Unruly Pig

Falstaff Magazine International Nr. 0/2021 - SixPack

When is a gastropub a restaurant? And frankly does such distinction matter? I’m happy with it defining a pub focussing heavily on exceptional food cooked well yet still offering a pint at the bar, just. The now legendary The Sportsman near Whitstable still styles itself a pub despite its refined and invariably fully booked tasting menu slots. Now The Unruly Pig, a 16th century Suffolk inn close to Woodbridge and Snape’s extraordinary concert hall, and anything but unruly despite its jaunty name, has just won best pub for food award at the Great British Pub Awards 2021. Apart from being UK Dining Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide and it was this year’s highest climber in the UK Top 50 Gastro Pub list, very much in the top food-centric pub league. Fortuitously I found myself staying close-by and made a reservation, initially unaware of its recent roster of accolades. The decor is sophisticated, yet warm and relatively informal, with a wood panelled central bar, inglenook fireplaces, beamed ceilings, fashionably deep blue painted walls crammed with an eclectic, even frankly surreal collection of pictures and prints. There is a wild boar’s head snarling from its home over one of the pub's fireplaces and a Micky Mouse brandishing the fat end of a cigar. A clear sign that all are welcome perhaps? No expense has been spared on beautiful colourful textiles – even in the ultra-smart bathrooms – which adds to the sense of feeling cossetted. Best of all, the menu is creative, yet rigorously local in its championing of East Coast producers. Outstanding house-made bread and butter invariably makes a good first impression whenever dining out and is a good clue to the timbre of the rest of the meal. The billowy focaccia served with anchovy-spiked whipped Fen farm butter, made by chef-co patron Dave Wall, is star quality, as are Wall’s credentials: he spent formative years at Bibendum and Le Talbooth and worked with Gordon Ramsay too. Proprietor is former lawyer Brendan Padfield who devotedly spent a considerable sum making The Unruly Pig a Covid-secure dining. A love of Italy is indulged, too, and present in the nduja (spiced Calabrian soft salume) chorizo and Taleggio arancini offered as a snack, and a starter of a chubby curl of octopus grilled on the Josper is accompanied by the aforementioned, punchy Southern Italian sausage, too, beside a jet black pool of squid ink sauce. Returning local, there’s a raviolo of Orford lobster and crab with brown crab emulsion, raffishly spiked with chilli and lime. Main dishes are more refined. Impeccable brill is smartly crisp on top yet succulent and pearlescent and frankly perfect. It is made even more so because it is paired with a side of umami-moreish steamed potatoes and samphire with what turned out to be specks of dehydrated ham hock. Most original. Strictly seasonal, wild duck is artfully plated with a ravishing confit duck leg crepinette that seems to pack the flavour of many birds into one explosively flavoursome parcel. There are flourishes of chanterelles and whirls of damson puree, too. The homage to classical culinary techniques is clear and impressive. Yet their Unruly burger with a Roquefort mayonnaise remains a constant on the menu and diners are reminded it is best eaten messily with no need for cutlery. Pump Street chocolate from nearby Orford stars in a melting chocolate mousse served with a malted milk ice-cream. Portions throughout are generous bordering on greedy. The majority of diners clear their plates, who wouldn’t? The mix of the unexpected and idiosyncratic extends to the excellent drinks selection, including ‘driver’s tipples’ such as a damson (picked in the garden) spritz and a most impressive choice of wines from good producers by the glass, (so doubly mindful of drivers). Despite many of the staff looking fresh-faced and young, they are knowledgeable, friendly and intent on making the service memorable. Reviewed by Sudi Pigott

48 /50 Food
18 /20 Service
18 /20 Wine
8 /10 Style

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