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Eating out: Turks Head in Hasketon

PUBLISHED: 11:18 15 August 2017

TURKS HEAD

TURKS HEAD

copyright to Simply C Photography

And in the modern age, that’s quite a lot. Frances Hopewell-Smith enjoys a midweek lunch at the Turks Head in Hasketon

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It’s hard to remember a time when pubs didn’t serve food, but way-back-when, the selection, if any, was crisps (four flavours), peanuts (one variety) or pork scratchings (ditto). Drinks were similarly limited in choice. But then pubs were for drinking, smoking and playing darts, and definitely no children allowed. I even recall one where you could watch strippers with your lunchtime drink. Hmm, makes you wonder.

We‘ve come to expect country pubs to be all-day, every-day venues serving breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea and dinner, as well as umpteen types of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and the food has to be not just acceptable but exceptional.

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Occasionally there will be leeway if the view is incomparable, or the parking is easy, but generally it’s the food thing that makes the difference. The Turks Head at Hasketon, near Woodbridge, is a village pub that has been picked up, cleaned inside out, reconditioned and remodelled, and is a very attractive and smart place to be on Tuesday lunchtime.

Because my friend and I are a bit early, we ask to talk to the chef, Mauli, who says he can spare a few minutes. He’s a surprising addition to the local scene, originally from India where he began to cook before leaving for Europe to refine his skills. He explains that he settled in England for the entirely sensible reason that he could speak English and his various jobs included a very demanding time with the Duchess of Bedford where there was no room for the tiniest mistake. Unable to resist the call of the east, Mauli headed to Suffolk, most recently was head chef at the Black Lion in Long Melford, so good news that’s he’s ended up here.

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He is a happy man, he says, and feels lucky to have free rein to cook the food he loves. As his menus show he’s totally committed to local produce, including a daily supply of fresh vegetables and fruit from nearby Virginia Nurseries.

According to the website, the Turks Head welcomes dogs, children and muddy boots, and even though we have none of the above, it’s clear that this local pub is popular for accommodating all-comers. Jemima Withey, the co-owner, explains that she has lived in the village for five years and she and her husband have seen the Turks Head go through ups and downs. When it closed two years ago they decided to take it on as a proper business because, she jokes, they had nowhere to have a drink or something to eat after walking their dog. They’ve thought of everything. Outside there are lots of tables to sit and eat and a centrepiece of a petanque piste next to pretty gardens. Inside, lots games for children to keep them occupied and amused, and plenty of room for dogs in the snug.

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The food

But back to lunch. I’ve ordered frittata, friend has smoked salmon as our starters. The frittata of organic cheddar with herbs, grilled gem lettuce and creme fraiche is a sizeable plate of food and the flavours are nicely balanced and somehow light, which is not easy to achieve with essentially a potato omelette. My friend’s smoked salmon, she says, is good and the Tide Mill bread better than hers. Quite an accolade.

Come the main courses we venture into the realms of Mauli’s Indian cooking – usually two dishes on the menu – Tandoori Sutton Hoo chicken salad with chick peas and mint and yogurt dressing (friend), and red mullet with tomato and spring onion salad (me). I think she wins this time.

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The blend of spices in her dish is spot on and shows innate skill. The separate ingredients are all identifiable and not lost in the mix. We agree we could eat it all again. My red mullet is perfectly cooked with crispy outer, flaky inner (sounds like me), and the salad with it is a jolly tasty foil for the fish. As a combination it works beautifully.

Our friendly waiter recommends the Eton mess for pudding and so we simply have to have it, to share. It is very good, certainly not a mess and has both Pavlova and traditional meringues. This provokes a lengthy discussion about the best way to cook meringues and the various types, the chew-to-crunch ratio and exotic flavourings. For this Eton mess the tiny meringue swirls are rightly flavoured with strawberry and are delicious melt-in-the-mouth moments.

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Jemima says she wanted to make this pub brighter but without sacrificing its character, to appeal to everyone and to provide great food cooked from fantastic ingredients. And she’s done just that – with a little welcome help from other restaurateurs in and around Woodbridge. Employing 15 people to run the restaurant, bar, snug and outside area (150 seats in all), The Turks Head has already hosted beer and gin festivals with Indian street food, and over-subscribed, coached progressive suppers. On our way out we see lots of happy lunchers, dogs (check), children (check) and muddy boots (check), exactly as Jemima, her husband and everybody involved wanted it to be.

The Turks Head

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Low Road

Hasketon

Woodbridge

Suffolk IP13 6JG

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01394 610343

theturksheadhasketon.co.uk

Selections from the menu

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Starter

Sutton Hoo chicken wings, blue cheese dressing

Confit cod bruschetta, chilli and garlic

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Main course

Grilled hake, herb and garlic butter, new potatoes, Greek salad

Suffolk ribeye steak, sauce béarnaise, land cress, mushroom, beef tomato, hand cut chips

Dessert

Pineapple and ricotta tart, Hill Farm honey

Dark chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream

Favourite wines

White: Picpoul de Pinet La Decouverte £22.50

Pink: Cinsault Grenache Terrasses D’Alleutier £17

Red: Coorong Estate Shiraz £18

Prosecco: £5/glass; £25/bottle

Other reasons to visit

Great walks with or without dogs

Well-thought out menus with a difference

Delicious food served all day

Fun and games inside and out

Regular progressive suppers – transport provided

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