The Food of Love

The Food of Love


All it’s all about shared indulgence come February 14 for Jonny Nicholson of The Bell At Sax’, Saxmundham

Perhaps every day should be Valentine’s Day, not just one day when we celebrate Cupid and his proverbial arrow, but I guess the heartfelt expressions and good intentions on the big day make us appreciate our loved ones even more all year round.

Snuggling up in front of the fire, sharing a tender morsel or two, toasting marshmallows or breaking out the Ferrero Rochers… Ahhh, it must be that Valentine’s time of year!

There is perhaps nothing more special than treating your sweetheart to a home-cooked meal on the probably most romantic days in the calendar. But you want to be cuddling on the sofa with your other half, not tied to the apron strings, sweating over a hot stove this February 14. Of course you can always head out for a meal to a lovely restaurant or if staying in, then keep it simple and rustle up a few grazing dishes. I love sofa food, things you can share and finger food.

I tend to avoid a main course, it’s not that kind of big blow-out meal, but if you do want to do the whole romantic table for two at home, then some lovely pink-roasted meat keeps the red romance theme, perhaps a lovely piece of venison, lovely Suffolk lamb cutlets or tender fillet steak, all would be delicious, perfect with creamy potato gratin, sweet-sour red cabbage and green beans.

Pudding is the perfect food of love, most of us have a sweet tooth, chocolate and soft fruits are always a romantic combo to fit the occasion. Layered desserts in a glass look the part and are not too heavy and perfectly portion-controlled. We are well-known at the Bell At Sax’ and The Sail Loft for our knickerbocker glory and sundae desserts so do try my ultimate romantic version this Valentine’s Day.

Happy wooing! Jonny

Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor, The Bell At Sax’


VALENTINE’S NIGHT Wednesday 14 February – if you want the whole romantic occasion, head to The Sail Loft’s sister restaurant, The Bell At Sax’ where their Valentine’s Supper has Bellini cocktail on arrival and Jonny’s special four course dinner menu for £34.95 per person, booking essential. W: 01728 602331

Alternatively in Southwold, we’re doing things quieter at The Sail Loft with just our regular dinner menu on offer – we’re bound to be busy, so reserve a table.


The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us by Southwold’s dunes near the campsite and lifeboat station. Book for our daily specials: Monday Madness – two courses for £10; Curry-tastic Tuesday; Wednesday Burger Bonanza; Friday Steak Night
W:   T: 01502 725713



Or ‘Black Forest trifle’ in a glass… You will probably have more than you need so make up leftovers, of course you may be piggies and want one each, sharing is optional!

Feel free to cheat if you are short of time, you’ll find ready-made chocolate mousse and whipped cream is fine by itself of course.

For the cherries, ideally you want to seek out a jar of kirsch-marinated black cherries (in cherry liqueur), ask for griottines in your local deli. You could opt for plain tinned black cherries or a cherry compote, and failing that, just more of the cherry conserve.  nb Raw egg in the mousse is not recommended for vulnerable people.



50ml double cream

75g dark chocolate (70+% cocoa), grated

1 very fresh, organic egg

25g caster sugar

Bring the cream to the boil and pour over the chocolate in a medium glass bowl. After a few minutes, beat until combined. Allow to cool until just warm to touch. In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg and sugar until creamy and doubled in volume. Fold the chocolate cream into the egg mixture until well-mixed. Chill whilst you make the cream.



3 tbsp mascarpone

3 tbsp single cream

Zest of half a lemon, finely-grated

Drizzle of vanilla extract

Icing sugar

Combine the first four ingredients with a whisk until well-mixed and then add icing sugar to taste a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing well in between, to give the right flavour and a thickish texture like softly-whipped cream.



dark chocolate brownies, cubed

black cherry conserve

marinated cherries, drained

dark chocolate for grating

Build your trifle in the glass(es), first a base of mousse, then cubes of brownie, a covering of conserve, a layer of the mascarpone, more mousse, whole cherries or compote, a final swirl of cream and then grated chocolate to finish. Not forgetting a cherry on the top. Enjoy!



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Quick and easy fish

Local fresh seafood makes a speedy weekday supper for Jonathan Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft in Southwold

I love fish in all its glory like most of the nation, it really is the ultimate in fast food. Come summer sitting outside with some simply-cooked shellfish with mayo and a squeeze of lemon is bliss as is a seafood barbecue, that unique smell of burnt shells adding to the occasion.

In the cooler months, I like to do a little more to my fish recipes, not only to help them be heartier and warming but also making them better value – let’s be honest, fresh local fish is rightly not cheap, our hardworking fishermen have to work so hard for every catch, which get smaller every year. So rewarding them properly is essential but we need to be mindful to get the best out of what we buy at the fishmonger’s.

Simple hearty suppers that don’t take much preparation and swiftly ready to serve are the order of the day.

On a similar rarebit theme to last month, a glazed gratin of cod and smoked haddock with cherry tomatoes and spinach is one of my favourites. First put four vines of cherry tomatoes or two handfuls into a buttered gratin and bake in a hot pre-heated oven until just blistering (15 – 20 minutes) whilst starting the rarebit sauce below. Remove tomato dish from the oven, scatter in a bag of baby spinach leaves on top of the tomatoes and stir together. Sit in four thick fillets of fish, season well and then glaze all over with the rarebit sauce. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked-through and browned.

For the cheesy rarebit, make a good pint of very thick white sauce (béchamel), add in a splash of Worcester sauce and a large dollop of wholegrain mustard before whisking in lots of grated very mature hard cheese like Suffolk Gold or Shipcord.

Other favourite ways of enjoying fish is to roast starchy tubers such as nutty Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac cubes, parsnip wedges or unpeeled baby potatoes in olive oil, garlic and thyme  for 15 minutes in a hot oven, adding in large chunks of chestnut mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and cooking for a further 15 - 20 minutes until all are tender. Meanwhile make a dressing by heating a finely-diced red onion and a sliced garlic clove with dry white wine or vermouth to cover for a few minutes until softened, add juice of a lemon plus a few shreds of lemon zest along with enough olive oil to make a dressing texture. Finally finish with baby capers and shredded flat parsley. Near the end of the vegetables cooking, pan-fry your seasoned fish fillets in a hot oiled pan, skin-side down for 5 – 8 minutes until well-browned, turn over and add a knob of butter and a good spritz of lemon. Slide off the heat for two minutes before serving with the veggies and dressing.

Enjoy! Jonny


The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us near the campsite and lifeboat station.
W:   T: 01502 725713


A LOVELY MIDWEEK LUNCH OFFER – two courses for £10
Mussels in cider and herb cream, followed by steak-frites (6oz heritage rump) for just £10, what a bargain! 


Available Tuesdays – Fridays lunchtimes during March.