint of vanilla – just £2.50 for a 125ml glass!
To start, there was a cute little wholemeal soda bread each, with aromatic bite from caraway seeds, and sweet sultanas tucked inside, with a sticky malt glaze on top. The addition of malt to the whipped Fen Farm butter brought out its farmyardy, truffly flavour.
The starter of an Italian spring salad certainly looked the part, being pretty as a picture. It assembled a thick layer of salted ricotta under neatly arrange pickled baby vegetables, interesting leaves (including the underused but lovely-looking castelfranco), edible flowers, crumbs and a truffle pesto dressing. While the ricotta could have done with more seasoning (and there was a lot of it) the pesto gave the dense cheese a lift, and the tiny vegetables were absolutely delicious.
Our fish course combined a perfectly seared, golden-edge scallop with peppery, nutty, sweet romesco sauce, a mild-spiced morcilla sausage, and sharp slivers of green apple. Faultless.
I’d have liked a bolder, deeper sauce with the main course of 30-day aged Red Poll sirloin, but have nothing but praise for the rest of the dish. The thick-cut beef was expertly seared, and ran blush pink through the middle. While it wasn’t crisped up, the fondant potato did have bags of flavour and, crucially, had been cooked well throughout. I have had too many raw fondants to count, so kudos to the students.
Drops of wild garlic emulsion and glazed carrots rounded the plate off nicely, as did a few leaves of charred cabbage - the best way, surely, to cook this vegetable.
And onto dessert. A could-not-be-bettered Sicilian lemon and elderflower tart. The essence of elderflower was subtle, with lemon being the star of the show here. Startlingly bright, vigorous and aromatic in a ‘glassy’ set custard with a sugar glaze.
The pastry underneath was buttery and short, but also thin and crisp – no mean feat.
Top notch cooking here, that will only continue to get better.
To book a table call 01473 382500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org