From classics to canapes . . . dining out at 1921 in Bury St Edmunds
PUBLISHED: 13:02 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 13:02 20 January 2015
Bury St Edmunds' newest independent restaurant is full of surprises. Tessa Allingham samples the menu and meets the man behind the concept of 1921
There’s always a buzz around a new independent restaurant opening. Who will be cooking and what? Will it be a place to linger over a special meal, or somewhere to go for a snatched bite? Will the look be glitz and glamour, or relaxed and informal?
Here’s the rub. Bury St Edmunds’ latest restaurant opening, 1921, rather defies categorisation. It’s fine dining, but not quite as we know it.
Zack Deakins is behind the stove, and he’s cooking, he tells me, his food. A glance at the menu suggests that means classic French. Classic skills and combinations abound, making 1921 a place to eat earthy confit rabbit with girolles, delicately pan-fried veal sweetbreads, salmon with richly-buttered spinach, crisp-topped crème brulee or sweet-sharp apple tarte tatin.
It’s not surprising. Zack cut his fine dining teeth during a three-year stint under Martin Wishart at his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant in Edinburgh, and spent 18 months as head chef at the acclaimed Le Talbooth in Dedham before, in July 2013, taking over from Chris Lee as head chef at the foodie Bildeston Crown, where he had been Chris’ sous for four years. It’s not surprising that Zack’s menu at 1921 draws on such inspiration.
“I’ve included dishes I know from experience work and that I know how to make well,” he says.
To start, the pan-fried veal sweetbreads, crispily golden on the outside, soft inside, are irresistible, only reluctantly shared, and deemed excellent. Bitter rocket and the punchy hit of pickled mustard seeds dismisses blandness and makes the whole concoction a lesson in balance and interest. Ditto the confit rabbit which is sweet and rich and partners perfectly with artichokey salsify, girolles and gnocchi fricassée.
A fillet of brill follows. It’s a fish beloved of chefs for its robust texture and flavour that makes it able to stand up to meaningful accompaniments. Zack sticks to a proven combination, teaming the fish with braised pork belly to keep the dish moist, and salty palourde clams to cut through any richness. A fresh carrot consommé and crunchy bok choi make the dish a classically happy marriage of texture and flavour.
A substantial fillet of hake is also a winner, crisped on the outside and just the right side of rare inside. Creamed sprouts retain a vibrant green and nuggets of crispy pork belly and potato galettes give a warm, oozing mouthful of comfort food at its best.
Not up for fish? Then choose a tender beef sirloin served with meltingly-braised shin, flavour-packed choucroute, peppery watercress and smoked bone marrow, or one of the two vegetarian dishes such as wild mushroom tagliatelle, pea shoots and aged Pecorino cheese.
There’s a lot going on on most plates, but Zack insists that every element is vital, adding relevant texture or flavour. I get the idea, but a curried stone bass, bass boudin, parsnip, golden raisins, sea beets and poached oyster is such a mesmerising agglomeration of flavours, textures, colours and detail that I found myself not knowing where to put my fork next. The answer is for each forkful to include a hint of every ingredient.
Make room for pudding. A crème brulee is insanely creamy, a pudding that makes you shut your eyes in pleasure and then be grateful for the just-soft poached pear and spicy pain d’epice that add a lighter, firmer dimension. Zack’s deft skill at balancing flavours reaches indulgent heights in a white chocolate cheesecake which is all the better for the fresh punch of passion fruit and kaffir lime sorbet served alongside.
1921, Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds