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John Seery finds sensible prices and fine food in rural mid-Suffolk
There are pockets of the county which could cruelly be described as culinary blackspots. There may very well be some decent pubs or restaurants in Stowmarket but none of our readers have ever alerted us to them, or recommended we should try them.
At least this month we have ventured relatively close to this mid-Suffolk town with our eating out review. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the The White Horse Inn at Hitcham on the B1115 Bildeston to Stowmarket road.
The owners, Richard and Ann Lewis, describe their hostelry as being about good home-cooked food, real ales, great wines, comfortable accommodation and a warm welcome, which ticks most of the boxes for a good village pub.
It looks pleasant enough from the outside though maybe the interior could do with a revamp and cordoning off part of the restaurant, even on a slow midweek lunchtime, made our dining area somewhat restricted.
Still, a good conversation tends to make up for any minor misgivings about the surroundings and since there was a slight autumn chill in the air we were after tasty, comfort food.
We were not disappointed.
My home-made chicken and ham suet pudding, with vegetables, was a simple but quite delicious dish and made me ponder the extraordinary differences in food prices in different parts of the country. Here was a quite delicate suet, plenty of nice cuts of meat and flavoursome gravy perfect.
Some 24 hours earlier I had been eating in an upmarket restaurant opposite the Garrick Club in London. Id chosen veal with a fried hens egg (17.50) plus a couple of side orders of vegetables at around 4 a portion. Very nice surroundings, good service, but 25 for a main course?
Back in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, in a peaceful pub with the low buzz of chatter coming from the bar, I was paying a little over 8 for a meal every bit as good as that offering in the capital.
My friend (searching for a novel way to sum up his main course and prone to colourful descriptions) commented that his rare steak came as a good-sized portion and with a generous juicy and firm texture not unlike a full waterbed in an upmarket hotel.
The vegetable furniture around this fine king-sized meat was functional and did its job in providing adequate support around the main feature on the plate, he concluded.
I skipped puddings but my friend couldnt resist the spotted dick. I braced myself for more fanciful comparisons.
This was a slimmed down Vanessa Feltz of a pudding a plump and expansive orb, which, if any larger in size, would have been overwhelming and rather off-putting, he declared.
With a couple of pints of local ale and coffees our bill came to around 40, a fair price for a quick lunch in the country.
The White Horse Inn, The Street, Hitcham. Tel: 01449 740981