Eating out at Snape Plough & Sail
Traditional dining with a twist
You’ve probably heard of the slightly disparaging term ‘baby brain’. Well, I have ‘dog brain’. Having inherited a large lurcher just before last Christmas and realising it was for life, not just the holiday,
I’ve been knocked sideways. I have a permanent shadow, a silent stalker who is demanding in an undemanding way. Thirty kilos of concentrated devotion is quite a responsibility and also means no spontaneous trips away and remembering to take as much kit for him as for me – if not more – on any outing. On the plus side I’ve discovered umpteen footpaths and new walks wherever I go and my exercise level is at 6/10. Or maybe just 5/10.
Consequently anywhere that is dogfriendly now gets my vote and although the Plough & Sail at Snape welcomes dogs, the most important reason to come here is the quality of the food and Oli Burnside’s brilliant cooking. I have been here many times (once by canoe) and know that the menu never disappoints. Tonight I leave the shadow relaxing at home because my friend and I are eating in the restaurant part of this lively pub. Alex Burnside (Oli’s twin brother) is front of house and gives us menus to read while having a drink in the garden. And hurrah, this follows the traditional format of starters, mains and puddings, but it’s a tough decision-making process at the end of a long day. The emphasis is on good local meat and fish but Oli puts his own interesting touches to each dish. He also resists the temptation of over-complicating the descriptions and so, when the beautiful, intricate plate of food arrives, it has more impact and exceeds expectations.
In the newly-decorated restaurant (restful muted colours with comfortable chairs in dusky pastels) the atmosphere is un-fussy and casual but oozing professionalism. Alex brings soft brown bread from local bakers in Woodbridge with two sorts of butter and a dish of oil and balsamic vinegar and shortly after arrives with our starters. I’ve chosen Mediterranean fish soup with gruyere and my friend has short ribs from the specials board. Well, the fish soup is fantastic. Smooth, rich and flavourful, no hint of grit and with bites of perfectly cooked scallops, halibut and tiger prawns. The melting strings of gruyere are a bit challenging and probably not a good idea for a first date, but a great taste combination. The meat on the beef ribs is soft, sweet and unctuous and the (very generous) stack is served with a creamy chilli sauce.
Our main courses seem to be a food reversal. I have slow cooked pork and
friend has halibut. (The fish is a sizeable piece and we question Alex about it. Surely too big to be halibut? It turns out we need to brush up on our fish-sizing knowledge. The biggest one they’ve dealt with in the kitchen was nearly two metres long.) Dressed with sesame seeds and tahini and served with crunchy TSB – tender stem broccoli, not the bank – this is pronounced totally delicious. My slow cooked pork belly is falling-off-the-bone lovely. It comes with creamy chorizo, chickpeas and tarragon with spinach and a tomato sauce in a cute little jug. I give it my best shot, but ultimately it’s too much for me and friend kindly finishes it. He doesn’t seem to find it a hardship.
‘Chef Oli Burnside works out his own way of making interesting and tempting dishes’
Onwards to pudding. Alex recommends lemon cream with rhubarb three ways (friend) and I’m not going to miss out on mille feuille with strawberries and cream, lime curd and crushed meringues. Now we’re all experts in the finer points of baking thanks to GBBO and I can tell you this mille feuille is spot on. The strawberries have been mascerating (lolling about in icing sugar), the lime curd is sharp and smooth and the biscuity leaves are flaky and nutty-flavoured. Add the meringues and it’s nigh on perfect. Meanwhile the rhubarb three ways and set lemon posset seem to be going down well. A small shot glass of rhubarb jelly, a sorbet and poached pieces are sitting on a crumbly scattering of shortbread. He says it’s pure theatre and utterly gorgeous.
When chef Oli Burnside comes to chat we relay our praise and particular favourites from supper. He explains how he starts from the wonderful supply of good produce from round about, supplements it with one or two ingredients from further afield and works out his own way of making the most interesting and tempting dishes. He is justifiably proud of what he and his brother have achieved (they also run the Golden Key just down the road) and they manage to make it all look so easy. Busy times can be hectic, he says, but they’re used to it and relish the buzz and satisfaction of having both restaurant and pub full to bursting.
Supper over and back home, where the shadow greets me expectantly. A doggybag perhaps, with some lovely, tasty treats? But no, with food as good as it is at the Plough & Sail, there’s not a crumb left over.N
Oli and Alex Burnside
LEFT AND BELOW: Delicious food made from excellent ingredients
ABOVE: The relaxed, stylish interior of the Plough and Sail