Some dining experiences are so entrenched in rosy tradition that getting it wrong amounts to sacrilege.
Top of the tree, closely followed by a full English, is the Sunday roast.
I can’t count the hours I’ve sat listening to friends and family lament the laughable versions they’ve endured over the years. Anemic potatoes. The vegetables were cooked for so long that they would not look out of place in the compost bin. Tough and fibrous meat. The egregious and, in some cases, unforgettably mean-spirited decision to give some diners Yorkshire puddings, while leaving others without. I mean, who doesn’t want a Yorkie pudding?
The root of the problem is this. If a roast isn’t as good as your mom, dad, nanna or partner’s, it will never cut the mustard.
Such a rare beast is the exemplary Sunday lunch that I rarely bother to go looking for it. I can only think of one version I’ve eaten at a restaurant in the last two years that came close to being better than what my mom or I can cook at home.
Arriving at Fields Farmshop & Café (in East Bergholt) then, I didn’t have high hopes. False hope is useless when it comes to Sunday lunch.
It’s a jolly little place, Fields. Surrounded by country walks, and with an ever-growing list of furry and feathered creatures waiting to greet customers as they turn up the driveway; the last one is a pair of adorable donkeys, who were being fawned over by a pair of little kids in pink suits. style raincoats when we arrived.
Parking is plentiful, if a bit bumpy (as is the driveway), so don’t wear your best heels.
Past a display of seasonal vegetables, enticingly drawing customers into the farm shop, we tumbled out of the chill into the lofty dining room of the converted barn, the howling of the wind replaced by the melodious drone of chatter.
It’s a stunning space, combining the ever-in-fashion industrial look with festoons of dried autumn flowers and herbs for a softer, more feminine finish.
From the looks of it, Sunday is a must-book affair. Not a single table except our wait Number 4 (apparently the best for sunsets) was empty.
Families sat at banquet-style tables, entertaining babies with crayons and iPads. Groups of friends gathered at tables for four. Well-dressed walkers huddled on sofas, warming their hands in cups of coffee, hovering over the wood-burning stove, accompanied by their puppies: love it or hate it, this place welcomes dogs with open arms and doesn’t expect owners to care. cower on the terrace in the rain.
The tables are well spaced. Comfortable chairs. The only potential problem is the acoustics. Those high ceilings mean noise travels, so those who are hard of hearing or just want a quiet lunch may not find this place for them.
During the week, the cafe has become famous for its thick sandwiches brimming with salty meat and sauerkraut or chunky fish fingers.
Sunday, however, is all about the roast. No distractions. Just beef (£20), pork (£17.50), roast chicken (£18.50) or the vegetarian option (£14), this time a roast of cashews, spinach, pumpkin and mushrooms.
Neither of us were drinking but the cafe is licensed and 175ml measures of wine are around £6 and under which isn’t bad…not bad.
The non-alcoholic list is sizable, offering everything from mocha, dirty chai, or mint tea, to dandelion and burdock, rose lemonade, or ginger beer.
We settled on a couple of low quality San Pellegrinos…always a good choice.
Our food arrived from the engine room less than 10 minutes after arrival. And if that’s not an argument for a shorter menu, I don’t know what is.
The cauliflower cheese came first, the knobby vegetable bubbling in a cast-iron bay of velvety cheese sauce, covered in crumbs and fried herbs.
Jars of homemade applesauce (made with bramleys from the farm) and horseradish followed.
The main event was then delivered (on hot plates, yay chef!).
It’s not easy to make a roast look pretty, but these dishes have been lovingly composed with almost a rainbow of colors around the dish, each twist and turn of the fork revealing a hidden element.
Let’s talk about the meat first. My Dedham Vale beef was flushed in the middle, cooked to satisfy almost any diner, not too pink or over the top. It had a flavorful, burnished crust, and was heaping on flavor.
Jo said her Dingley Dell Pork was the best she’s ever had… and I’m inclined to agree.
The succulent pork belly had been nearly collapsed, propped up by a charade of sausage meat, the fat melting decadently into a thin, crispy layer of skin. Absolutely delicious.
In supporting roles were glazed sticky maple, lightly charred carrots freckled with Nigella seeds, big dollops of cinnamon, and anise-scented red cabbage, white cabbage, ruffled kale, Romanesco, and broccoli.
We had four almost perfect roast potatoes each. And though Jo was a bit reeling when she realized the menu didn’t include a Yorkshire pudding with her lunch, we were both treated to a puffy cloud of tasty batter, into which we clumped mounds of real bone broth gravy.
Our only small complaint was that our greens were al dente, but honestly we were more than willing to forgive this as everything else was absolutely sublime.
There are only two desserts on the Sunday menu but, as I discovered on the way to the toilets (spacious, with plenty of changing rooms and disabled facilities and even a water bottle filling station), the pastries are worth investigating if you don’t feel like it. . what is offered
On our visit there were winter spiced Bakewell slabs, lumpy cinnamon rolls, apple pie, carrot cake and more.
Against her protests of satiety, Jo indulged in a slice of Millionaire’s Butterbread, which was devilishly delicious: all short and crisp on the bottom, buttery with caramel in the middle, and covered in a thick, delicious layer of butterscotch. dark chocolate.
My warm and sticky toffee pudding, despite being pitch black, demonstrated a feather-light texture, while being awash with deep notes of molasses. I could have gone for a bit more of the sauce, I’m just greedy.
There was time for a nice hot white chocolate before a stroll through the farm shop where you can refill the bottles with organic products from Fill (I really appreciate their neroli laundry detergent which permeates the house with the most beautiful perfume). , or pack your bags with anything from local vegetables to gingerbread caramel spread, s’mores kits, candles…or just good old eggs, milk and flour.
A really impressive place. And, says Jo, home to the “best pig ever.”
This week the festive teepee of the café has risen, which has extended its opening hours from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Warmed by fire pits and blankets, diners can sample holiday cocktails, specialty hot drinks, mulled wine and street food, from hot turkey and sausage sandwiches to Aspen fries on a first-come, first-served basis.
Bookings are now being taken for the Santa Experience (£16 for children and £3 for guardians or parents), which includes meeting Santa in his cottage, doing crafts, writing letters and more).
For bookings, to find out more about events or to see the latest opening times, visit fieldskitchen.co.uk