NICOLA FOLEY ENJOYS A SUITABLY HEAVENLY STAY AT OUR TOWN'S MOST FAMOUS HOTEL
Living in Bury, you can't help but notice the grand, ivy-clad facade of the Angel Hotel, sitting, as it does, in pride of place pearched atop Angel Hill, overlooking the magnificent Cathebral and Abbey Gardens. As locations for hotels go, they don't come more perfect than this.
The familiar exterior which greets the square out front is Georgian, but there has in fact been a coaching inn at this spot since the 15th Century - and the hotel's had some rather interesting visitors over the centuries. There's been royalty (French King Louis Philippe was a fan) and a smattering of Hollywood stars too, including Angelina Jolie and Pierce Brosnan. A certain Mr Dickens was so enamoured with The Angel that he immortalised it with a reference in The Pickwick Papers.
So, we knew we were in good company when we checked in one sunny Friday in April. Having been salivating over the restaurant's menu online beforehand, my companion and I were fizzing with anticipation about what was in store for us as we headed down to the candlelit buzz of the restaurant for dinner.
The 'Eaterie' at The Angel, like everything else in the hotel, is chic, elegant and just a touch quirky. Settling into our seats and admiring the colourful artworks adorning the walls, we set about deciding what we wanted to eat - tricky, since every dish sounded pretty spectacular. The menu is effectively modern British, but with lots of interesting twists. Under the waiter's recommendation, I opted for the crab salad, which was artfully presented and utterly delicious. The flaky crabmeat was joined by a dollop of rich and creamy brown crab parfait and complemented perfectly by cubes of punchy blood orange jelly.
My dining partner opted for the grilled quail dish to start. The subtle, delicately perfumed flavour of the meat was smartly paired with a salad containing bolder textures and flavours: crunchy fennel, bitter radicchio and a hefty portion of salty blue cheese. A fresh-tasting lemon, garlic and parsley dressing tied it all together nicely.
Onto the mains, where the standard of our meal was elevated from great to outstanding. I've never been able to resist pork belly, and The Angel's incarnation was one of the finest I've tried. The meat (from the Dingley Dell farm in Deben Valley) was exactly how pork belly ought to be: crisped on top and melt in the mouth tender underneath. Braised fennel, flavoursome roasted tomatoes and gremolata provided an elegant accompaniment.
On the other side of my table, my companion was happily devouring the lamb done three ways, which contained a pleasing array of tastes and textures, from the succulent rump and juicy cutlet through to the pillowy sweetbreads, served with gnocchi, parmesan cream, silver onions and vibrantly hued rainbow chard.
When it came to selecting something sweet, we couldn't resist the Angel Dessert Plate. This smorgasbord of indulgence consisted of an ice cold shot of Italian liquer limoncello, a mini saucepan containing a silky chocolate fondant, a handful of artisan chocolate truffles, a scoop of raspberry sorbet accompanied by chunks of honeycomb, an espresso coffee in a jug and, the pice de resistance: a slice of crack pie. Inspired by a recipe from New York's uber hip Momofuku bakery this delectable little number was given its tongue-in-cheek name for being so downright moreish, and I can definitely vouch for the fact that The Angel's rich, salty-sweet version is just as addictive.
Suitably sated, we toddled upstairs to our gorgeous suite. Waking in the morning to a spring sunshine streaming through the window, a flawless full English breakfast and a glorious view, there was only one word which sprang to mind: angelic.
It's sometimes easy to overlook the gems on your doorstep, but I can't recommend a mini-break at The Angel highly enough. The service throughout was immpeccable, with delightful attention to detail (which extended to a box of complimentary doughnuts in our room) the food was delicious and innovative, and the surroundings sublime. We're already planning our next visit.
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