After Hours: The Pantry Fine Food Shop and Eatery in Newmarket, England
The Pantry Fine Food Shop and Eatery adds a welcome bit of diversity to restaurant culture in Newmarket, England.
The town’s High Street area is dominated by pubs and clubs with some pizza and international food thrown in for seasoning.
Located just off the main street in a shopping center, the Pantry is a light and airy restaurant that takes its decorating cues from its name. Shelves filled with oils, tomato pastes and coffee are the restaurant’s primary decor aside from the walls of windows. At least part of the kitchen is separated from the main dining area only by a low bar (which you can sit at), which means you might hear your meal being prepared.
The Pantry promotes itself as a purveyor of English cuisine specializing in locally sourced food. The table menus offer Calvors beer by the bottle, made less than 40 miles from the restaurant, smoked fish from the nearby town of Bottisham and a mixed platter of “local meats, cheeses & olives.”
Our appetizer came from this menu: grilled halloumi cheese and peppers. It is not meant as an appetizer for two, but our server offered to expand it for us to share. The name is slightly misleading since it is a salad of lettuce, capers and peppers topped with chunks of the delicious cheese. The entire dish is seasoned with what looked like a butter-based sauce that certainly negated any nutritional value we derived from the vegetables.
For our main course, my wife and I ordered off the blackboard that hangs in the main dining area and shows the eatery’s more transitory appetizers and main dishes. My wife tried the pork chop, a tender piece of meat strongly seasoned with sage. Her dish came with potatoes in a rosemary butter sauce (12 British pounds or about $20), a less flavorful but welcome accompaniment to the pork.
“As far as pork chops go, it’s really one of the best tasting ones I’ve ever had,” she said during the meal.
My choice satisfied that simple instinct in a man for a slab of meat: beef fillet (basically a steak) with chips (what Americans call fries). The medium-well beef was tender, with the occasional taste of spice in a satisfying portion. Combined with the perfectly battered chips, the meal was a perfect, high-priced (about $40) excursion into comfort food.
Dessert did not last long. While the restaurant offers a few desserts, including a board of chutneys, cheeses and oatcakes, we opted for the decadent triple-chocolate brownie (about $8). I am not certain the brownie remained on the plate longer than two minutes.
Despite the higher quality of the food and the prices, the Pantry has a casual feel. Stools make up some of the seating, and you can buy ingredients off the shelves to take home. It perhaps took casual too far when the staff chose to play bad versions of “Higher Love” and “Gangsta’s Paradise” (Why is any version of “Gangsta’s Paradise” being played in a place called “The Pantry Fine Food Shop and Eatery?) as background music, but I can forgive that if I get another chance to have the beef fillet.
The Pantry Fine Food Shop and EateryDirections: Newmarket can be reached by the highways A14 or A11. The Pantry is located in The Guineas, a shopping center not far from High Street. Parking is available on High Street but can be limited and has time restrictions depending on the time of day. The Guineas has a parking lot immediately behind it and offers three-hour parking for 1 British pound (about $1.5).
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun. 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (when the kitchen closes).
Prices: The Pantry offers a range of food options and prices to match. Breakfast can be quite affordable. You can order a board of cheese and meat and expect to pay about $16. Meals can vary between a main-course salad priced at about $15 to entrees such as a beef fillet at about $40.
Phone: 01638-661181 Reservations are accepted.