Dining Out Advertisement Feature: Squires, at Newmarket’s Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa
Alice Ryan visits Squires, the restaurant at Newmarket’s Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa
Squires, the restaurant at Newmarket’s Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, is a singularly inviting space. Never more so when, as the nights begin to draw in, candles flicker prettily on the tables and low-slung pendant lights glow over the copper-topped bar.
It strikes a clever balance between elegance (the glittering glassware, the smartly uniformed staff) and comfort (the plush upholstery, the absence of starched tablecloths); Squires feels very special, yet also invites to you to drop your shoulders and relax.
With head chef Sean Melville at its helm - a man who’s worked at both London’s Ritz and Dorchester - the food here has a reputation which, core to the hotel’s four AA Red Star rating, is as impressive as the setting.
Arriving on a mid-week evening, husband Ed and I weren’t expecting the place to be packed. Yet every table appeared to be booked: date-night couples; groups of out-of-towners, likely in Newmarket for racing or sales; a corral of work colleagues on a high-spirited outing.
Given a cosy corner table and a perfectly poured G&T - lots of ice, lots of slice, voluminous glass - our waitress talked us through the mix-and-match menu options, spanning fine dining, fixed price and bar dishes.
Being very much a pudding person, I asked for a quick squiz at the dessert list, so I could work around that. (If you’re planning to finish with crumble and custard, for example, you need to think twice about a starter; if you’re aiming for sorbet, you can go hell for leather with the bread basket.)
Instantly deciding on Melville’s deconstructed cannoli - regular readers may recall I have a soft spot for traditional Italian pastries, so I was intrigued - I thought it wise to keep my savoury choices fairly light, opting for a fish starter, Hay Smoked Hake, and a vegetarian main course, Avocado & Broccoli, while Ed chose East Coast Crab Croquetas and Denham Venison Fillet.
Melville is known for championing local produce and, a nice touch, his favoured suppliers are name-checked on the menu: fruit and veg from Fisher & Woods in Saffron Walden, game from Suffolk’s Denham Estate, meat from Powters, right on the hotel’s Newmarket doorstep.
Despite the number of covers, we barely had to wait for our starters, the crispy little croquetas accompanied by a Romesco dip, a tangy partner to the sweet crab, and my hake, served tartare and layered with ‘textures’ of creamy butternut squash, tart apple and salty sea herbs.
Originally a Georgian hunting lodge, built for the sixth Duke of Bedford in the 18th century, Bedford Lodge became a hotel in the 1940s. In the 15 years I’ve known it, it’s evolved to offer ever-more creature comforts and mod cons - take the spa, added in 2013 and given a hallowed five-bubble rating by the Good Spa Guide - yet it’s lost none of its country house charm. The high-ceilinged dining room, with its large, many-paned windows, is a case in point.
Arriving after a perfectly timed lull, my Avocado & Broccoli, which saw the greens paired with a sesame brown rice salad, pickled red onion wedges and a thoroughly moreish soy and Wickhambrook honey dressing, was a plate of vibrant veggie goodness, and Ed’s thyme-crusted venison fillet was wonderfully tender, served with smoked baby carrots, roasted shallot, parsnip crisps and a raspberry gel. All the flavour combinations were strong, but Ed’s venison dish, pulled together with an innovative mochaccino jus, was the star of the show.
After my Asian-inspired dish, I was craving something sweet - step into the spotlight Chocolate Caramel Cannoli. While traditional cannoli features fruity ricotta encased in a crisp pastry tube, Melville’s version puts a rich chocolate mousse centre stage: topped with a wee pastry disc, set on a base of jacond and filled with oozy caramel, it was served with whipped ricotta and crystallized fruit alongside. Ed defaulted to his favourite pudding, too - creme brulee, this one with a passion fruit flourish and a quenelle of sharp raspberry sorbet melting on top.
Our waitress who, like all the Squires staff, was smiley, attentive and well-informed, able to answer queries and make recommendations with ease, kindly offered us after-dinner coffee, but we were too full even for an espresso.
Smart without being the least bit stuffy, with a menu that’s firmly fine-dining but not too fussy, we agreed that Squires strikes just the right note.
Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa is at Bury Road, Newmarket CB8 7BX. See bedfordlodgehotel.co.uk and call (01638) 676130.