Eating out: Boarding House at Halesworth
PUBLISHED: 12:51 27 March 2017
For Canadian chef Tyler Torrance and wife Pauline nothing could be better than running their own restaurant, The Boarding House Dining Rooms in Halesworth. Frances Hopewell-Smith (and knowledgeable friend) went along for dinner. Images: Sarah Lucy Brown
Tyler and Pauline Torrance have breezed into Halesworth and created quite a stir. Taking over the lease on a stately Georgian building in July 2016 they have quickly become a restaurant to be reckoned with. That’s not so surprising when you put Tyler’s reputation and experience together with Pauline’s easy, efficient management, and drop the whole into this busy market town. They make a formidable team, their charmingly soft Canadian accents and relaxed manners belying a focus and determination to live their dream and bring their food magic to Suffolk.
On my third outing to The Boarding House I’m with a rather knowledgeable friend, a professional cook and caterer with years of experience, so I start the evening on the back foot. She immediately identifies two important facts. Fact one, this is a much needed restaurant, not a transformed pub. Fact two, Tyler and Pauline are the essence of The Boarding House so there will be no leaving-chef syndrome or unsettling management changes. Both of these are blindingly obvious, of course, and I’m just slightly annoyed they weren’t my observations. One point to her and we haven’t even ordered our food.
Knowing Tyler’s cooking skills, we find it a bit hard to choose from the one page menu. The emphasis is on ingredients from local producers and suppliers and of course they’re seasonal, which is pretty much to be expected nowadays, but reassuring nonetheless. Ordering done, my friend recounts great stories about her time cooking for famous people in their homes (not to be repeated) until our starters arrive.
I’m having scallop gratin, parsley and mint crumb, saffron potato, and she’s chosen beetroot cured salmon with clementine and lemon marmalade. There are so many tasty components to each and, since I’m in the presence of a real expert I leave the resumé to her. She tastes each mouthful with consideration and analysis, approving of the clever use of flavours and textures. I simply enjoy a great plate of food. The scallops are perfect and the accompanying components harmonious and rounded.
Our main courses are in the same Tyler Torrance style of invention, still preserving the individuality of each ingredient. My friend is presented with a gorgeous looking plate of Blythburgh pork collar, roast garlic, wholegrain, crispy kale and Jerusalem artichoke. This is divine, she says, the artichokes straight out of the ground and as fresh as you like, but perhaps a dash of piquant sauce might finish the plate to perfection. My plaice with new potatoes, broccoli and Kings Lynn brown shrimp butter sounds simple but has to be so carefully cooked, and at The Boarding House it is, a bright and delicate arrangement, and I’m very happy.
When it comes to puddings I come into my own, my sweet-eating capabilities are legendary. I choose gooseberry cheesecake and meringue fool, which appeals on every level. It is magnificent – light, fruity and creamy, sort of like an Eton mess with added value. One empty glass in a trice. Another local fruity pudding, quince brulée with apple jacks, is for my friend, who is defeated by the sheer rich gooeyness of the apple (flap) jacks. Hah! One all!
From Canada to Halesworth via Heston Blumenthal
Tyler comes to join us at the end of the evening and fills in the gaps in his progress to Halesworth. He trained in Vancouver with some of that city’s top chefs, where he also met and married Pauline. He learnt French, Japanese and Chinese cuisines and after working with Aurora, then rated ninth best restaurant in Canada, became head chef at Monsoons East West Brasserie. Deciding his future lay in Europe the young couple arrived in England where Tyler continued to learn from the best, including a ‘stage’ with Heston Blumenthal. With this inspiration, four daughters and some job offers on board, Tyler and Pauline looked for somewhere to settle.
“As I turned off the A12 to Southwold I knew this was the place for me. Driving past the fields and farm shops and spying all the local produce, it had everything I dreamed of and that’s how I became head chef at the Crown [Southwold].” After another head chef post at the Brudenell in Aldeburgh it was time for a change.
He talks quietly, but at speed, as he explains his motivation, his beliefs, inspiration and passion and sums it up as international experience distilled through great Suffolk ingredients. Finding The Boarding House, he says, is like a dream come true.
“What more could I want? I can cook the food I love, work with all the fabulous food people hereabouts, and all from this incredible building.” They have taken on the restoration of the building at the same time as building the restaurant and turning upstairs into four bedrooms for guests. Nothing like doing it all at once.
“But we are in our infancy and organically growing the business, focusing on the dining rooms. We’re building the company on a simple doctrine of good food and good service. We want to be part of the community, paying homage to the hard work going on around us and supporting the producers. It’s all about synergy,” he says, “finding the best local produce, cooking it with love and care and skill and putting it on the menu.”
I’m busily taking notes as the friend is asking Tyler about the best way to get the kale so crispy and crunchy and complimenting him on his success. The portion size is ideal, she says, the food so cleverly and imaginatively cooked and she can’t wait to come again. The Boarding House Dining Rooms get a definite thumbs up from both of us and as the gallant loser in the unofficial culinary quiz, I generously agree to drive home.
Selections from the menu
Pickled Norfolk crab, cucumber, radish and white miso
Sutton Hoo chicken press, beetroot, pistachio and liquorice
Wild seatrout fillet, crushed Jersey royals, asparagus, sea greens and brown shrimp
Spring lamb, olive oil mashed potato, broad beans, courgette, tomato and aged balsamic vinegar
Rhubarb and custard parfait with poached rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet
Lemon curd tart, swiss meringue and raspberries
Other reasons to visit
The Producers’ Evenings and regular art exhibitions at The Boarding House
Dog walkers welcome
Sunday Brunch is exceptional
Halesworth is a real gem with auction rooms, antique shops, a pretty thoroughfare and all the proper retailers you need
There is The Cut, a busy arts centre, gallery, theatre and cinema.
The Boarding House
10 Market Place, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8BA
01986 948 306