A few months ago Retreat East offered local people in Coddenham and Hemingstone a complimentary taster meal; unfortunately weather conditions prevented us taking up the offer. Being restricted in travel and social contact opportunities we decided to make the Great Barn restaurant there the location of an anniversary lunch. It proved well worth the decision.
In cooler weather than this summer we could easily have walked there, avoiding the roads and making our way through woodland. The decision to drive the one mile made for a sober lunch with the prospect of a glass or two of our own wine on returning home.
The complex includes a modernised barn and several barn-like bungalows for weekend or spa retreats. These serve the main business of Retreat East, as for a number of years was the case at Shrubland Hall on the other side of Sandy Lane. There are local stories of the film stars who went to Shrubland for health treatment and walked into Coddenham for a piece of cake or chocolate bar at the Coddenham shop. Since Shrubland ceased to function in that way the owners of Retreat East have seen an opportunity. Their prices are by no means as outrageous as Shrubland had been and their food is considerably more substantial, though no less healthy.
With coronavirus business is a little slow, in fact we were the only people for Saturday lunch inside the Great Barn. One or two other couples were eating outside, however. The menu is brief but all food is locally (i.e. East Anglian) sourced. There is a choice of four sharing platters as a first course, four main course choices and a selection of light wrap meals. Any two of these represents a major undertaking for the stomach and would – if weather conditions allowed – require a lengthy walk to aid digestion. No question of the Coddenham shop in quest of a snack.
We shared a meats platter, including salami, smoked ham and spiced sausage with an accompanying tomato and rocket salad, roast vegetables (peppers, aubergine and courgette) with bread and tomato arancini. When it arrived we realised the main course orders would be excessive. We will know better for next time. The starter plus dessert would be more than adequate; the main course might need nothing else unless as an indulgence.
The main courses we had were again salads, although there is a rib eye steak option. A seafood salad includes smoked salmon, prawns and anchovies, the one exotic item, with a dressed salad and croutons. The vegetarian option is with beetroot, grilled nuts and salad: this was especially good.
We chose a glass of cider each, local Aspall of course, with plenty of fresh water, because even a short drive home could have been problematic. The whole cost just over £50, excluding tip, for the two of us. Service was thoughtful and unobtrusive and the building and grounds were delightful. Next time we are allowed visitors, or with friends from the village, we will go again. For the remainder of August Retreat East is participating the Eat Out to Help Out subsidy scheme, which would have made our meal a real bargain.