The best places to eat in East Anglia - according to chefs
- Credit: Archant
We asked seven of the region's best-known chefs where they like to eat out when they have time off- here are 13 of their top suggestions.
1. Eric's, Thornham
Chef Richard Hughes of The Assembly House has a real penchant for Eric Snaith's eponymous fish and chip restaurant on the north Norfolk coast. They do things a bit differently here. Aside from cracking fresh fish cooked in beef dripping (rapeseed oil also an option), there are arancini for veggies, Kansas wings, proper sausages in batter, and even battered black pudding fritters. For those of you with a sweet tooth, check out the ice cream, which comes with all manner of sauces and sprinkles so you can make your own sundae!
2. The Unruly Pig, Bromeswell
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Current reigning Best Restaurant in the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards (2018), this highly rated pub is noted for its eclectic art, suntrap terrace and gardens, extensive wine list and self-proclaimed 'Britalian' food, using prime local ingredients and giving them an Italian spin. Pascal Canevet of Maison Bleue says it's one of his favourite places to take friends to eat. Recently the pub introduced Saturday brunch, offering everything from 'slutty eggs' to crab rarebit and homemade waffles dotted with homemade lemon curd and Italian meringue.
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3. The Bildeston Crown, Bildeston
'We love Bildeston,' says The Unruly Pig's Dave Wall. Multi award-winning, the restaurant with rooms is run by inimitable hosts Chris and Hayley Lee- sometimes accompanied in the bar by their adorable dog Truffle. Everything on the menu, from breads, to sauces and ice creams, is homemade, with a luxurious feel (despite the unstuffy, relaxed nature of the service and dining room). Game is a speciality, as is using meat from the superb farms nearby. And dinner and wine nights take place regularly. The next one (July 11) pairs four courses (including breast of chicken, lobster and pea fricassee) with Collet Champagne.
4. Morston Hall, Morston
'When Karina and I get time to go out we like to go, for a special occasion, to Morston Hall,' says Pascal, with Dave adding: 'We had a wonderful time on our first visit there last month.'
The Michelin-starred restaurant is the 'baby' of Galton and Tracey Blackiston who are proud to have been part of the Norfolk dining scene for nearly three decades. Galton and the kitchen team source ingredients from all around them, be it Cromer crab from 'John the fish', to meat and game from local estates. Elegant afternoon teas and Sunday lunch are served in addition to the daily changing seven course set menu which showcases the best produce. Recent dishes have included wild Stiffkey sea bass with whey butter sauce, and butternut veloute with King's Lynn brown shrimps.
5. The Neptune Inn, Hunstanton
Just a stone's throw from Hunstanton's magnificent beach, Kevin and Jacki's Michelin-starred restaurant is truly special. 'When we are off and get to go anywhere, we love The Neptune Inn,' says Richard Bainbridge of Benedicts. 'Such lovely guys and great food.'
The kitchen team use local fish, seafood, game and meat, working around the seasons to put truly stunning food on the plate. Recent features on the tasting menu have included Brancaster mussels with Serrano ham and apple, and Baron Bigod panna cotta with fennel and beetroot.
6. The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market
Chef Chris Lee of The Bildeston Crown says he always comes here if time allows in his busy schedule. While Richard Bainbridge adds: 'We go there for lunch with the children as we can go for a run outside and the food is kid-friendly.'
Set against the backdrop of a historic parkland estate, this place has the look and feel of a proper hunting lodge. The menu puts flavour and generosity first, and makes excellent use of the estate's venison and Blickling beef especially which are cooked over an open fire in the Elk Room. A rib of beef to share here is a real treat!
7. Stoke Mill, Stoke Holy Cross
'He's the quiet guy on the street, doing what he does,' says Richard Bainbridge, with Roger Hickman offering: 'The Sunday lunch is really good value, with a proper, traditional roast at £27.50 for three courses.' The contemporary restaurant here is found in an ancient mill, overlooking the river Tas – very romantic. Du jour menus for lunch and dinner bring further value, as does the current Five Year Celebration menu – only £40 per person including water and a glass of wine. For this the chefs rustle up afternoon tea inspired snacks, smoked salmon mousse with Norfolk gin gravlax, 12 hour braised beef with local asparagus and more.
8. Maison Bleue, Bury St Edmunds
Galton Blackiston says this is one of his restaurants of choice in Suffolk. And Roger rates it very highly calling a visit 'the best meal I have had in East Anglia recently. Elegant and stylish, serving fresh seasonal food. And they have a good wine list too. Well worth the trip.'
Chef patron Pascal keeps the menu in tune with the seasons and relies on the farms around him for produce. In fact, produce is very important to the chef, who grew up in a rural French community where food and farming were part and parcel of his daily life.
The award-winning restaurant's dishes look like works of art, while delivering on flavour, and the best introduction is the set dinner menu (£36.50). Typical dishes have included ginger marinated salmon mi-cuit with lemon verbena dressing, orange and saffron gel, squid ink tuilie and feta, and Breckland pheasant with Aspall cyder sauce, quince, crosnes and root chervil. Don't miss out on the impressive cheese trolley (£5 supplement).
9. Jive Kitchen & Bar, Norwich
Roger says: 'This is proof that chefs don't spend our time eating in each other's fine dining establishments! This is one of my favourite places in Norwich, serving street food inspired Mexican dishes. It's always lively and they do take away.'
Jive certainly doesn't mess around when it comes to its food. Using local produce, the team bring alive authentic flavours of South America – from buffalo halloumi with Arbol chile and toasted cucumber, to soft corn tortillas with Baja fish, shredded cabbage, chipotle aioli, white onion, tomatillo and coriander. Oh, and churros are cooked to order.
10. Lucca, Manningtree
'For a casual meal out I love it,' says Dave. 'Their pizza is great.'
Certainly pizza is at the forefront of this smart-casual wine bar/restaurant on the Suffolk/Essex border. As you walk in, the wood-fired oven is directly in front of you, scenting the restaurant with the aromatics of smoke, sizzling cured meats and garlic.
You simply have to try the zucchini fries, covered in Parmesan shavings and lemon oil. The Enzo pizza (with fior di latte, smoked mozzarella, Parma ham, rocket and Grana Padano) is excellent. And they even make their own gnocchi, served in Roman cacio e pepe style with butter, pecorino, crushed black pepper and extra virgin olive oil. On weekends wood-fired roasts and family-style dishes feature.
11. The Queen, Hawkedon
This beautiful pub in a 'hidden' village location is where Pascal and his family like to take friends when they visit from France to 'show them a proper English pub'.
The award-winning free house (listed in the Good Beer Guide and Good Cider Guide) is notable for its well kept cask ales, charming ambiance and very decent food, including meat from their own livestock (as sold in their attached butchery).
Don't expect bells and whistles. This is proper home-style cooking. Think chicken, mushroom and Aspall's cyder pot pie, slow-roasted pork belly with braised chicory and homemade ice creams.
12. Haggle, Norwich
Galton comes here when he wants a fun night. And he's not alone. What customers seem to love about this Middle Eastern dining room, is its quirky interiors, sharable plates, cocktails and decidedly fun and buzzy atmosphere.
Haggle goes one step further than many other Turkish restaurants in East Anglia, offering regionalised dishes and combinations you're unlikely to find easily nearby.
You've got citrus cured seabass ceviche with orange and parsley, pulled chicken breast with garlic and walnuts, and filled breads, pulled straight from the hot stone. Authentic drinks are on the menu too, be that Turkish beer, salted yoghurt, sour cherry juice or fresh mint tea.
13. The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds
Chris says if he was going to eat somewhere local to him it would be here because head chef Greig Young 'is a great cook'.
Greig likes to support the region's producers and, as such, has introduced his Taste of East Anglia menu of four, five or six courses, each named after a town or village and using ingredients related to that place. So bread is made with flour from Pakenham mill. 'Baylham' is a tart of Shipcord cheese with turnip and lemon. 'Swaffham' is a Norfolk Peer potato terrine with black garlic and quail egg. And 'Assington' is strawberries, lemon posset, sorrel ice cream and strawberry sorbet.