A Fine Hidden Gem
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As a regular restaurant reviewer, you can occasionally find a true hidden gem in the pack...and this can most certainly be said of Brasted’s. From the initial approach, driving through the picture-perfect, privately owned village of Framingham Pigot, the stunning location of Brasted’s suddenly appears, approached via an attractive driveway and set among the Norfolk countryside. It immediately became apparent this was going to be something special.
My colleagues and I arrived on a sunny winter’s afternoon to a warm reception from Michael Zouvani, Director of Operations, who could not have been more accommodating as a host. On this occasion we were also staying overnight at their recently converted Lodge, which we will feature in a future issue of Places&Faces®, but for now, we are here to learn more about the restaurant side of their business and, more importantly, taste the food!
Brasted’s has been a well respected name associated in the Norwich restaurant world for some years. John Brasted founded the original on St. Andrews Hill, Norwich in 1984. The intimate 22 cover restaurant quickly established a reputation for high quality food and service, earning 3 AA Rosettes. When the lease for the building expired in 1999, the search was on for a new home and Brasted’s Barns, Framingham Pigot became just that.
Despite the new address, the Brasted’s ethos still prevails. As Managing Director Nick Mills explained, retaining the same philosophy and dining experience is key to their continuing success today. The attention to detail is quite something. The beautiful dining room with its impressive bare brick walls, presented against crisp white table linen and stunning floral displays, the venue is fit for celebrating the finest of occasions.
The night we visited was the launch of their new menu. Keeping it fresh, seasonal and local is something upon which they particularly pride themselves. On further investigation of the menu, the pork fillet dish originated from Orchard Farm in Holverston, some two and a half miles away. And it doesn’t stop at the food – even the wine has a local connection!
We chose to start with the Framingham Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from New Zealand. It transpires, that the owner of Framingham Pigot village, Ben du Brow, has a distant relative who owns a vineyard in the Marlborough region of NZ and, after a visit to the village, decided to capture the memories of their stay permanently by aptly naming it Framingham. And a very nice Sauvignon it was.
After choosing from a selection of warm, homemade breads (fruit & nut and tomato & basil favoured on our table), we were presented with a delicious amuse bouche of carrot and coriander soup before our array of starters arrived at the table. For me it was the checkerboard carpaccio of tuna and swordfish with pomegranate, soy marinated mooli and brown butter.
As a lover of fish, this was the perfect start – the delicate flavours of the thinly sliced fish against the background of the soy flavours was delicious, although for my palate, the soy influence could have been a touch stronger. The presentation was stunning – the fish cut into neat squares and presented alternately, hence the title checkerboard. Two of my fellow diners opted for the Houghton Estate shot hare sausage on pickled red cabbage with a Suffolk cider, Cox apple and vanilla chutney.
After an initial silence from both (a good sign I always think!) they described it as an explosion of taste with the huge, rich meaty flavours of the sausage balanced perfectly against the sweetness of the red cabbage and apple chutney.
For main course, I opted for the North Atlantic lobster with handmade squid Ink linguini, courgettes, fennel and fragrant Kaffir lime Leaf veloute. Not really knowing what to expect, the first thing that hit me was the presentation – the black pasta balanced elegantly against the pink and white of the lobster. And the taste didn’t disappoint either – the lobster was beautifully sweet with a perfect melt in your mouth texture. And the pasta had a surprising added depth of flavour from the squid ink.
Another of my fellow diners had the ‘Barolo’ poached fillet of turbot served with a herb risotto, braised baby gems and a sweet muscat grape nage, to which she exclaimed ‘...this is the best risotto I have ever tasted!’. And for the meat eaters on the table, the chargrilled Scotch fillet of beef with seared calves liver, spring onion mashed potato and a thyme and red wine reduction, packed a punch, bursting with flavour combinations that worked so well on the plate. The steak was so beautifully cooked that a normal dinner knife cut through it like a knife through butter! And how could we not sample the Holverston pork loin? My colleague described it as ‘the best piece of pork I have had in years’ and a dish for which he would certainly return.
With very little room for any more food, it is pure credit to the highly original and very tempting selection of desserts that enticed all but one of us. For me, it was a trip down memory lane to childhood with a simply delicious “Old School Arctic Roll” that came with neat little circles of raspberry jelly, topped with an exquisite and highly refreshing basil and mint sorbet. It was pure dessert heaven! A fellow diner opted for the affogato – vanilla iced cream, frangelico and hazelnut biscotti with a hot expresso, for pouring (although he opted not to pour). Frangelico liqueur was a ‘boozy but pleasant surprise set underneath the iced cream’ he commented, and the expresso sauce was a delicious complement.
This was fine dining at its’ best and with service to match, it is clear that the Brasted’s spirit of old is still prevalent today. If they keep up this standard, it will not be long before they achieve their 3 AA Rosette status, to continue the legacy of being one of the area’s leading fine dining restaurants.
Brasted’s is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening 7pm – 10pm and Friday Lunchtime 12pm – 2.30pm. For bookings call 01508 491112.