We popped into Suffolk Rock on a Sunday, thereby neatly missing its Cheltenham restaurant USP. The ‘Rock’ in the name Suffolk Rock refers to the cook-at-your-own-table lava stone option, available on other days of the week. It’s a fun idea that always reminds me of Lost in Translation, with Bill Murray in a shabu-shabu restaurant, deadpanning the line “What sort of restaurant makes you cook your own food?”.
Anyway, Sunday lunch it was. Suffolk Rock, like The Suffolk Kitchen, (and Brosh before that) has a slightly problematic layout. It’s a very deep restaurant, in that it goes a long way back from its entrance on Suffolk Parade. The front half is brightly lit and cheery, with Edison bulbs and daylight. The restaurant gets progressively gloomier as you get to the back – these would be great tables to book if you were, say, having a discreet affair or needed some candlelight to help you look a bit younger.
Despite being happily married and, I suppose, reasonably good-looking, we were sat towards the back in the dimly lit bit – even though some more cheerful tables remained empty throughout our visit. Slightly irritating, but it’s a smart enough restaurant for it not to be a real problem. The gloom also contributed to the tradition of dreadful pictures on this website.
The Sunday lunch menu at Suffolk Rock
The Sunday menu is reassuringly short. Starters + roast (beef, lamb or chicken) + a couple of puddings or cheese. One course £18, 2 for £23 or three for £27. Meats are organic from VW Lane.
The background music, which was some kind of 80s soundtrack (‘Jump’… ‘Come On Eileen’…’Word Up’), occasionally interacted with our orders. ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ popped up as some (good) bread was delivered.
Max, the owner, apologised for the delay in the main course arriving, just as ‘Under Pressure’ was playing. He’s a likeable sort, full of energy and keeps an eye on things.
Beef and chicken were tasty, vegetables well cooked, with good trimmings (pigs in blankets, stuffing and bread sauce). This isn’t fine dining, but it wasn’t pretending to be. We had two lunches of the type that you might make at home if you were really on form – and nothing wrong with that.
Beef was well cooked. Even so, the table knives were a bit blunt. George Orwell wrote that the secret of a good steak restaurant was sharp knives, and he was a wise man. The Yorkshires (thumbs up for serving these with all the mains, not just beef)) were slightly feeble. Oven wasn’t hot enough.
Puddings were ordered to a background of Tight Fit’s version of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. Chocolate Pudding was great, warm and unctuous (wee-oh-wim-oh-way) with a Fruit Crumble (ah-wimba-wimba) which was, again, as good as home made.
Service was clearly ‘new’, with the owner training his team on the job; “Too much mustard!”, “Check the loos!”, but not oppressively so. Basically, service was friendly and genuine.
Bill for two, with a decent glasses of Cab. Sauv. each, came to £56. We paid and walked, accompanied by Tina belting out “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”. Poptastic.
Lava Rock cooking at Suffolk Rock
If you fancy going out to cook your own dinner (eh?) you can do the hot rock thing. Steaks come with tomato, mushroom and rocket, and a choice of triple-cooked chips or French fries. Entry point is am 8oz Bavette (£15.50), all the way up to a 21oz Chateaubriand (£55), which stations in between. You can also go for cooking your own scallops and prawns or mushroom and Halloumi. You can also order ‘off the rock’, ie let the chef cook your dinner.
Suffolk Rock is a welcome addition to the area, potentially a good unpretentious community restaurant, look forward to going back.