After Hours: At The Oak Room, a feast for eyes only
Stars and Stripes May 7, 2008
BARTON MILLS — The Oak Room at the Olde Bull Inn has almost all the makings for a nice dinner.
It’s a newly refurbished restaurant inside this picturesque 16th-century carriage house-turned-hotel that stands out in this sleepy village just outside Mildenhall. And on the inside, the chandelier-lit dining room and elaborate table settings suggest swank.
With attentive and friendly staff, the only thing missing on my visit was good food.
My dinner guest and I, both famished after a long day of newspapering, immediately began oohing and ahhing as we perused the menu while having a drink at the bar. The dishes sounded so tempting. From the lamb chop marinated in garlic and rosemary oil (11.95 pounds) to the citrus and vodka cured salmon appetizer (5.95 pounds), we wanted to order everything.
We decided to go all out and get two starters and two main courses figuring that we could share and take home what we didn’t finish. That didn’t happen. While the servers, food presentation and atmosphere are lovely, the same cannot be said about the food.
Let’s start with the starters. We were so convinced the potato-and-leak cakes (9.25 pounds) could not be missed that we ordered the main course as an appetizer. (Hey, we were hungry and, like I said, we thought we’d have leftovers for lunch the next day.) We also got the sautéed mushrooms with chili and rosemary (4.50 pounds.)
The starchy cakes came out lukewarm and were rather dry and tasteless. The mushrooms were pretty good, though. Served in a crispy phyllo dough basket with balsamic sauce and salad greens, it was the best thing we tasted all night.
On to the main events. My friend’s dinner, oven-baked cod with tomato and prawns (13.95 pounds) was not all what we expected. The prawns were teeny-tiny salad shrimp and the white-wine sauce tasted like a powdered packaged cream mix. And the “creamy” mashed potatoes were anything but.
My sun-dried tomato, parmesan and toasted-nut risotto (10.95 pounds) was flavorful but overpowered by the sun-dried tomatoes. The homemade pesto sauce it was served with was divine and I ordered more of that to coat the sticky rice dish.
The Oakroom seems to fall just short of what it wants to be: a place for fresh food at reasonable prices, according to co-owner Cheryl Hickman.
Hickman, who bought the hotel and restaurant with her partner about a year ago, insists they made big changes when they took over.
“Everything was frozen and prepackaged before,” she said. “Now we do everything fresh.”
The restaurant can be rented for parties. Hickman said they can even work around a theme, tailoring the food and decorations to suit any event.
The Oak Room
Location: The Street, Barton Mills (just outside Mildenhall), IP28 6AA.
Hours: The Oak Room serves dinner 6-9 p.m. daily, pub food served daily from noon-9 p.m.
Phone: 01638 71 1001.