This Norfolk restaurant with rooms is being run by a couple bringing experience of the luxury and service of country house hotels to a boutique business. Lisa Jenkins reports.
Chef Greg Anderson and his partner Rebecca Williams have opened Meadowsweet, a restaurant with rooms, quietly and to early, glowing reviews from excited local Norfolk diners. It's early days for the couple as business owners, but their reputations precede them, and dinner bookings are full until the end of the year.
Scottish-born Anderson was previously head chef at nearby Morston Hall for six years, during which time he retained its Michelin star and won four AA rosettes. Williams was general manager at the restaurant and hotel for five years, and previously at the Ingham Swan in Norwich. Prior to that she worked at the Château de Bagnols in Bagnols, France, while completing her French degree. They opened the 20-cover restaurant with three bedrooms in the picturesque market town of Holt at the end of May.
Anderson and Williams are serving dinner five nights a week with one five-course tasting menu at £75 per person. His philosophy as a chef, says Anderson, is to: "simply buy the best ingredients and use them to produce dishes that we find delicious to eat. Because Meadowsweet is smaller than other restaurants we have worked in, we are trying to refine the food and the experience of the restaurant."
We are trying to refine the food and the experience of the restaurant
Anderson has done his time in all sections of the kitchen, learning pastry, pasta, bread, meat and fish preparation very early on in his career. He has also spent time eating in restaurants around the world, and this combination of classical technique and adventurous flavours can be seen in his dishes, which are presented in a "really clean-looking way".
The team use lobsters from nearby Brancaster, sea bass from Lowestoft, and Jersey beef from Old Hall Farm just outside of Norwich. "Rebecca Mayhew at Old Hall Farm is an incredible producer of dairy and beef," says Anderson. "She really loves her animals, and her passion is infectious. ‘John the Fish' is five minutes from our door and sources our seafood. I really trust him, and he knows what I'm looking for when it comes to sustainable fishing practices for the fish we are using."
Foraged ingredients, including mushrooms, coastal herbs and meadowsweet are supplied by Martin Denny.
The sourcing of products and ingredients is taken seriously and although it might not always be local, "it will always come from a sustainable source," says Anderson. "We have really strong relationships with the producers we use, which is paramount to the food we are serving."
Anderson's future dishes will feature lobsters, oysters and local sea bass, and he usually has a pasta dish on the menu. "Like most chefs, a really beautiful turbot or hand-dived scallop is always a treat, but when you manage to source really good-quality vegetables, it's equally as exciting. When the mushrooms are just right or the peas are super-fresh, they just make such a difference."
The chef's favourite main is a lobster raviolo with lemon verbena. The lobster is bound with a hand-dived scallop mousse and encased in the pasta, served with spinach with salted lemon and confit peppers and a gel of lemon verbena, finished with both fresh verbena and a sauce infused with the herb.
A recently developed dish of stuffed guinea fowl represents him well, he says. "We make a farce from the legs of the bird and stuff that between the skin and flesh. The bird is brined and lightly steamed on the bone and then roasted with lots of butter, garlic and thyme. The rest of the trimmings go into the sauce, which is classically made. It looks simple on the plate, but the guinea fowl from Suffolk are really great quality and the farce really helps boost the flavour."
Desserts include a sable pastry tart incorporating a strawberry and sweet cicely compote, white chocolate yogurt using supplier Rebecca Mayhew's yogurt, a strawberry and sweet cicely sorbet, and fresh sweet cicely and lightly dressed strawberries, collected daily from the greengrocers in the town.
As well as managing the wine list, which is mainly chosen from the Wright Wine & Whisky Co in Skipton, Williams' role will include managing front of house logistics, housekeeping, finance and maintenance. "She's a bit of a superwoman," says Anderson.
There are two chefs in the kitchen and a part-time kitchen porter currently serving a maximum of 16 diners per night.
The couple's relationships with their suppliers will stand them in good stead and Meadowsweet is definitely one to watch.
37 Norwich Road, Holt, Norfolk
From the menu
− Baron Bigod and black walnut chicken liver and Morello cherry − Pain de Campagne and sourdough focaccia with raw Jersey butter − Lobster, langoustine and scallop raviolo and lemon verbena − Warm salad of Jerusalem artichoke, Sainte-Maure de Touraine, hazelnut − Wild turbot, whey butter, Portwood asparagus − New season Norfolk lamb ‘provençal' − Courtyard Dairy cheese plate (supplement £12.50) − Sharrington strawberry, sweet cicely, elderflower
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