Stoke Mill, set in the peaceful countryside outside Norwich, is a perfect spot for romantic dining, says Sarah Hardy
THERE HAS BEEN A WATERMILL at Stoke Holy Cross, crossing the River Tas, for more than 700 years. Once the place, in the 18th century, where Jeremiah and James Colman produced their mustard, the mill has been in the same family since the 1960s, when Rio Iaccarino, originally from the Sorrento area of Italy, ran it as a very popular and high class dining spot.
NOW HIS SON, Ludo, and his business partner, chef Andy Rudd, are in charge and are fast making the mill a serious player on the region’s foodie map. They have lavished much care and cash into
renovating and refurbishing the glorious building, with Ludo explaining: ‘It has a cool, contemporary
look inside, with wooden floors and muted colours used throughout.’ Yet original features remain and the overall effect is very charming, especially with the glorious grounds now bursting into life.
The restaurant seats up to 64 people and there is also a private dining room which can cater for
between 12 to 22 people. ‘We do bespoke events, such as weddings,’ says Ludo, ‘but we like to keep
it very intimate.’
Ludo, who attended the Hotel School at City College, Norwich, and worked in the catering business for many years, runs the front of house side of the business while co-owner Andy, who has worked in many local restaurants and also for Gordon Ramsay, bosses a team of three in the kitchen. ‘It works well,’ says Ludo. ‘We complement each other.’ He continues: ‘Andy is very keen to keep up with current trends and developments and we have just invested in a new stove, a Control Induction one. They are made in Kent and offer a new way of cooking – you place the food directly onto the plate. Four can get around the stove so they can work efficiently, and you cut out a need for pots and pans. Many of the leading chefs have them and yes, it is part of a move towards healthier eating as less oil is needed.’
His menu changes daily although there are favourite dishes which do remain on offer, including fillet steak, scallops and pork belly. ‘Yes,’ laughs Ludo. ‘We wouldn’t dare to take them off!’ Many of Norfolk’s producers and suppliers feature on the menu, including game dealer and fishmonger Gary Howard in Norwich, meat from the Paddock’s butchers in Bunwell, fruit and veg from Easters in Norwich and local cheeses from the Cheese Truckle, a company based in Drayton, near Norwich. ‘Fresh ingredients are at the heart of everything we do,’ says Ludo, adding that the wine list comes
via Norwich-based Derek Robertson who works for national wine merchants, Lea and Sandeman. Diners can choose from a seven-course taster menu or the à la carte selection and the Mill opens Wednesday to Saturday for dinner and Wednesday to Sunday for lunch. Look out for the popular menu du jour, served at lunch times.