Having trained at Le Manoir and Restaurant Sat Bains, with stages at WD50 in New York, The French Laundry, and L'Auberge de lile in Lyon, Paul has worked with the best in the industry. In March 2010, he took the Head Chef role at Tuddenham Mill determined to do his own thing, and told us that he has even stopped reading his substantial collection of cooks books so that he can develop his own original style of cooking without risk of excessive influence by others. It's a gutsy thing to do but it's a gamble that we believe is paying off, for the food feels uniquely his.
Tuddenham Mill itself is located in Tuddenham St Mary in the county of Suffolk and should not be confused with Tuddenham St Martin in the county of Suffolk unless you want an extra hour of driving around the Suffolk countryside before eating. Having recorded a mill on the site as early as the Doomsday book of 1086, the current building erected in 1775 continued as a working mill till as recently as 1954, and while converted to a restaurant in 1972, much of the mill's gear is intact and it remains a fascinating centrepiece in the restaurant.
Pre-lunch drinks are taken in the downstairs bar while Parmesan sticks and light as you can imagine crisped pork skin gently massages your appetite. Upstairs, the dining room is, as noted, a host of original features with overhead wooden beams with wood supports, while in keeping with the raw theme, black tables are without cloths and set off the white painted walls. The room is flooded with natural light and the view from the window is of the stream below that originally powered the mill. Service was friendly and enthusiastic fitting in well with the overall atmosphere of the Mill.
With so many course, it's impractical to talk through them all but photographs with descriptions of each are shown below. Instead, we'll pick up on a few key points. First, the cooking was faultless throughout so that the intended effect of each dish is readily achieved. Second, Paul embraces contemporary cooking techniques to deliver great food but never simply for show it seems. Sous vide cooking is evident throughout the meal and it serves a purpose, on the other hand, there's no showy foams at any time. A dish that Paul is becoming well known for, his Mackerel 52 degree C, served up a mackerel so pristine, its skin so luminescent, that you might believe for a moment that it could swim off the plate - cooked sous vide of course.
Third, there's foraging. It's a Mill set in a meadow so practically a chef's dream. It's easy to spot below the influence this has had on the cooking. Fourth, Paul has a remarkably mature edit function in his cooking. It's easy to add things to dishes but it is so much harder to take things away, or at least, add so few things that the dish is practically naked. Most often seen applied by great chefs, Brett Graham with his salad of tomatoes for example (picture here), or Simon Rogan and his vintage potatoes (picture here), Paul showed us that he shares this trait with his senior colleagues time and again through the meal, nowhere more than his 'duck heart, rhubarb, celery, wild rice' dish: four ingredients only, but everything playing a part. Take any one ingredient away and the dish would be less than what it is, add another ingredient to it, and the dish would still most likely be less than what it is. It takes confidence to do this and talent to carry it off.
Fifth, originality. Seen throughout the meal, it struck home most when it came to desserts, the weak area of so many restaurants. Easy then to fall back on old favourites and even two star restaurant legend Le Gavroche back in our 2010 visit was caught leaning on an all too simple caramel covered meringue with poached strawberries (picture here) to close. Paul's desserts meanwhile were creations of his own that really brought the meal to a strong finish with, once again, exciting combinations, flavours and textures.
Paul Foster has a growing reputation, an already strong reputation, and today we found out that that reputation is thoroughly deserved. In time, he will no doubt have a pocket full of Michelin stars and a wall full of accolades. In our ongoing Reader Survey, at the time of writing, 47% of those who voted have said that they would travel 'more than 100 miles' to try out a really good restaurant. Well, Tuddenham Mill is a really good restaurant and it is less than 100 miles from London. On that basis, give Tuddenham Mill a visit, try Paul Foster's cooking, and taste the future of British food today.
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