Food & Drink: Fine wine, and good food to boot: Emily Green has a soft spot for Suffolk. So, when she heard from readers about two very different places serving honest-to-goodness fare, she was off

A gentleman taking up cudgels on behalf of an Ipswich restaurant that was less than favourably reviewed in these pages, wrote to suggest I be confined (along with all my snobbish colleagues) to London. Last week, it was well worth slipping back through the battle lines into Suffolk, at the behest of two gentler correspondents, who each wrote to recommend an eating house they admired.

The first letter praised what it described as a low-key place with exceptional food: the Old Boot House at Shotley. Local affection is such for this four-year-old restaurant that a gent giving me directions shouted as his parting words, 'The food is good]' The second letter came from one of the proprietors of The Wine Bar in Woodbridge, recommending the wine bar in Woodbridge.

The Old Boot House sits in the marshy Suffolk farmland just west of Ipswich. For me, this was almost recommendation enough. I nurse an almost inexplicable affection for this part of the country.

Suffolk is not an obvious beauty spot. It is flat and scruffy. Earthen-coloured washes on farmhouses have largely given way to seaside-pinks; pylons line up across a landscape that seems about to be engulfed by suburban housing. Yet Suffolk's swirling fogs and ancient churches can still stir the soul.

The Old Boot House combines all these qualities - the twee, the banal, the haggard, the suburban and the graceful. A small bar and dining-room were neat and prissy, with such rustic props as old bread crocks.

The Old Boot House could not, however, be a more pleasant place to lunch. Sun pours in. The hostess is cheerful and capable. During my visit, one of the owners appeared with her new baby, chatted amiably with a group of regulars, then disappeared.

As for the regulars themselves, of whom there were only three that Friday lunchtime, most chefs would kill for such a noisily appreciative group. Once my food arrived, I could taste what they were gurgling about.

A bouillabaisse-style fish stew was gutsy and good. I cannot entirely see the logic of garnishing it with a miniature croissant, nor of topping the stew with julienned spring onion. I suppose the onion gave a fresh kick, but the croissant was just silly. Fish stew needs nothing but a hunk of rough bread, first to eat quickly if one chokes on a fish bone, second as a sop.

Of main courses, lamb was listed as 'roast 'chunk' of lamb with Mediterranean vegetable casserole'. The meat was good, but the vegetable casserole not to my taste. Its liquor had the Bisto-like quality of the intensely reduced sauces favoured by too many chefs.

Had the neighbouring Falstaffs been less voluble about their puddings, I might have missed the delicious prune and brandy ice- cream. Coffee was fair, house wines pretty awful, though there were keenly priced rhones and burgundies on the list. As much as most people can eat and drink, including tip, should cost between pounds 20 and pounds 30.

I ARRIVED early at The Wine Bar in Woodbridge. The name was unpromising. Standing at the foot of a steep flight of stairs, I was assaulted by what smelt like mildew and disinfectant. Had I not been meeting colleagues, had it not been bitterly cold, I would have fled.

Others may have been deterred for the same reason. Still, clients have been climbing those stairs since the present proprietors, Sally O'Gorman and Richard Lane, took the place over in 1981.

The room is agreeably rough: timbered partitions, deep red walls, rickety laminated tables. It has a slightly bohemian vibe. Other charms are rather more singular: it is not every host who can stand by a table and look his seated guest in the eye. Mr Lane is a dwarf, and he is a born host - rocketing around the floor, taking orders and generally cosseting his guests. However, his real love, aside from his partner (Ms O'Gorman), appears to be wine.

A long list has a good selection of classics: burgundies, rhones, Alsatian wines. Most evident is a weakness for noble reds, especially clarets. This is lionhearted, but can make for tricky drinking. We drank his last bottle of 1987 Lady Langoa, from Chateau Leoville- Barton-Langoa, a St Julien from the Haut- Medoc. It was very fine, and a snip at pounds 13.30, but drinking it was a waste. It needed twice as much time again in the bottle.

These sorts of reds are made to serve with food. Unusually for proprietors of wine bars, Mr Lane and Ms O'Gorman care about the food they serve. I had guessed from the strengths - and some obvious weaknesses - of Ms O'Gorman's cooking that she was self-taught. I was right. A 'New England cod chowder' was somewhat watery and drastically underseasoned. Leek and roquefort tart was thin, perhaps day-old, but passable. The real delight was a 'pheasant burger': two little buns that tasted home-made, sandwiched perfect meat, accompanied by sweetly caramelised onions and a good chutney.

Pigeon breast was served with a roasted pepper in thyme sauce. Again, this was a good, wintry dish, the sweetness of the peppers balancing the astringency of the thyme and richness of the sauce and meat.

A bread-and-butter ice-cream was superb, and there is an irresistible range of dessert wines. One could get a good meal for pounds 15; we splurged, and spent more like pounds 28 each.

The Old Boot House, Shotley, Suffolk (0473 787755). Vegetarian meals by arrangement. Open lunch and dinner Tue- Sat, lunch Sun. Access, Visa.

The Wine Bar, 17 The Thoroughfare, Woodbridge, Suffolk (0394 382557). Vegetarian meals. Open Tue-Sat lunch and dinner. Cash and cheques only.

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
tvGame of Thrones season 5 episode 1 review
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
News
i100
News
people
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Sport
Fabian Delph celebrates his goal
footballChristian Benteke and Fabian Delph turn semi-final after Liverpool goal
Life and Style
Model wears: top £29.50, leggings £25, jacket £29.50, bag £25, all marksandspencer.com
fashion
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace