Located in the peaceful village of Stoke Holy Cross overlooking the River Tas, the idylic Stoke Mill was built over 700 years ago. This light and airy conversion, which is now an award-winning restaurant, has some poignant foodie history too. Back in the 1800s it was the home to Colman’s Mustard and where Jeremiah and James Colman started the production of their famous condiment.
We took my Dad here for his birthday on Sunday and what a tranquil and snug place to spend a drizzly January afternoon. The thing that instantly took hold of me was the relaxed and warm atmosphere and the soothing easy-listening music being piped into the restaurant – not of the cheesy variety, I have no idea what they were playing, but it was a good fit for the moment and the occasion, and created that joyful buzz that’s often lacking in contemporary dining eateries.
Things got off to a good start. Not only were we brought a bucket-full of deliciously puffed, home made cheese straws with poppy seeds, but our table was presented with these beautiful, hessian sacks, brimming with hot, homemade bread rolls baked in miniature terracotta pots and served with whipped salted butter. To keep the rolls warm, nestled at the bottom of the sack, there was a hand-sewn cloth package containing hot ceramic beans. Genius.
For starters there was so much to choose from. I couldn’t resist the smoked Norfolk Dapple twice-baked cheddar cheese souffle with a bed of spinach and chive cream sauce (now, there’s a mouthful). It was fiendishly good – light, creamy and cloud-like in it’s appearance, the soft flavours melted in my mouth, but not before my tastebuds basked in the smooth and nutty flavours of Norfolk Dapple, one of my favourite local cheeses.
My other half allowed me try his curried parsnip soup with cumin spice and onion bhaji (all in the name of research). Very easily the best-tasting soup topped sweet, crispy textures that I’ve had for some time.
Birthday boy, my Dad, had the truffle creamed goat’s cheese, local Bungay brie beignet, figs and candied walnuts. He said that it was not only one of the prettiest-looking starters he’d eaten but the arrangement contained the most delicious variation of cheese he’d had on one plate: Deep-fried brie, melting in the middle, with a neat sphere of truffle coated goat’s cheese – it doesn’t get much more exciting than this for a vegetarian looking for salvation:
My Mum had the pan-fried hand-dived king scallops, Dingely Dell belly pork and caramelised apple puree. Mum being Mum, she snuck a little taster on my plate – the pork just fell apart and the scallops tasted as though they were caught (by a pair of manly hands in a deep, raging ocean) just 20 minutes prior. And, yes, I did make everyone in my party pause whilst I photographed each dish. I’m not always the best person to lunch with:
For main I went for pan-fried salmon on saffron, prawn, mussel and chorizo paella with a lobster bisque. The salmon was rich and just cooked through, as it should be, and the paella was smoky and peppery with deep flavours of shellfish. Topped with samphire, I was so happy for a fleeting glimpse of this, my favourite vegetable / seaweed – the local variety of which, is in-season during the summer months.
For my partner’s main, he had the beetroot, Binham Blue and red wine risotto with crispy wild rice and Waldorf salad. He devoured this beautiful dish. Usually a fussy eater, his only groan was that there simply wasn’t enough:
Dad had the pan-fried fillet of plaice with crispy crab cake, peas a la franchise and a beurre blanc sauce. As you can see, he couldn’t wait for his Instagram-crazed daughter to photograph his meal before scooping a forkful of his peas a la franchise. And who can blame him:
And this. Mum’s roast sirloin of beef with all the trimmings and gravy boat. It literally beat her. She had to stop for a few naps in between, but it took her four staunch attempts to finish three-quarters of this colossal plate of food:
Myself and my other half couldn’t manage a dessert but Dad went for a giant vat of pannacotta with macaroons, sorbet and blackberries (not pictured here – he was too quick for me. Again). And Mum had the below, the classic creme brûlée with raspberry lemonade jelly and sorbet:
I was pretty full so just went for a coffee with home made petit fours:
Altogether a 3-course meal for four, including wine for two, came to just over £110. To dine from the two course menu is £18.95 and three courses is £21.95. Thanks to Ludo who served us – we had a memorable and mellow Sunday at the Mill with you.
For more information go to www.stokemill.co.uk