The Food Chain: Main attraction in Yoxford
PUBLISHED: 18:40 03 July 2013 | UPDATED: 18:40 03 July 2013
It’s hard to imagine that the simple, elegant interior of Mains restaurant was once the local chippie.
“Luckily when we were looking for a premises Jason immediately spotted that this building had lots of potential,” explains Nancy Main, “even though I couldn’t see beyond the fish and chips!”
When Jason Vincent, the chef at Mains and his wife Nancy, front of house, opened a year later in 2007 they hoped to emulate the French approach to dining out, creating a place where everyone, whoever they are, can feel welcome and enjoy great food.
This inclusive ethos is refreshing and goes a long way to explain why Mains is so popular. Throughout our meal on a Friday night in early May, we overheard diners asking after Nancy and Jason’s three children and their Easter holiday. At one point an obviously satisfied customer even popped his head round the kitchen doors on his way out and shouted: “Long may the magic continue!” He’s right though – there is a bit of magic in this restaurant. We decided it’s also got soul.
Mains has a lot of repeat custom and it’s easy to see why. Nancy is immediately welcoming and Jason’s cooking, she tells us, focuses on flavour. This might sound trite but when we have our meal we see what she means. I started with lamb meatballs. They were light with a hint of cumin, offset by a very good tahini sauce. Tess had grey mullet poached in a spring onion and ginger broth, an unusual and refreshing combination that worked brilliantly. The delicate flavours had been well considered and were perfectly balanced. We had high hopes for the main course.
I wanted meat and chose the shin of beef with mustard mash. I wasn’t disappointed – it was delicious. The meat hadn’t been fiddled with too much so all the delights of shin were there to be enjoyed – the firm muscle and gelatinous, sticky texture. I pulled it apart rather than cut it, then used the meat to scoop up some tangy mustard mash and rich red wine gravy. Shin as it should be.
Tess had the skate wing freshly caught by Noel Cattermole at Sizewell beach. I understand the difficulty of sourcing local fish – there is much more to it than just picking up the phone and ordering. The weather needs to be right – some days it’s too rough for local fishermen to go out – and often they’re just too busy fishing to be able to drop off their catch to restaurants. So, it requires work – but it’s worth it. The skate was fantastic and so much the better for being caught earlier that day from a beach ten minutes away.
We squeezed in some pudding. The brioche chocolate bread and butter pudding was terrific. Rich, chocolately but not too sweet – I nearly didn’t order it but Tess persuaded me. I’m not sure, but I don’t think she wanted to share her delicious gooseberry tart. Again, the flavours were brilliantly balanced, which makes me think Jason must take real pleasure from cooking.
Nancy joined us for a drink at the end of our meal – she had chamomile tea because she had to get up at four the next day to bake bread for her Saturday morning bakery. This is a relatively new venture, open from 9am-11am every week, serving Nancy’s home made croissants, pain au chocolate and other goodies – including gourmet salads – for eat in or take-away. She also told us about the long-standing knitting group on Thursday nights that they still make room for – and thoroughly enjoy – even though the restaurant has reduced its opening to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights only.
Then there’s the monthly bread making club, not a corporate bonding class, but a real club for locals on every fourth Sunday, which, at £10 seems to be quite a bargain. It’s open to everyone and Nancy focuses on a different bread every month. While the dough is proving, she says, everyone sits and chats or reads the papers over a jug of coffee. Sounds like bliss.
We left Mains feeling quite positive about the world. The dedication and love that goes into this neighbourhood restaurant is hard to find. Jason and Nancy seem to be a winning combination of warmth and skill. After all, it’s great to eat in a place that is loved.
When we popped in the next morning to pick up a copy of the menu, Nancy was beaming – despite her late night – behind a table laden with delicious looking pastries and salads. The place was just as warm and welcoming as it had been the night before, busy with young families and locals that had come in for a Saturday morning treat. Lucky Yoxford, we thought, to have a restaurant that gives so much.