Monday, 10 August 2009
The Triple Plea, Halesworth, Suffolk
Suffolk has been tempting us for a while now with a lift of the skirt here and a fluttering of the eyelashes there. There’s only so much gastronomic temptation a food obsessive can take. So we took Oscar Wilde’s advice and gave in.
We stayed at the spacious and very civilised Stables of Henham Park where the recent Latitude Festival was held.
The room was big enough for the entire Royal Family and our breakfasts were as good as you’ll find in a BnB.
They even managed to provide us with friendly co-guests to talk to around the breakfast table and decorated the walls with fantastic photography of the local area by Chris Calver.
We absorbed the recommendations of the visitors’ pack and booked ourselves in for dinner at a pub called the Triple Plea in the nearby village of Halesworth.
All we wanted was a casual supper that didn’t break the bank but also didn’t make us feel that we had wasted a meal. We drove from our country estate at Henham through rolling English countryside, bathed in a honeyed glow of evening sunshine in search of dinner. Unfortunately, Halesworth isn’t blessed with good looks. It’s as grim as Southwold is prim.
But luckily we weren’t there to eat the town. A simple menu laden with local produce and friendly staff greeted us with just enough warmth to cover up the fact that the pub was perilously quiet.
I devoured my ham hock terrine with Suffolk chutney and wholegrain toast like a man who’s just been on an impromptu 6.1 mile run with his triathlon mad girlfriend. O hang on! That is what happened! It was generosity on a plate and had me hooked.
Cowie’s home cured gravadlax was just as good. Or at least I assume it was because I was barely given a sniff. Both dishes were well executed and are just the sort of thing a friendly local pub should be feeding you with.
My comfort food craving continued as I tucked into one of the most satisfying plates of liver and bacon that I’ve had the good fortune to devour. Soft, slightly pink liver, sage potato cake and shards of crispy bacon accompanied by a pint of local beer had me lecturing Cowie on how this was close to being the Platonic Ideal of liver and bacon. But, I shan’t bore you with that.
Cowie’s cod crusted with herbs and breadcrumbs was well cooked, but suffered from a soggy crust and boring, steamed vegetables. This was our only low point and served to pin point the pub’s culinary ceiling.
The food was far from adventurous, but it was just what we wanted. Quality local ingredients cooked with skill and served by very friendly people. It’s not going to find its way into too many guidebooks or award ceremonies. But if every town had a pub like this, serving well cooked local food, the country would be a better place. All it needs is a few more people to give it some atmosphere.
Photos are from the Stables at Henham Park and the Triple Plea's website respectively - apart from the top one which is mine.