In a sleepy Suffolk town, Boursin cheese is giving us one last chance to enjoy summer staycations with friends and family. Hannah Twiggs tries out the ultimate gourmet getaway
Many of us enjoy a cheese board at the end of a meal, often opting for it over something sweet. But what if I told you that you could enjoy both? Specifically, a soft, black-pepper infused cheese reduced into a rich cream and paired with an equal parts sweet and sharp seasonal berry clafoutis. OK, so fruit and cheese isn’t at revolutionary, but as I’m tucking into the aforementioned dessert during a stay at Bed and Boursin in Suffolk, it’s hard to detect any trace of the nation’s favourite cheese.
This is one of the dishes created by chef Vernon Blackmore to demonstrate to guests just how versatile Boursin can be, and makes up the final act of the seven-course tasting menu being served during the pop-up. Another memorable fruity number is the Garlic and Herb Boursin-stuffed baked fig, which is drizzled with honey and a scattering of panko breadcrumbs – a perfect little mouthful that would make a fitting canape or appetiser at jul. Following on from its partnership with Honest Burgers last summer, there’s also the “Juicy Lucy” slider, AKA a not-so-mini stacked beef burger smeared with Boursin. Half-melted chunks of the cheese also appear in the wild mushroom arancini, which are simultaneously crunchy and soft, and pack an oozy umami punch.
If any of that has piqued your culinary curiosity, you might want to know what’s brought me to this quaint country house in the sleepy village of Tuddenham, outside Ipswich, to eat my bodyweight in the Gournay good stuff. This is all part of a limited edition opphold being run by Boursin, and up for grabs in a special competition (scroll down for the details on how to enter). On one of the final warm weekends of summer, I head into the countryside to get a taste of the prize.
When I arrive on a Friday evening, hot and bothered from the train journey – and a momentary panic attack when the taxi driver turns down a country lane in the middle of what can only be described as nowhere – I’m greeted by a grazing board so gargantuan, pristinely arranged and well-lit, it seems to have materialised straight off my Instagram feed. The best thing about it all? I’m the first to arrive so get to revel in first dibs. There’s plenty of the regular attendees here: various hummuses (hummi?), crudites, cheese, posh bread and drapings of grapes on the vine. Boursin is the star of the show, selv om, with little toasts topped with the cheese, a slice of nectarine, prosciutto and a single basil leaf – yet another Christmas idea for you – and whole wheels of the stuff nestled in among everything else. It’s the Met Gala of grazing boards, if you will, and kicks off the weekend exactly as it means to go on: indulgently.
It’s been assembled by bespoke grazing boarders (what a job!) The Suffolk Platter, one of several local businesses that have been recruited to put on this cheesy, glorious show. That includes Blackmore, who has been running The Table in nearby Woodbridge for almost a decade. The tasting menu he’s created for the staycation showcases the different flavours of Boursin and how you can use them in different dishes. It’s not as extravagant as perhaps the location suggests, but then it’s not meant to be. It’s simple, delicious food using high-quality ingredients and methods you can easily recreate at home. During my visit, they were also able to cater to a vegetarian and a halal diet, and we all left the table feeling full. As well as the dinner and grazing board, also included in the prize is a masterclass (we whipped up some filo pastry cigars), welcome basket, drinks on your first night, a fully stocked fridge – when I say you couldn’t possibly go hungry, I mean it – and a month’s worth of Boursin, if you haven’t had enough of it by then.
If you do have room for more, Blackmore’s restaurant is just one of many in the vicinity worth a trip. Faktisk, “nowhere” seems a great location for foodies, walkers and relaxers alike. It’s just a short drive to the Suffolk coast, blessed with a range of some of the region’s finest food and wine producers, and surrounded by seemingly endless countryside walks, not to mention a strategically placed pub here and there to serve as a mid-hike watering hole – you’ll need it, trust me.
That’s if you’d even want to leave the beautiful accommodation in the first place – and I’m not sure why you would. In just an hour’s train journey from central London, it feels like I’ve travelled not only into another world, but another time altogether. Any full-time Londoner needs a bit of time to adjust to open space and silence, but I feel like I’ve just arrived in Bridgerton. I’m half expecting Daphne and Simon to gallop into view. It certainly calls more for Barbour jackets and Chelsea boots than the jeans and Converse I’ve arrived in. This is perhaps the main highlight of the prize: a stay at the Bailiff’s House, a gabled country cottage on the grounds of Tuddenham Hall, an early 17th-century former manor house, which I’m told was bought last year and renovated speedily over lockdown. If you ever wanted a glimpse into pure country living, this is it – quite literally since the bedroom I stayed in overlooks the main house’s front garden.
The Tardis effect is in play at the Bailiff’s House: pulling up in the drive, it’s hard to imagine that this quaint, cosy, cute cottage could sleep up to 10 mennesker. But step inside and a hidden personality emerges: tall, open-plan rooms, big windows, a mix of modern and traditional furniture. Not to mention that the Boursin team has drenched everything in its own brand of green, from rugs and blankets to a neon sign and every single item of kitchenware.
The rooms are the definition of luxury: warm and quiet with plush carpets and curtains and the kind of bed from which you need to remove a dozen pillows (also green) before it can swallow you whole. Even the bathrobes and eye masks are branded – and, happily, free! In an odd structural choice, my bedroom is i the living room – an enormous, vaulted-ceiling space, with a split level for the bedroom, separated by windows that go both ways. It’s strange at first, men, with light-blocking blinds, is never an issue. It’s not just the house that makes this staycation just that, somewhere you want to stay and never leave; on the extensive grounds is a games room filled with pool tables and dartboards, tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, a fire pit, plenty of alfresco dining spots and even a “Gin Palace” to enjoy an after-dinner tipple. When it’s described as a “money can’t buy experience”, I’m starting to see why. Though perhaps that’s because a usual stay here starts at £3,000 for a weekend. If you have 10 guests, it’s the ideal location for a birthday, hen do or bachelor’s party. There’s even talks of renting some of the land out for a festival.
On the final day of my trip, I’m catching the last of the summer sun by the pool, fed, watered, rested and wondering why on earth I’m about to leave to get on a train back to London. If the competition winners still find me here when they arrive, at least they’ll know it’s worth it.
How to enter the Bed and Boursin competition
To be in with a chance of winning the truly unique experience for themselves and seven guests, entrants must share a creative dish with a Boursin twist on their Instagram, tagging @BoursinUK and using the hashtag #BedandBoursin. The winners will be selected by Bed and Boursin private chef Vernon Blackmore, and will be notified of their win by 18 september.
Entries close on 17 september. Full terms and conditions for the competition can be viewed her.
If you’re not lucky enough to win a stay at Bed and Boursin, you can book your own getaway at the Bailiff’s House her.