Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Is the Angel Hotel worth a lunch visit?

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This year’s birthday celebrations involved two meals out.

The first was afternoon tea at Queens in Bury St Edmunds, which I’ve written about here.

The second was a decadent lunch out on the day of my actual birthday, at a venue I’ve been keen to visit since we moved here in September.

The historic Angel Hotel with its imposing creeper-covered frontage overlooks the town’s Abbey Gate. The Times lauded it as Suffolk’s “Best hotel for town centre location” in 2024, and also has connections to Charles Dickens. A blue plaque on the building commemorates the author, who stayed here three times in the 1800s, and even mentioned the hotel in The Pickwick Papers.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Exterior

While we didn’t stay the night, I’d hoped that our lunch visit would give a flavour of what residents can expect. Is The Angel simply playing on its history, or is there substance behind its reputation?

The dining area certainly looked the part with its exposed brickwork, vintage French posters, feather decorations suspended at various heights from the ceiling and its striking blue banquette seating. The team had thoughtfully placed an envelope containing a birthday card on the table, and the restaurant manager wished me a happy birthday as he seated us and took our coats (although bizarrely, not our enormous bags). So far, so good.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Interior

The raspberry mojito (£12) that I ordered while we browsed the menu also impressed, generous on the alcohol and sweet and tart in equal measures.

From the menu (mostly British with Mediterranean influences), I went with the restaurant manager’s recommendations for both my starter and main. The chargrilled asparagus starter (£10) with crispy egg yolk, roasted chorizo and goats’ cheese was a masterpiece.

The asparagus had plenty of bite, and the chorizo added a ton of flavour. The goats’ cheese was an unexpected foam, which melted instantly in the mouth. The breaded, fried egg yolk was a revelation, golden both inside and out and lovely and runny.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Asparagus Starter

Across the table, three plump scallops (£23) joined forces with salty pancetta and the fresh flavours of a broad bean, pea and asparagus fricassée, the creamy sauce dotted with fragrant herb oil, to create a beautiful spring dish.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Scallop Starter

The general manager had raved about the Pickwick Pie (£23). I don’t normally order pies as a main when I’m out, but I’d definitely order this one again. While the pastry looked to be a little overdone that wasn’t the case. It held together nicely and there was just enough for the rich beef, ale and veg filling, the meat chunky and tender.

The mound of mashed potato (hidden beneath the veg) was smooth and creamy as expected, and the veg perfectly cooked – the sweetness of the honey-glazed carrots my favourite. The gravy, served in a separate jug on the plate, was incredibly rich – and in all honesty, I used it sparingly as the flavour of the pie’s filling was beautiful on its own.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Pickwick Pie

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Pickwick Pie 2

My partner opted for the lamb dish: rump, cutlet and belly of local new season lamb (£42). Each cut of meat was beautifully seasoned and cooked. The gentle sweetness of the tender onion and the silky pea purée contrasted nicely with the crunch of the asparagus and the melt-in-the-mouth potato. An incredible dish – but you’d expect it to be, for the price.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Lamb Main

The desserts were a bit of a mixed bag. Across the table, the lemon cheesecake (£9) was light and creamy, served with a rich blueberry compote and a delicate white chocolate ice cream.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Lemon Cheesecake

I loved the sound of the dark chocolate and pistachio Paris-Brest with pistachio ice cream and fresh raspberries (£9). The reality, though, sadly didn’t live up to expectations. It’s hard to tell from this photograph but it was enormous, a world away from the delicate presentation of previous courses.

No complaints about the pastry, which was light and airy. The promised fresh raspberries had been substituted for a few crumbled freeze-dried fruits, which was disappointing. The pistachio cream needed to be a little stronger in flavour to compete with the richness of its chocolate counterpart, while the ice cream tasted great but was full of ice crystals. A slightly disappointing end to the meal.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Paris Brest

Actually, it wasn’t the end: I received a small birthday treat. Personally I wasn’t a huge fan, the brownie(?) tasted a little on the stale side, but it was a lovely thought.

Angel Hotel Bury St Edmunds - Birthday Brownie

Our surroundings, the majority of the food and the drinks (try the raspberry mojito) at the Angel Hotel were incredible. However, there were a few little niggles that detracted from making it a truly outstanding experience. My quibbles with my dessert could well be subjective, but we felt that the service wasn’t quite at the same level as the food: little things like offering to take our coats but not our sizeable bags (we’d been shopping before our meal), and a failure to top up wine glasses.

I’d absolutely head back (maybe to try their afternoon tea next time – and I’m keen to see what the hotel rooms are like, despite living locally). There’s no denying the abilities of the kitchen team and the quality of the menu, it’s just a shame that the level of service didn’t quite match.

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