Eating out: Main's Restaurant
PUBLISHED: 12:05 31 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:05 31 January 2017
Sarah Lucy Brown
Frances Hopewell-Smith eats out in Yoxford where the multi-talented team at Main's produces delicious, unpretentious food in warm, sociable surroundings
Some things in life bother me. Am I the only person who likes dank, drizzly days? Why are caravans always white or cream? Who’s to blame for predictive text? Why are apostrophes abused? There is a restaurant called Main’s in Yoxford, and the name always perplexed me – did it only serve main courses? Is it on the main road? – until I found out that the owner is Nancy Main. Obvious really.
It was Nancy who met us at the door of the calm, spacious restaurant, formerly an old fashioned draper’s shop. With seating for only 40 a lot of the diners are locals, known by name, and it is very personal and homely without being homespun. In fact Main’s, with its wholesome, familial ethos and creative environment, is the epitome of the Danish word hygge, which everyone seems to be quoting to describe the mood of the moment.
Main’s is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and for brunch on Saturdays for the simple reason that both Nancy and Jason have other jobs. She is a talented potter and he a versatile woodworker. The picture rails around the dining rooms are dotted with examples of Nancy’s work, simple but pretty vases, cups, mugs and jugs.
What appeals about Main’s is its complete lack of pretension. By that I don’t mean it’s not up to scratch, quite the opposite, but it doesn’t make a song and dance about the quality and goodness of the food. The menu is reassuringly short, five choices for each course, and everything is prepared by Jason Vincent.
He learnt to cook, years ago, at Westminster College, and has been honing those skills ever since, inspired and motivated by his love of food and appreciation of the good ingredients right to hand. The menu is awash with the mantra beloved of food fans – local and seasonal. It’s as if Jason has a checklist of all the county’s favourites, combined in tempting dishes in a daily-changing menu. The wine list, although short, is a good pick of eclectic varieties, ‘something for everyone’, and at good value too.
My starter, smoked haddock tart with chervil sauce is light and delicately flavoured, with perfect pastry. Each and every mouthful is a joy. My friend, who goes for pigeon breast with lentils and small vegetables, proclaims it to be top hole - a balance of flavours so light and well-chosen that it’s ‘like a symphony’.
On to main courses, and another avalanche of metaphors, similes and plain old workaday adjectives accompany the first tastings. Poached sea bass, cod, brill and mussels cooked in fennel, orange and white wine is judged to be exceptional, intricate and well-balanced, each fish retaining its identity and own elegant flavour. There’s nothing showy about this, nothing heavy-handed just a delightful plate of fish in sumptuous broth, perfectly seasoned.
My vegetarian option, something I like to try, is fig, haloumi, (‘squeaky’ cheese which has been gently de-squeaked), butternut squash and aubergine roast with black sesame seeds. Each ingredient is aromatic, cooked to perfection and just lovely. The aubergine is reminiscent of a Japanese speciality which, in young-speak, is awesome, and the others, each carefully treated, hold their own and make a completely enchanting plateful of food.
One thing which is so important in any restaurant, café or pub is the service, which you only ever notice when it’s bad. Nancy, smiling all the time, manages her small team into a smooth operation at Main’s and what she does too, par excellence, is organise events which are good for the creative soul.
There’s a monthly bread-baking club, knit and natter sessions, Saturday brunch (which is a real social event), and the Paupers’ Nights with three choices on the menu for a fixed price. She and Jason, and their three children, throw themselves into the goings on in Yoxford, and are well-known for the diversity they bring to the village, being a natural focus for all the people round about.
By now we’re well into the swing of the convivial evening, every table full and the coat rack close to toppling over. Some bumped-into friends say it’s the best meal out they’ve had in a long time, and we can’t disagree. We have a few words with Jason at the end of service and it’s obvious how happy he is with his dual role of chef and woodworker. And when you think about it the two crafts have a lot in common – expertise with sharp implements to make something wonderful out of good materials.
The kitchen is quiet and ordered, no evidence left of the hectic proceedings and we congratulate him on his cooking as someone excavates our coats. Nancy, calm as ever, says she’s having an exhibition of her ceramics the next day so they’ll be setting that up when everyone’s gone. Ah well, working all hours is one of the joys of being multi-talented and very good at what you do.
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