Eating out: East Coast
PUBLISHED: 11:14 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:14 27 June 2017
Sarah Lucy Brown
Frances Hopewell-Smith samples the Aldeburgh venue that is a cafe, restaurant, bar and store. Photography: Sarah Lucy Brown
When does fashionably late become annoyingly overdue or downright rude? Having stopped en route to help a girl whose car had broken down, we finally arrive at the East Coast (Café, Restaurant and Bar) perilously close to the ‘downright rude’ stage and I’m in a complete flap. Bursting in from a sudden downpour and looking like drowned rats (it’s going really well so far) we’re met by Romeo and Paige, the front of house team, who are calm, relaxed and friendly. It’s all fine they say, taking our dripping coats.
I’ve been here before for post dog-walk brunch, mid morning coffee and ‘working’ lunch, but this is a first try of the evening outing and it’s fortuitous timing because it’s just started to open in the evenings from Tuesday to Saturday. The website says that at East Coast they are passionate about promoting all the good regional food and abundance of wonderful ingredients, which is a given, but they are big promoters too of Aldeburgh, organising regular one and two-day trips with guided tours around the seaside town. I’m thinking it might be interesting simply because, like any attraction on your doorstep, you take it for granted until it’s too late, always intending to do the tourist thing on the next visit, then suddenly there isn’t a next visit.
There’s a quietly informal atmosphere at East Coast and it’s sophisticated in an effortless way. The menu is changed daily and tonight there are so many good-sounding things to choose from it takes us a while. And it’s not often you see herring roes on toast on a menu, one of my favourites. Eventually, decisions and orders made, we sit back and regain our composure. East Coast, both bar and restaurant, are decorated in an attractive, understated way with muted green seats, pale wood and carefully chosen art and ornaments. The lighting is set between being able to see and unflatteringly bright, always my preference, next to candlelight or near darkness.
To start with I have black pudding, bacon and leaf salad with a poached egg and he’s chosen smoked tongue with salsa verde. After several mouthfuls I can’t stand the sad looks so we swap (he’s my husband so that’s not as weird as it sounds) and I can say that both dishes are nicely balanced blends of flavours and textures, although the black pudding dish is definitely the more substantial option. As we’re cleaning our plates, Andrew Campbell, the owner, stops at our table to say hello. He’s certainly not a raw beginner in this business, having several restaurants under his belt in London. He explains that he jumped at the chance of opening in Aldeburgh, to put his experience to use in a town he loves, and is pleased to see the growing popularity of his endeavour.
Hopefully my husband has made the right decision for the main course and, as it turns out, we both have. My generous plate of lamb rump with haricot bean puree and TSB (that’s tender stem broccoli, not the bank) and his of turbot with mussels in a sumptuous rich sauce are just what we needed. This is not pretentious cooking. It is straightforward and sensible, not messed about with or over worked, and the top ingredients they use shine through. Like the look of the place, the food is perfectly pitched, and we’re impressed and happy.
And so to puddings. We go for orange creme brûlée, and espresso affogato (ice cream with espresso coffee). Paige assures us theirs is the best coffee around. My husband agrees and has two more, but without ice cream. The orange creme brûlée is gorgeous. Tap tap crack on the top and dip into the creamy mix below – just the right blend of orange and cream and the telltale grains of vanilla hiding at the bottom. We’re told it’s been made by Luke, the sous-chef, who is responsible for all the puddings. Well he’s doing a great job.
A word with the chef
As it’s the end of the evening we have a chat with Justin Ainsworth the head chef and tell him how much we’ve enjoyed our food. He’s an engaging man who trained at Butler’s Wharf in London, moved to One Aldwych and has been in Suffolk for nearly fifteen years. He’s worked with two of the best local chefs, Ruth Watson and Peter Harrison, and is very pleased to be at East Coast where he has the freedom to do things his way. His way is a simple method of cooking good ingredients to perfection. There’s no shortage of good ingredients here – meat from Salter & King across the road, fresh fish across the road the other way, and dairy and most vegetables from nearby, so Justin has the very best of Suffolk right on his doorstep.
It takes a tiny bit of effort to find this place, tucked in between the High Street and the sea, but believe me, it’s worth it. Lucky Aldeburgh to have East Coast to add to its select list of good places to eat. With Andrew Campbell’s quiet capability and experience in the background, and Justin Ainsworth’s deft hands in charge of the kitchen, it’s a proper gem to relish and enjoy, and not just as shelter from the rain.
Selections from the menu
Pear and Bingham Blue, mixed leaf salad
Bismarck herring and creme fraiche
Sea Bass fillet with samphire, sauté potatoes and brown shrimps
Lamb cutlets, mustard mash and Tenderstem Broccoli
Vanilla and orange creme brûlée
Stem ginger sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce
Red: Altos Las Hormigas, Malbec Classico, Mendoza 2015, £30
White: Tinot Hut, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2016, £26
Rosé: Marie Christine, Chateau de L’Aumerade, 60 Ans 2015, £32
Other reasons to visit
East Coast will provide great food and real refreshment throughout the day
Their store shop has an eclectic collection of recherché foods
Aldeburgh has great beach and country walks and East Coast organises tours
The high street has a range of independent shops, galleries and historic buildings to visit
Restaurant, Café, Bar, Store
152 High Street
Aldeburgh IP15 5AQ
01728 454 524