Reviewed in Feast issue 45 – April 2020
Within a year of opening his restaurant, 1921 Angel Hill, back in 2014, chef patron Zack Deakins had already garnered 2 AA Rosettes. Fast forward a few years and the Good Food Guide describes it as a ‘classy restaurant’, the Michelin guide says the ‘cooking displays a modern flair’, and by the end of last year 1921 had made it into Harden’s Top 100 Best UK Restaurants for 2020. Not bad, eh?
The award-winning restaurant is located in a wonderful old building which backs onto Abbey Gardens, and is at one end of a short but sweet stretch of food and drink establishments on this part of Angel Hill (occupying 19-21, in fact).
As soon as you walk in you can sense that having lunch here is going to feel like a special treat. In the lounge area, a well-heeled couple were busy enjoying an aperitif and a selection of canapés, by the red-brick inglenook fireplace and under the original beams.
My friend and I decided to be shown straight to our table in the dining room, which has had a thoroughly modern facelift.
There’s grey velvet banquette seating, a library feel to the back wall – all shelving and rehomed books – and local artwork, which my friend started admiring as soon as we sat down. Our waiter, Yann, was very friendly and attentive – we heard all about how he had come to Bury from France at the age of 20 and stayed ever since (he’s now 34!). Bury clearly has that effect on people.
The wine list offers a good variety of the very best international wines, and I was intrigued to try a Turkish dry rosé wine called Kayra, from the vineyards of Anatolia with its indigenous Kalecik Karasi red grape. It was pale pink (looking not too dissimilar to a Provence rosé ) and had hints of ginger coming through. My friend had a glass of the Grillo ‘Vitese’, from Italy – and both were £4.60 for 125ml.
We ordered a couple of canapés each at £1.50 which proved to be a great accompaniment to perusing the menu. My adventurous friend thought the tikka frog’s leg with mint yoghurt sounded interesting (we’re fairly sure the ‘cocktail stick’ was actually a frog’s leg bone, which was either genius or a bit close to the bone, depending on your point of view) and declared it as delicious. I, on the other hand, stayed close to home with a whipped Baron Bigod and grape starter.
The lunchtime set menu champions local produce and is really good value, at £18 for two courses or £21 for three. And is clearly very popular – we were surrounded by couples, ladies who lunch and the like. For starters, I had the mackerel tartare, with ‘red meat’ radish and a dill emulsion. I’d never seen this variety of radish before and its watermelon hues have the wow factor. My friend, meanwhile, continued the leg theme and had the confit rabbit leg and Suffolk chorizo terrine, with heritage carrot and pumpkin seed. She said the rabbit and chorizo were a perfect combination.
Mains are reflective of the surrounding farmland. I had the potato and truffle pressing, with creamed watercress and king oyster mushroom – proof that a vegetarian dish can punch its weight on a fine dining menu. Here, the humble potato had been turned into something really quite impressive, and in the middle of my plate was what looked like a slice of processed cheese but was instead a square-shaped smearing of, possibly, sweet potato – very clever!
My more carnivorous friend had pork fillet, black pudding, cauliflower and green peppercorn jus, which came in a small gravy boat. It looked like the pork and pudding equivalent of a Scotch egg. She described the taste sensation as exquisite.
For dessert, I decided to mix things up a bit and have the sweet savoury concoction that was deep fried Baron Bigod (hey, it had been a while since my canapé), with truffle honey ice cream, and Waldorf salad. It was an interesting combination indeed – my brain was busy trying to compute that there was a quenelle of ice cream on what would have made a perfect starter! My friend had the dark chocolate fondant, with latte ice cream and praline – a favourite of hers. Thankfully she let me have a taste or two and it was melt-in-the-mouth stuff.
Afterwards, you could finish things off with Bury-based Butterworth and Son’s coffee and loose leaf teas on offer, along with handcrafted petit fours.
And, this being a fine dining restaurant, there’s an à la carte menu, as well as a seven-course tasting menu, offering a selection of the best seasonal dishes from the menu, for £75 per person. Add another £40 and you get a wine flight as well. Perfect for a very special occasion, such as a big birthday, should you have one coming up (as I do!).