Analysing the game with David Grimwood of The Froize Inn, Chillesford

PUBLISHED: 11:41 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:26 20 February 2013

Venison, Ale and Mushroom Pie

Venison, Ale and Mushroom Pie

Mark David meets David Grimwood of The Froize Inn, a true master of country cooking

On the road to Orford from Woodbridge, and nestling amongst trees with a generous plot of land, is The Froize, a freehouse restaurant.
Once the Chillesford Estates gamekeeper's tied cottage, the Froize has had a chequered career. When no longer required for the gamekeeper, it was turned into an alehouse by a local character who dealt in anything with fur, or feathers, on either two or four legs! Enough said! After a journey through various owners, and highs and lows, it attracted the attentions of David Grimwood, a true Suffolk boy! (more in a minute about this) who fell in love with this derelict, rather forlorn building begging to be loved. Having signed the deeds of sale (fixtures and fittings included a glass case containing a magnificent stuffed pike) five weeks later an exhausted, but elated, David opened up.
The New Froize, carefully re-furbished and spruced up with a re-worked bar, delightful dining room, and spanking kitchen, heralded a new life ahead for the building and its irrepressible owner.
David Grimwood is a charming, welcoming host, deeply proud of his latest achievement, loves what he does and is happy to share it with the world. Unlike some chefs, he spends as much time out front as he does in his kitchen. A large proportion of his clientele are his friends, while I was there early lunchers were being greeted in a manner rather like welcoming fond relatives.
Born and bred in Aldeburgh where his father, Jack Grimwood, was the highly respected headmaster, David has now returned to his culinary roots.
He fondly remembers: As a boy, visiting my amazing grandmother who lived in Orford. She cooked in the style of her farmhouse upbringing, so I was introduced to really good food early on in my life. At the end of the weekly baking day, we were allowed to make rub-up! made from all the pastry trimmings - folded together with a handful of currants and a little sugar, no waste! His mother also inspired him with her wonderfully practical 60's cooking, clever, economical food with masses of flavour. Davids love of food as a young man took him to The Brudenell Hotel, in Aldeburgh, where he worked part time, whilst still at school, in the kitchen.
I watched and learned, turned potatoes, wangled my way into the good books of the chef tasks rather than washing up! I learned about good ingredients, locally sourced, and started to climb up the career ladder in the harsh environment of a commercial kitchen, a true baptism of fire, but I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
David then gained experience in other hotel kitchens before graduating from Norwich City College in hotel management. It was good to have the qualification but I knew where my journey was taking me and it wasn't management, I wanted my own business, and I wanted to COOK!
His first major interview as a commis chef was with Sylvano Trompetto, the legendary chef guru at The Old Savoy Hotel in London. There were seven people before me, each had five minutes and came out looking glum. I had 20 minutes and the great man offered me the job despite him saying, at 21 I was too old! I went away and mulled it over but accepted another job at the renowned Leewood Hotel, in Buxton, Derbyshire, under the watchful eye of top hotelier Margaret Millican. They were offering 23 per week and The Savoy was offering 21. I wonder where I would be now had I taken the Savoy job, he muses.
On returning to Suffolk a four-year spell at Snape Maltings during the infancy of this amazing complex, gave David the insight and ability to want his own business - The White Horse, Easton and Friston Old Chequers both received the Grimwood treatment and thousands of plates of delicious food were devoured in these establishments before he ended up taking on The Froize.
Lunch is one of his mantras, and The Froize celebrates this great meal. He opens Tuesday to Sunday for lunches and Thursday, Friday and Saturday for supper. His menu is intriguing and celebrates everything in season, particularly game. I sampled a sublime Rabbit Brawn, (rabbit slowly braised in leeks, parsley and carrots and then set in lamb jelly, a tasty by product from the honey-braised lamb shanks).
I moved on to Wild Duck Salad, (Pin Tail Wild Duck, pan-fried and served rare on a mixed leaf salad base with an oriental dressing).
The next taste sensation was pan-fried rabbit fillet (on a fruity couscous base with Iranian Pistachio nuts and plump raisins soaked in fresh lime and orange juice).
Pheasants are now well in season, and I sampled pan-fried pheasant breast on a pea, broad bean and marrow risotto, what a combination!
I also had the Mallard breast, briefly pan-fried and served on a bed of roasted local pumpkins cooked with rosemary and smoked garlic.
In season David makes vats of the most delicious Venison Casserole which he then makes into a golden pastry topped pie. The most important ingredients apart from the meat are London stout and red wine, as he says, without which the venison would shine, but not so brightly!
Intriguingly his lunch menu revolves around a colourful and groaning hot buffet in the restaurant. No starters, just very generous main courses which include:
Fisherman's Pie - Loch Duart Salmon, Prawns and Smoked Cod: Jimmy Butler's Free Range Roast Blythburgh Pork with the trimmings or Pot-Roast Partridge with roasted vegetables and redcurrants.
Look out too for Honey-roast Lamb Shanks with Mint Sauce, Devilled Kidneys with Little Chipolatas ; Stuffed Marrows with Nuts and Peppers; Local Venison, Ale and Field Mushroom Pie; Braised Red Poll Beefsteak with Wild Mushrooms and Casserole of Rabbit with Prunes and Cider.
The above is typical of a Saturday Lunch in October. The supper menu offers starters (like the game examples above), other starters might include; Antipasto with Fresh Turkish Figs, Salad of Pigeon Breast with Blackcurrant Dressing and Cherry Wood Smoked Chicken with Onion Relish.
What about Froize desserts? Well,they are an institution unequalled in the area. Puds, says David, are a great British tradition and he celebrates this with gusto! Try some of these: Upside down Ginger Pudding; Panacotta with poached Apricots; Steamed Syrup Sponge Pud; Blackberry and Apple Crumble plus Sunken Chocolate Pudding.
As a guide two course lunches with coffee are 20 with supper 26.50.
Theres a yummy wine selection starting at 18 per bottle, and a total of 12 wines, white, rose and red available by the glass.
The Froize is a great place for a leisurely lunch or supper, the staff are busy and cheerful, some of whom have been there a number of years and are part of David's extended family.
Much of the game served in the restaurant is harvested by David with eager co-operation from his Labradors; Penny, Teal and Bliss. This is shot locally and with the help of the butchery skills of the excellent Paul Denny at The Wild Meat Company.
David says. The country side is a better place for proper game management and we only harvest species like hare, wild duck and woodcock when we know there is a sustainable surplus.
Conservation and shooting go very much hand in hand as far as I'm concerned.
David's food philosophy is quite simple - fine ingredients - cooked from the heart - eaten with friends!
Froize Inn, Chillesford, Woodbridge
Suffolk, IP12 3PU. Tel 01394 450282.

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