The Unruly Pig, Orford Rd, Bromeswell, Woodbridge IP12 2PU
The Unruly Pig: Number One Gastro Pub or piggybacking off its kin?
In an area of the country where gunshots start and end the day, where modern 4x4’s roam the empty streets ferrying firearms and ho's, we stick out like sore thumbs in our middle-class Gladrags- much to the disdain of the side-eyeing local populace. You guessed it- this is rural Suffolk.
Pubs have always been, to me at least, a direct trade-off between quality and quantity; not a place for foams, spheres or veloutés but rather hulking great configurations of proteins, fats and carbs washed down with something equally reasonably priced, in unreasonable amounts. So in light of this, the notion of a ‘gastropub’ can come across as a bit of a sigh. But hold your fire.
The Unruly Pig was recently ranked as the Number 1 gastropub and has a flavour of ‘Flaming Moes’ about it, by way of quirky decor and a feeling of those funhouses that play with optical illusions. Heading upstairs, you're met with the wonky framing and tiny doors typical of Ye Olden Tymes- when people were tiny and drowning someone was a way of proving that they're not a witch.
To better grasp the philosophy of The Unruly Pig, it has to be the taster menu. First come two little meteors of arancini, still hot from impact brimming with ‘nduja and taleggio, topped with fine lacings of the grated parmesan wilting under the residual heat. There’s a satisfying blend of that meaty spice, webbed with the ooze of taleggio and studded with toothsome rice. Seldom are meteors a subject of comfort, but let it rain.
In another volley of textural gratification, is the silky whipped cod’s roe, punctuated with the saline pops of caviar and lifted with the zip of zest. The tart casing is a tad thick but it’s as if this place intentionally avoids doing things that might cause it to bleed totally into ‘fine dining’, which is no complaint.
As migraine-inducing as he is skilled, Joshua Weissman's right when saying that good focaccia needs no dip. The Unruly Pig, with their self-appointed blend of British-Italian or ‘Britalian’ aptly delivers an anchovy butter with a gloriously crisp but dewy focaccia, encroaching on fried bread territory. Some might argue that you don’t need to add butter of any kind, but those would be foolish people. The butter is light and swimming with that trademark brackishness topped with the piquancy of a marinated skin-on anchovy, along with a little blast of chive giving a bit of balancing relief.
The cured egg yolk takes the centre of a venison version of battuta, the intensely amber hue reminds me of the globule inside a Jaffa Cake, the likes of which I'd conduct near surgical manoeuvres to extract in my youth, as the little chub lord then as I am now. The use of grape must and truffle echoes the ways in which I adore to eat venison- with dark fruit and something earthy- something that harks to the natural habitat of the beast itself. A wreath of black truffle surrounds the yolky bullseye, with a few thin blades of toast to load it all onto in judiciously plated proportions.
The cook on the sea bass is excellent- a deep sear that’s like a rusted armour plate, preserving the delicate life of the just-cooked flesh beneath all topped with a little more of that sombre caviar. There’s a duo of crab ravioli, taught and packed with pearly-white crab meat with some branches of tender broccoli firmly lazing on the outskirts. A near-perfect circle of wild garlic and spinachpuréeframes the lot which is soon filled in tableside with a caviar veloute that is spectacular. The plate is suddenly transformed into this obsidian portal that takes you to the trenches of the sea bed itself before hoisting you back up onto land for another bite. My only gripe is that it’s not available in massive bags via a drip.
I can’t be totally sure if the beef was cooked sous vide, but it lacked that burley thump you get worked up for. Despite being the lead, the dish is held up by the other members of the group- it’s essentially The Police. The ceppuréeis the umami velvet it should be, the black garlic ketchup is a glob of Parade Gloss, mellow with acidity whilst the wild garlic does its thing in all its seasonal vibrancy. The marrow holds up the fattier end of the bargain, the morel is a neatly engineered torpedo draped with blanched wild garlic that I could have a clutch of just jumbled into some fresh pasta. The boulangère potato is textbook- crisp, saturated with stock on the inside and seasoned with parmesan, all bound by a slick of jus weaving its gutsy way throughout.
The texture of the blood orange custard possesses a jiggle that has your head gently mirroring it in concurrence- it holds its form until it passes the lips, dissipating into a soothing but bittersweet balm. The base would have Mary Berry doing the splits. But to the side on thin slices of lightly poached rhubarb, is a sorbet of the same that is a throw-up-your-hands-like-you’re-at-church experience. As ever, mum’s voice in my ear being the watermark for a successful sorbet, she’s currently straight-up crowing over this ode to rhubarb. It might be freezing outside, but I can’t stop myself from thinking how great this sorbet might be doused in an equally chilled vodka.
Ollie, the resident mixologist who happens to be doubling as our waiter, is only too happy to oblige. He returns with another round of sorbet and a rhubarb-infused vodka that he’s overseen the development of personally, duly chucking the lot into the chilled little bowl. It’s all I’d hoped- how I imagine Miss Piggy might celebrate a fruitful divorce.
The final dish is a 70% Ugandan chocolate delice with espresso ice cream. A beautifully tempered orb, matte with a fine dusting of cocoa, the top laced with a chocolate creme patissiere, bejewelled with amaretto jellies and studded with cacao nibs, it’s almost a shame to crack the sucker open. Almost. But oh my- crack it doth. The cross-section reveals it’s been filled to the brim with a rich but euphorically light chocolate creme, the little weight there is bored by a sturdy chocolate biscuit, of which a little more has been crumbed to a soil that secures a flawless rocher of the ice cream.
Much like the sorbet before it, there’s not a single crystal to be found- so light in all its emulsified wonder, you even become conscious of the ambient temperature’s attempt to steal your joy. The whole dish is so alluringly moody on the outside but nothing but total chocolate joy inside. I’ve got a lot of time for whoever works the pastry section here- they clearly rule their domain with a deft and thoughtful hand. The notion of a ‘gastro pub’ is defined as a pub ‘that specialises in serving high-quality food’ which are spurious grounds for expectations, but The Unruly Pig is definitely putting in the work.
Waiting to pour ourselves into a taxi, we nurse an apple and cucumber sour- another of Ollie’s creations fixed by the equally charming Jason. As conversation blooms, the pair seem invigorated with our intrigue to the whole experience, hithering and thithering; grabbing a glass from here and a tincture from there, a cucumber and horseradish granita to have with a drink they’re developing. We talk about the menu, recommend restaurants and majorly rejoice in our intense dislike of the same things. And that is the mark of any pub worth its salt- food of any ilk notwithstanding.