A comforting supper

4th February 2016

While I have a real fondness for restaurants, I love pubs.

Maybe I’m looking through rose-tinted glasses, but in my mind the ideal pub is the kind of place you happen upon fingers numb, cheeks blushed pink from the cold, wrapped in three scarves after a winter walk.

It’ll have a fireplace, bricks, beams, the odd horseshoe hung on the wall, a menu scratched on a dusty blackboard in crumbling chalk.

The Westleton Crown is a kind of smarted-up version of my vision. It’s very close to Dunwich and many, many walks. And it’s incredibly welcoming and inclusive too.

When we rolled in out of the cold last week there were babies, dogs (I’m sure I spotted dog snacks at the bar), couples and groups of friends all happily chatting in the front bar.

That’s such a nice atmosphere to step into and really makes you feel at home.

Having spotted the local beers at the bar (from Calvors to Adnams) and swiped a few menus, we were taken past the lounge area to the later addition to the building.

This large sun room you’d think would be at odds with the rest of the brick and beam pub, but it works in perfect harmony.

Although high and covered and surrounded by glass, the room had an intimacy to it – all to do with the sultry lighting I expect.

Armed with a glass of creamy strawberry-scented rose, and a pint of Adnams Southwold Bitter, we worked our way through the menus which included flavours that travel far and wide.

On the specials menu was pheasant with confit leg and some kind of Asian broth. There was a starter of anti pasti, or textures of beetroot with feta and salad.

Main courses ranged from roasted breast of chicken with chorizo and butter bean cassoulet, to slow cooked pork belly, and the kitchen really prides itself on making everything from scratch.

This was evident in the basket of bread dropped off at the table by our friendly waiter. It still had a good bouncy middle and nice chewy crust and had a good, homemade flavour.

We were led by our server’s recommendations on the night, as he described some of chef’s favourite dishes.

I’ve had a lot of prawns recently (not that I’m complaining) and the plate of pan-fried king prawns with confit tomato and garlic butter was, said our server, one of chef’s best starters.

The prawns were perfectly pink and done just right. The garlic wasn’t overpowering and the salad underneath had good body and texture, being made up of lots of interesting leaves. I could detect a hint of lemon verbena somewhere too.

Acidity came in the form of the tomato, which was still nice and juicy.

On the other side of the table was a refined version of ham hock terrine. Not too salty and freckled with tiny piquant capers that burst through what can be a very very meaty starter. The accompanying crisp brioche was great. And I thought the plum chutney was gorgeous. It was neither too sweet or sharp and built flavour in layers, from an initial burst of sweet cinnamon and plum, to a lingering spicy heat. Now that would make the perfect cheese sandwich.

Mr Jarvis had been craving fish and chips on the drive over – as he usually does the closer we get to the coast.

This was a good sized portion. The fish was as flaky and fresh as you’d expect, with a tasty savoury batter. It came with tartare sauce and mushy peas. But what really caught my eye was the chunky thick cut chips. They were, to coin a phrase from our son, “epic”. I stole a few, OK, several, to dip into my dinner.

I’d been advised to try the Moroccan lamb shank. A good choice it was too. The lamb was neatly trimmed and meltingly tender. Underneath was couscous with fresh coriander and a terrific vegetable tagine which stole the show for me.

It’s a real skill to get flavour into vegetarian food, but this could have happily been served up to any of my veggie friends.

Aubergine, courgettes and peppers were bound in a thick, clinging, cleverly spiced tomato sauce that left a hint of mystical smokiness in the mouth. Nicely done.

Jarv was fit to burst but, as ever, I forced him to have a pudding - so I could have a taste too of course. I had to be careful, nibbling around the edges because I have a raspberry allergy, but I can say the parts of his lemon posset I could taste were divine.

It was creamy, packed with vibrant lemon goodness, and he said contrasted fantastically with the cool wild berry sorbet and super sweet crushed meringues.

I was a tad disappointed with my dessert. The cherry panna cotta was overset and didn’t have that wibbly wobbly melty texture. But the bits on the side were gorgeous. A pistachio cream that reminded me of eating pistachio gelato in the hills outside Rome. Deep, dark chocolate biscuit crumb. And equally dark, almost liquorice bitter pistachio praline. A tin of that could keep me happy for an evening.

Presentation of all dishes was excellent, and the staff couldn’t have been more accommodating or efficient.

If you’re out in this neck of the woods, The Westleton Crown really is worth exploring, whether you’re after a snack after a dog walk, or a dinner with the one you love.

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis, EADT

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