Chris Lee quickly attained AA two rosette status but by 2007, this had increased to AA 3 Rosettes. In the same month the restaurant entered the pages of The Good Food Guide, for the first year, with great style. The 2008 edition of the independent restaurant bible not only listed The Bildeston Crown as one of only 22 highlighted food venues to visit in Suffolk but also named Chris Lee as joint winner of the Up-and-coming chefs award for the whole country. Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor, The Good Food Guide, was quoted as saying:
“Chris Lee is an ambitious, self-taught chef. His ‘intricate cuisine gastronomique’ is definitely showy, but backed up by sound technique. Subtle flavours, complementary textures and dish combinations are analytically thought out.”
This was amongst the first of Chris’ plaudits. Only a year later, Times reviewer Giles Coren was equally positive with praise, calling the Bildeston Crown “the best little progressive kitchen in Suffolk”
In February 2009, Chris found himself in front of the cameras when he took on The Hairy Bikers …and won! The Hairy Bikers’ Tour of Britain is a television series in which Simon King and Dave Myers get on their bikes to find the best of each county’s larder and meet the local producers who are keeping traditional recipes alive. For Suffolk, the Bikers went up against Chris in a cook-off in which Restaurant diners decided who had created the dish that best defined Suffolk. Chris emerged as the winner with eight out of the nine votes. Perhaps not surprising for a chef whose aim is to put Suffolk on the map as a foodie destination!
Recognition has continued with The Bildeston Crown going through the finals of the NATIONAL ENJOY ENGLAND AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE, commonly known as the Tourism BAFTAs, two years running. In 2009 The Bildeston Crown was selected as one of only three finalists in the Hotel category for the whole of the UK but was awarded Silver, losing out to Gidleigh Park in Devon.
In 2010 Chris and Hayley were once again at the national awards, this time as finalists in the Taste of England category – and this time they brought home Gold to Suffolk. Later that year, in September, the couple were equally delighted to be awarded “Best Restaurant” at the Suffolk Food & Drink Awards.
In October 2011 The Bildeston Crown was ranked 107 in The Sunday Times “The Food List”, Britain’s Top 200 Restaurants, compiled in association with Harden’s. In addition The Bildeston Crown came third in the country’s Top Gastropubs in the same guide. In the same year, The Sunday Times writers were asked to name their favourite restaurants in the British Isles with a room attached ……and The Bildeston Crown was in the top 20 – the only representative for Suffolk and indeed the east of England