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John Seery investigates the enduring appeal of a Thurston Hotel
Around about the late seventies, the Thurston Grange Hotel was the kind of place courting couples from the Bury St Edmunds area used to turn to for a civilised drink and a snuggle.
Actually Im not sure when a cuddle becomes a snuggle but it was all quite innocent and Im moving off the point, which is that The Grange was considered rather upmarket, and far enough away from the town to avoid some oik recognising you and shouting out something unsavoury.
How do I know this? Well, I was there (with a blind date) and I recognised some familiar faces among the smitten couples around me.
I remember how quiet the place was save for the raucous call of peacocks on the lawns and how different it was from the jukebox-blaring, beer-and-darts pubs of Bury like the Griffin and the One Bull.
Such recollections flickered across my mind (apart from the blind date I cant recall who dumped who but it was a short-lived relationship) when visiting the old place again recently with my wife. As far as I could tell, the driveway, with trees on the left, open fields to the right, hadnt altered much. Nor had the quite stunning Tudor style country house itself its more rustic and homely than imposing.
We walked into a hushed shabby chic lounge bar occupied by a family debating the evenings menu, plus a man at the bar, supping a pint and staring into middle distance. It all looked quite familiar and that, in nutshell, could just be the advantages and disadvantages of the Grange.
If time hasnt exactly stood still, its clear the owners havent sought the help of an interior designer to give it the wow factor of some boutique hotels like the Hotel du Vin chain. Resisting wholesale change may well be keeping established customers happy but are they reaching new diners?
Anyway, after taking our drinks order our bar lady then became our waitress for the evening and you couldnt ask for a more courteous, pleasant person.
Loin of tuna and crab cakes were our starters, both tasty with the crab cakes crisp and nicely textured and the
tuna not too dry.
Mains of organic salmon with pancetta and pie of the day which turned out to be steak and ale accompanied by potatoes and after a brief delay some vegetables were also appetising.
The latter got me thinking about the trades descriptions act on pies. Does a small bowl of tasty meat and rich gravy, with a square of pastry balanced on top, constitute a pie? Who cares? said my wife. Just tuck in.
Good honest food without too much embellishment was our verdict and the bill, with drinks that included a pint of cider, a gin and tonic, a glass of the house red and coffees, came to a very fair 51.80.
As we left, a man at the bar came over to talk to the family eating on a table near to us.
Nice to see you, do you come here much? he said. Oh, weve been coming here for years, came the reply. Proof of the Grange s enduring appeal.
The Grange Hotel, Thurston, Suffolk.
Tel: 01359 231260