You know you are in for a treat dinner-wise when you discover that the restaurant you are sat in is where chefs like to eat. This is the case with STORE, the hottest ticket in south Norfolk at the moment for those looking for a fine dining, chef’s table experience with a changing tasting menu that reflects what is ethically in season right now.
Defined as “the low key, cool younger brother”, STORE is found in Stoke Mill at Stoke Holy Cross. At 700 years old, Stoke Mill is a famous Norfolk institution in its own right, being the place where Jeremiah and James Colman first started production of Colman’s Mustard over 200 years ago. It was 52 years ago that Ludo Iaccarino’s family purchased Stoke Mill and turned it into one of the most iconic restaurants of that era in Norfolk. With his parents retired, Ludo has been in partnership with Head Chef Andy Rudd since 2013, and between them, they have restored the Mill back to its former glory.
With Covid-19 bringing local chef Liam Nichols – who had started his career over the road at The Wildebeest and who has since worked with the likes of Michelin-starred chefs Daniel Clifford and Sat Baines, as well as in The Press Club in Melbourne – back to the area, the concept of STORE was dreamed up between himself and Andy.
With a refurb completed in the ‘back room’ of the Mill, including a working kitchen and all seating positioned to watch Liam and his apprentice sous chef Hazel Yuill, cook, STORE opened in December 2021. With the stage set, the nourish team headed over to STORE to discover just how cool this younger brother really was.
I always love arriving at Stoke Mill. Enjoying a glass of something cool and refreshing in the seated area with the historical prints of Colman’s Mustard around us. And then, going through to the main body of the restaurant. This time, however, we were led down through to the door in the corner, and we entered the STORE.
Liam was already there to welcome us, relaxed, confident, and friendly. For anyone worried about watching a chef cook in close quarter, Liam has enough banter to relax guests, and watching the interaction between he and Hazel – who left nursing to become an apprentice – was lovely to see.
The menu for STORE is changed daily depending upon availability and seasonality; for example, the week before we went in, Liam had scallops on the menu. However, he only uses hand-dived scallops, and they were not available on this date. This responsible sourcing of food is something that many restaurants, and home cooks, are looking at more and more, and it was great to hear Liam talk so openly about the produce he uses.
The menu for the evening didn’t give a lot away, other than the main elements, and Liam went over to each table to discuss the menu to ensure that guests didn’t have any allergies and so on. As for drinks, a wine flight is available, but we chose to 2018 Maximin Riesling from Germany and a 2017 Gabrielskloof Cabernet Franc from South Africa, both of which matched the food perfectly.
We were warned that the snacks would come up at us ‘hard and fast’ and they definitely did. There were four in total, starting with smoked mackerel in a cylindrical tart, garnished with herring roe. This was fresh and delish, and it prepared your palate perfectly for what was to come, as well as giving a flavour about Liam’s own style as a chef. Next came a Colman’s mustard beignet, a tasty homage to the building we were in. Quadruple fried chicken came next – super crispy and very spicy with a tabasco glaze. The final element was a choux bun filled with a marmite bechamel and a tower of cheese atop, my new favourite thing!
Still technically a ‘snack’, the prawn I Mary rose was presented separately, an incredibly light set tartlet topped with prawns, a bloody Mary gel and rich caviar. It was a real treat for the senses.
Next came the bread – the rich Baker Tom’s malted grain sourdough, made by Tom Harding of Dozen Artisan Bakery in Norwich and full of caramel notes, and STORE’s own bacon and onion brioche, which was light and very flavoursome. Both came with a generous portion of raw Bungay butter.
The first of two fish courses came in the form of cod I bacon I onion, which was delightful. With flavours of French onion soup, through the onion broth on the bottom and grated cheese on top, this was a modern twist on a classic. The cod was beautifully cooked, with the bacon adding crunch, and the flavours throughout were very balanced.
Potato I tarragon followed, a rich and indulgent dish full of flavour yet inspired by the humblest of vegetables. A whole potato, slowly cooked in butter and then charred over coals, then enveloped in a tarragon emulsion with béarnaise and finished with potato sticks with tangy vinegar powder – think French Fries! It was a very creative dish, and it showcased the potato perfectly.
Skate I saffron I caper followed, a fish that we love here at nourish but it is not one you often seen on menus. The skate had been fried and the saffron was used in a fresh mayonnaise. I loved the addition of preserved lemon to the dish, and it came with a rich shellfish bisque, bringing a lot of umami to the plate as a whole.
The main event arrived in the form of beef I artichoke I broccoli, and Liam treated us all to a drop of G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba 2020 with this. The beef, which had been brined was very flavoursome, and was covered in panko breadcrumbs, bringing extra crunch. The broccoli purée was amazing, and the accompanying jus brought the whole dish to life with its balance and gentle richness.
Black Bomber I fig I port followed – a decadent dish that did exactly as described, with puff pastry, port-poached fig, and a shower of cheese covering the delights below.
To continue to cleanse the palate, miso I oats I passion fruit followed – one of my favourite dishes of the night, and a true joy to eat. The passion fruit and oats went together so well, while this continued chef favourite of miso married the whole dish together nicely.
The simple words rhubarb I vanilla were the only clues for the final course listed on the tasting menu – and we were presented with a miniature cone filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with freeze-dried raspberries alongside an incredible rhubarb jelly topped with crème patisserie, meringue, and more raspberries. It was a light and refreshing way to finish an extraordinary meal – and one that left you neither wanting nor feeling fit to burst.
Liam sent one final treat, his own aerated chocolate slice dressed with 12-year aged balsamic, enjoyed with a double espresso, and it was the perfect end to a great evening.
South Norfolk has many restaurants worthy of putting this part of East Anglia on the map, but STORE does so in style. This relaxed evening, bantering with the chef, enjoying watching them prepare the food and discuss it in detail, is a great addition to not only Stoke Mill, but the area as a whole. Liam’s taste and vision in his menu creations perfectly complements Stoke Mill and all that it offers, and this is definitely a place to watch over the coming seasons.
- STORE tasting menu £75, wine flight (six glasses) £45