A meal at the upper floor restaurant attached to the concert hall at Snape Maltings, or the self-service eatery on a floor below, is an event to remember for several reasons. Firstly, unless you are invited to or are organising a special reception or event, you can only dine there on evenings when there is a concert – so it’s a comparatively rare occurrence. Secondly, you may have a seat by the splendidly large windows with a totally stunning panoramic view across the waters and reed beds – which alone is almost worth the price of the ticket.
The meal isn’t cheap at £37.00 a head, but it also very good. It is prepared and served by the catering arm of Metfield Bakery, whose business has expanded from artisan bread into several related food fields, and who have the catering concession at the Maltings.
On the night we went – to see and enjoy the English Touring Opera company performing Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” — the menu was:
Canapés: Fruit Cake, Blue Cheese; Smoked Salmon Fishcakes; Croque Monsieur
Starters: Cream of Spinach Soup, Blue Cheese Crème Fraîche (v); or Home Cured Gravadlax, Pickled Cucumbers, Rye Bread; or Warm Belly of Pork, Celeriac Gribiche
Mains: Blue Cheese & Roasted Hazelnut Risotto, Sage Dressing (also available as starter) (v); or Mushroom & White Bean Cassoulet, Parsnip Gnocchi (v); or Roasted Cod, Lightly Curried Vegetables, Spring Onion & Yoghurt Dressing; or Rare Roast Sirloin of Beef, Celeriac & Potato Rosti, Horseradish Creamed Leeks
Poached Pear, Chocolate Panna Cotta, Hazelnut Shortbread; or Rhubarb Crème Brûlée, Blackcurrant Sorbet; or Pecan Pie, Roast Banana Ice Cream; or Gubbeen & Durrus Cheese, Soda Bread, Chutney, Celery
The programme sent to customers who had pre-booked table and food choice indicated the “canapés” would be served with a glass of wine at “The Terrace End of the Restaurant”. In fact, they were served at the table, becoming in essence an Amuse Bouche. They were of excellent quality – super mini bites, two savoury and the interesting fruit cake topped with blue cheese.
From the first course my wife had the Spinach Soup: “Very well made, excellent flavour and texture – the blue cheese/crème fraîche was a clever touch”; and I had the gravadlax which was fresh as could be, if you can term cured fish this way. I could have eaten another slice or two. Triangles of a deep brown home made rye bread, as you would expect, accompanied
Main Course: Mary’s Baked Cod was: “Fine quality fresh fish properly cooked, tender, flaky with plenty of moisture and enjoyable lightly curried vegetables, even though curry isn’t my favourite flavouring. Yogurt and Spring Onion dressing – good match for the cod”. Mine, the sirloin. Cooked as advertised, rare; good meat but didn’t cut easily, suggesting the carver should have made two thin slices rather than one thick one. The horseradish flavoured leeks, and the potato/parsnip Rosti were both exemplary and the flavours complemented the meat well. Both dishes were well but not elaborately presented.
Desserts could be taken at the pre-concert sitting or, at your same table during the 20 minute interval. We chose the latter, which was a mistake; the time allowed was not sufficient for enjoyment and the ordered coffees didn’t arrive, which was just as well.
Service and Ambience
As is so often today, the service was by young people, girls in this case. It was quite efficient and polite, a little unskilled and prone to wilt a bit under pressure I suspect. A Maitre would have been a good idea.
The ambience is great. The view. The evening light. The clever modern design, construction and lighting of the building blending so well in colour and texture with nature outside, and the quality of the food combined to make this a memorable meal.
Ratings – out of *****
Food: ****½ Service: *** Ambience: ****½ Value-for-money: ****
Planned and cooked by people who know what they are about. Basically good, honest fresh food with some clever touches to lift each dish to well above average.