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Keeping it fresh at the Brudenell, Aldeburgh

PUBLISHED: 17:08 13 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:49 20 February 2013

Lemon mousse with a pistachio crumb and a lemon sorbet

Photograph by SARAH LUCY BROWN

Lemon mousse with a pistachio crumb and a lemon sorbet Photograph by SARAH LUCY BROWN

A stylish gem of a hotel, the recently restyled Brudenell enjoys a prime stretch of Aldeburgh's heritage coastline. Ruth French discovers what makes its restaurant so special, and meets the chef behind the inspired menu

A stylish gem of a hotel, the recently restyled Brudenell enjoys a prime stretch of Aldeburghs heritage coastline. Ruth French discovers what makes its restaurant so special, and meets the chef behind the inspired menu

Aldeburghs celebrated cultural heritage comes into sharp focus as we spy Maggi Hamblings Scallop, her controversial tribute to Benjamin Britten, along the pebbly beach.
Britten, along with Peter Peers, Imogen Holst and a host of other notable musicians and artists, helped forge the rich and diverse creative map of this small Suffolk town, augmenting the allure of its naturally appealing landscape.
Once a shipbuilding town and busy fishing port, Aldeburgh began its rise in popularity as a seaside resort in the 19th century and cleverly refused or avoided the brash elements that assisted the decline of lesser towns.
Always preferring the genteel, today Aldeburgh is sophisticated, but fun too, and lends itself perfectly to those seeking a discerning holiday break or day at the beach.
A major part of that experience is great food and really great food must mean fresh food. The Brudenell Hotel restaurant, fortuitously situated, a pebbles throw from the famous beach, boasts an impressive menu of both locally-sourced fresh fish, and organic meats; something at which Suffolk is unsurpassed at on a national scale.
So what did I find? Firstly, happy and attentive staff. But then it was easy to smile and relax in this chic, re-furbished establishment. The sea-facing dining terrace was vibrant, colourful and stylish and yet perfectly in harmony with the uncluttered grace of Aldeburghs beach.
The main dining area is elevated from the terrace and also affords a perfect, uninterrupted view of the sea from inside its elegant and restrained interior. The blue paintwork and golden hues of the beech furniture impart an organic, classy decorating look that feels both simple and indulgent at the same time.
The Brudenell have clearly had a strong new vision for the future which they have executed with considerable success. I spoke to Grahame Tinnion, operations director, who explained his overall ethos for the hotel and restaurant. He told me that although the dream was to take The Brudenell to the next level, they didnt want to lose the cosmopolitan mix of people that made up their valued customers, so it never was the aim to concentrate on just fine dining alone. This foresight has proved invaluable as you witness the happy mix enjoying lunch on the terrace.
Meeting head chef Justin Kett was a pleasure. Having greeted me with a warm and friendly smile, Justin proudly took me to see The Avocet dining room. Developed with private and seminar dining in mind, this extraordinarily elegant room which seats up to 18, left me desperate to plan something anything that would necessitate its use. Dignified, classic and with a modern twist, it also boasts up-to-date AV equipment.
But what of the man and his menu? Well, it has been a journey in more ways than one as Justin was keen to illustrate. Having trained at Lowestoft college 11 years ago, he then worked at The Swan in Southwold. His innate passion for foreign travel took him to Thailand, Australia and a three-month cooking stint in Tasmania before a return Down Under as cook in a seafood restaurant overlooking Sydney Opera House. Then it was home and to Taunton in the West Country where Justin trained at the Castle Hotel under the auspices of Richard Guest.
I wondered how his passion for food had begun.
I suppose I always wanted to cook. My mum was always baking and dad would often bring home freshly-caught game, he said.

"I want people to have a wonderful dining experience and remember long after how good the food tasted"

Justin has a creative enthusiasm and an honest approach to his food and to the ethos he brings to the kitchen at The Brudenel. Quite simply, it has to be fresh and it has to be as local as possible. Pinneys of Orford provide the first-class array of shellfish and smoked produce, while Justin himself smokes the salmon using his own recipe. The rest of the fish comes from local fishermen at Lowestoft and a good working relationship with them whereby Justin can put in his order and its caught and purchased the following morning.
Meat is organic where possible and local too with fresh salad ingredients arriving each morning from Thorpeness Leaves.
Did Justin have a vision for his future at the new-look Brudenell? Yes, of course. A simple one, he said. Where people have a wonderful dining experience and remember long after how good the food tasted. Oh, and a third AA rosette would be nice!
Knowing how hard he works on the quality of his menu, Im sure that itll happen given time.
But my time at The Brudenell was limited and all that talk of food had left me eager to sample the menu
It was time to put Justins talents to the test with a three-course lunch. I chose panzanella salad for starters; grilled fresh sardines with aged balsamic vinegar and leaves. It was a subtle joy of flavours with no residue of vinegar sitting in the bowl and just the merest hint of basil rather than the ubiquitous, overpowering blast of chlorophyll one can get with the fresh herb. It was a faultless start.
My main course was the fish of the day. Plaice on a bed of mashed potato, wilted spinach and a home-made, chunky tartare sauce. Again, the subtlest of flavours: perfectly cooked fish with crispy skin and every little ingredient teasing the palette, not assaulting it.
Now Im not a pudding fan so I left it to Justin to choose for me. Strawberry and vanilla panacotta with a glorious sorbeta really inspired and decadent dish and one Id have again.
But what was I to drink? Food and beverage manager Franois Bruwer came to my rescue, politely and cleverly steering me away from my favourite Pouilly Fume to a perfectly-suited South African Sauvignon Blanc from the Springfield Estate.
Its mysterious mineral-tasting qualities matched my fish choices beautifully, so ask for it by name when you visit.
And if you love good food, then visit you must. Not just for the joy of eating marvellous food but for the creativity and intelligence of the charming staff and their surroundings.

The Brudenell Hotel,
The Parade, Aldeburgh,
Tel: 01728 452071


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