There was a wedding reception in full swing at the Northgate and all the bases were loaded. We had just checked in flush from an epic tour of the Greene King brewery where, as a fitting finale, free beer was literally on tap; cue desperate need for food to soak up our excess.
Restaurant Manager Cecile comes to the rescue “The bar area is full but I can clear a table for you. Better still, why don’t I bring the food up to your room?”
Now that’s what I call service. And not any old food mind, proper hipster snacks; tempura broccoli and potato and onion fritters no less.
The Northgate is a gem of a boutique property just a 3-minute walk to Bury St. Edmunds’ historic centre and with free parking, on-site, you can relax and stroll wherever you care to wander. Each of her nine rooms is styled differently yet each one is an elegant tour de force. This is boutique chic in the true sense of the word. Compact but beautifully turned out.
We landed Davers, a double king on the first floor; sash windows, French washed furniture, high thread-count linens, soothing pastel grey tones. A Nespresso, fancy bottled water and homemade biscuits. Perfect.
It was even more perfect when a gentle knock announced our food. I felt like a Roman emperor; spread supine on the couch sipping an espresso and nibbling tempura.
Amid our new oasis of calm-chic, we reviewed our day and decided Bury St. Edmunds ticked all the right boxes for us. It is a remarkable town. From the Greene King rooftop we could see it all laid out; the abbey gardens, cathedral and rolling hills to one side, the town proper to the other; two chapters of British history almost holding hands.
Later, rested and revived, we took our table downstairs in the restaurant, the domain of talented Scottish chef Greig Young. There is an a la carte menu, but most guests prefer Young’s Taste of East Anglia menu; 5 courses plus wine pairings as an optional extra, each course named after a local town. So, the tasting menu it was. Young also provides a chef table for diners who want to be right in the thick of the action.
Cecile was back. “Sometimes chef likes to put in some surprises for regular guests who already know the tasting menu. Are you happy for him to change things around?”
“Take the shackles off and go for it,” I said. “You can do the same with the wine pairing too if you feel up for it.”
This was a culinary journey of discovery from start to finish. Kicking off with Pakenham watermill flour bread with sea salt butter and a bubbling glass of Tuffon Hall from a local farming family who have supplied crops for the drinks industry for over 100 years and now going it alone with their own vineyard. A couple of breaded balls of Norfolk dapple with apple puree perched on a bed of barley, a match made in heaven.
Honestly, it was truly hard to pick a favourite course although Elveden was particularly memorable; Suffolk peer potato, spring vegetables and black garlic aioli. Then again, the Savoy crusted asparagus, egg yolk, rapeseed and goat curd was a contender as was the venison with coffee-glazed carrots and pickled mustard seeds. On reflection, this one together with the smooth Mendoza Malbec Reserva was my stand out.
Young is a real find; a highly talented chef who clearly revels in the freedom he’s given to create some outstanding dishes.
It was good to see the happy couple from earlier at a nearby table for two. I suspect this was a prelude to a good night out on the town as they ordered a cab for eleven. It’s a shame they probably won’t remember this delicious part of the evening.
The next morning the spring sun blazed over Bury St. Edmunds heralding a walk around the Abbey Gardens and a visit to Moyse’s Hall Museum, probably one of the most curious collections of magical and macabre odds and ends you’ll ever come across.
The Northgate was perfect in every way for me, and if this example of Philip Turner’s Chestnut Group of nine East Anglia country and coastal inns is anything to go by, I can’t wait to try all the others.
Food images (c) Andy Mossack. Abbey Gardens (c) Shawn Pearce, Moyse’s Hall (c) Andy Abbott.
Tell me more about The Northgate Bury St. Edmunds
The Northgate Bury St. Edmunds, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
T: +44 (0) 1284 339604
Like the sound of The Northgate? Double occupancy from £155 (includes breakfast) single occupancy from £120 (includes breakfast) Dinner from £30 excluding drinks.
Tasting menu £45 for 5 courses plus £25 for wine pairings.
Click here to arrange a Greene King Brewery Tour
See here for information about things to see and do in Bury St Edmunds