Nicola Foley visits Suffolk’s raved-about boutique hotel and restaurant for a minibreak that ticks all the boxes
Ensconced in the Suffolk countryside, between Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge, sits Tuddenham Mill, an 18th century watermill turned smart boutique hotel and restaurant. From the outside, it’s a picture of traditional country charm, the white clapboard frontage looking out over a lake framed by weeping willows and pretty meadows (it’s no wonder it’s a popular wedding venue), but step inside and you’re greeted with something altogether more modern. A sleek, atmospherically lit bar sets the mood for a romantic nightcap or two, while the beamed restaurant upstairs offers an appealing blend of rustic and contemporary luxury.
Tuddenham Mill’s restaurant’s reputation precedes it. Holder of an impressive three AA rosettes and mentioned glowingly in the Michelin Guide, this esteemed eaterie has a long-held reputation as one of the top fine-dining spots in Suffolk. Under the steer of head chef Lee Bye, the food is refined without being pompous, allowing the first-rate ingredients to sing.
We opted for the à la carte menu, though a taster menu is available at £65 per head if you want to see this talented cook really flexing his creative mettle. Whichever style of feast you choose, you can be sure of elegantly composed, heartily flavoured and produce-led dishes which showcase a parade of locally sourced ingredients.
Our stunning starters set the tone for the meal. Cubes of butter-soft beef short rib, smothered in sticky-sweet sauce with aubergine, spring onions and whole hazelnuts brought big, Korean-style flavours, while the pig’s cheeks, cooked over fire, worked irresistibly well with their melty Morbier cheese topping, a little salted white cabbage cutting through the smokiness of the meat beautifully.
The mains brought more impeccably cooked meat and thoughtful sides, a standout being the venison: its rich, gamey flavour complemented with creamy celeriac dauphinoise, buttered kale and bursts of whole fresh blackberries. The steak – a 28-day aged Red Poll sirloin, juicy and perfectly pink, was taken to gloriously indulgent new heights with the addition of unctuous bone marrow and a velvety madeira cream sauce.
However full you might be, I urge you not to leave Tuddenham Mill without sampling a dessert: the bitter chocolate marquise, dusted in sugared pistachios with a smooth quenelle of white ice cream, was a highlight of our meal.
There are 21 rooms in total, split between the mill house and outbuildings, in addition to a series of individual wood cabins (‘meadow nooks’), one of which comes with its own outdoor hot tub.
Ours was a loft suite: fresh, modern, spacious and serene, these light-filled rooms come complete with cosy fireplace, large L-shaped sofa and an exceptionally comfy king-sized bed. The centrepiece is the classy designer bathtub (the website assures it’s big enough for three…), but everywhere you look there are luxurious touches, from the plush, thick-pile rug to the private balcony and homemade sloe gin and fresh brownies which await guests. The bathroom, with its huge walk-in shower, ESPA products and Missoni robes, would be right at home in a high-end spa.
It’s hard to find fault with Tuddenham Mill. From the moment you arrive you’re cocooned in luxury and presented with thoughtful treats, gastro delights and beautiful countryside to ogle. The blend of historic charm and modern luxury is superbly well done, especially the way the old mill equipment has been integrated into the bar and restaurant design, while the clear passion for local produce, from the Dingley Dell sausages at breakfast to the Hawstead wild deer at dinner, provides the restaurant with a real sense of connection to its location. If you’re looking for an indulgent minibreak which ticks all the boxes and then some, I recommend you get booking.
This month you can join Chef Patron Lee Bye for a masterclass experience. Prepare, cook and enjoy a specially designed fish lunch at Tuddenham Mill’s award-winning restaurant with a relaxed, fun and informal tutorial. You can also opt to stay overnight in a double room and enjoy a fish-inspired dinner, with a hearty breakfast the next day.
Prices for the day course are £120, with overnight stays from £425. For dates and further information, visit the Tuddenham Mill website.