Review, The Gallery, Ipswich: ‘Plant-based decadence’
- Credit: Danielle Lett
Ipswich’s waterfront is well-known for its fine dining, and it only made sense that I check out one of the latest additions to this buzzing food and drink hub.
Nestled down a side street, just next to Isaacs, is The Gallery - a cocktail and tapas bar situated in the former John Russell Gallery which sadly closed in 2018. This new venue opened earlier this summer, and I was really excited to see what it had to offer.
Tucked away down Wherry Lane, it wasn’t hard to find. But as you make your way through the front door, make sure you push the middle panel – as that’s actually the door to get inside the bar and restaurant. I love the whole speakeasy vibe, it really makes the whole experience feel secretive and exclusive. Even more so exclusive when you remember it’s actually only open Thursday to Sunday, and is also an over 18s-only venue.
As you enter, make your way down a few steps and you’re greeted with gorgeous interiors. Think exposed brickwork, wooden beams, and dark wood panelling throughout. That’s definitely a big tick, and the entire place really felt cosy and welcoming throughout.
Anyone who’s been reading my food reviews since I started writing them will know I’m a big fan of meat and fish. I’m a sucker for shellfish especially - if I see prawns, I have to have them.
So imagine my surprise when I saw that everything on the menu was plant-based. Going vegan and eating a plant-based diet is huge at the moment, and understandably so. I get it, but personally it’s not for me.
But before we get into the food, I think it’s important to start with the all-important drinks menu. It’s expansive, to say the least.
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As my mum and I arrived, we looked through the wine menu first and were greeted with a lot of choice.
To give you an idea, there’s around 20 different wines from around the world, so whether want a glass or white, red, rose, Champagne or Prosecco, you won’t struggle to find something to whet your whistle.
The wine menu also handily includes a tasting guide to help you choose something sweet, dry, full-bodied or light. Perfect for anyone who fancies themselves an amateur sommelier. And there’s even a note on the menu denoting that all of the reds, whites and roses are vegan-friendly.
And of course, there’s also a variety of beers, ciders, spirits, soft drinks and a handful of cocktails on offer too.
My mum isn’t a huge wine drinker, but I went for a large glass of the Viña Pelequen Chardonnay (£8) while she had coke (£2.50).
As we made our way through the food menus, we were pleasantly surprised at the variety of tapas-style dishes on offer.
The attentive waitress made her way over, and she was masked up which was great as Covid numbers seem to unfortunately be on the rise again.
Everything sounded amazing, but a couple of dishes immediately caught our eye.
We were eager to try the BBQ pulled pork-style open sandwich, which came on a flame grilled garlic and coriander naan bread with guacamole and sauerkraut salad (£9.50); the coconut soya chicken saag aloo which came with a piri-piri satay sauce (£9.50); and the grilled plant-based halloumi which was served on a bed of marinated Mediterranean vegetables with a tomato salsa (£9.50).
However, all three were sadly unavailable that night.
No worries though, as there was still plenty we could choose from. So we decided to order six dishes in total, in order to truly sample the menu.
We started off with the warmed continental breads served with black truffle-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar (£6.50); garlic and herb mushrooms served with warmed continental bread (£7.50); and the flame-baked garlic and coriander naan with harissa hummus (£6).
All of the breads were absolutely gorgeous, especially the garlic and coriander naan, and the black truffle-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a great accompaniment.
And while I’m someone who can honestly take or leave hummus, that harissa hummus was beautiful. I couldn’t stop going back for more, and truthfully I had to stop myself eating it by the spoonful. It had perfect texture and a wonderful flavour.
The garlic and herb mushrooms were cooked to perfection, and there were plenty of them to enjoy between two people. Often I find mushroom starters can be overcooked and a bit rubbery, but these were tasty and seasoned incredibly well.
The final three dishes then arrived shortly after – we went for the vegan black pudding slices with roasted red capsicum and miso mugi sauce (£9); Italian-style soya meatballs with pesto butterbeans and parmesan (£9.50); and a portobello mushroom (£8.50). The latter was stuffed with roquette, butternut squash and cream cheese, baked with a wholemeal herb crumb and finished with a balsamic glaze.
Whenever I’ve tried plant-based meat alternatives, I’ve always found they slightly miss the mark and you can still tell the difference - but the black pudding had me fooled. I forgot it wasn’t meat at one point, the texture was spot on, and the flavour was really strong. But be warned if you’re not a fan of spice, as this definitely packed a bit of a kick.
The same can be said for the soya meatballs – these ended up being pleasantly surprising. Served on a bed of beans, this dish was incredibly filling and really tasted healthy, too.
The star of the show though had to be the portobello mushroom. You can’t go wrong with stuffed mushrooms, and the combination of butternut squash, two different types of cheese and balsamic really provided a marriage of flavours. My only regret was not ordering a second one to have to myself, it was that delicious.
And while there were actually no desserts on the menu (bad news for anyone with a sweet tooth), the waitress actually did recommend we try the chocolate martinis from the cocktail menu (£9.50 each).
She warned us it isn’t a creamy cocktail, which is what a lot people (myself included) expect.
However, it really did exceed expectations. Made from vanilla vodka, white crème de cacao, chocolate bitters, sugar and a pinch of salt, it somehow managed to taste incredibly sweet, and certainly made up for the lack of sweet dishes on the food menu. If Willy Wonka made treats specifically for adults, this would certainly be one of them.
If a chocolate cocktail doesn’t sound like it’s for you though, there are plenty of other mixed drinks that are bound to satisfy, including classics such as espresso martinis, Manhattans, negronis, and cosmopolitans to name a few.
Once we finished, we settled up our bill which came to £76 in total. Omnivores through and through, neither of us expected to come away as full and satisfied as we did – but it’s definitely great value for money. Everything was beautifully presented – and you can tell care is taken with each and every dish.
The combination of flavours used throughout really make up for the obvious lack of meat – you almost forget it’s all vegan. Plant-based decadence, I’d definitely recommended heading down to The Gallery for a few drinks and a couple of plates one evening this winter. I’ll be sure to head back soon at some point to try the dishes off the menu we weren’t able to sample.