A favourite haunt

With candle-light, beams and resident ghosts, Richard Johnson is transported back in time at an olde country inne
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I was worried about the authenticity of the Tudor Bar. Would my ale arrive with its head off? Would the bar menu feature seal, swan and peacock in a basket? And would I be considered a fop if I did, indeed, take up meat with my little silver fork? In Tudor times, the Lord Mayor of London enjoyed nothing more than rolling up his sleeves, and setting to on a boiled whale. The tongue and the tail were (I am reliably informed) the Mayor's favoured parts. He also liked thinly-sliced porpoise. But my worries about the bar menu proved groundless. They served sandwiches.

I was worried about the authenticity of the Tudor Bar. Would my ale arrive with its head off? Would the bar menu feature seal, swan and peacock in a basket? And would I be considered a fop if I did, indeed, take up meat with my little silver fork? In Tudor times, the Lord Mayor of London enjoyed nothing more than rolling up his sleeves, and setting to on a boiled whale. The tongue and the tail were (I am reliably informed) the Mayor's favoured parts. He also liked thinly-sliced porpoise. But my worries about the bar menu proved groundless. They served sandwiches.

The Tudor Bar, which dates from 1561, is a wonderful, clay-pipe kind of place. A living museum of exposed beams and roaring fires, built as the dower house on the Cornwallis estate. In the candle-light, you almost imagine yourself in the days of plague. The bar staff even offered to sell me a slim senorita for less than a guinea. Courtesy of Henry Winterman. As the evening wore on, I found myself relating to the Hogarth prints ("Beer, happy produce of our isle, can sinewy strength impart; and wearied with fatigue and toil, can cheer each manly heart"). Verily indeed.

"We get farmers on shooting parties throwing down 10 pints of Adnams," says co-owner Jeffrey Ward. "But if you're Suffolk, you drink Adnams. Out-of-townies drink our St Peters Ale." In Tudor times, ale was certainly more popular (and more hygienic) than water - and your average goodly citizen did drink around one gallon a day. Although St Peters is not actually ale. I don't want to get all Michael Jackson about this, but ale is brewed with malt and water. Beer is brewed with hops. It was only around Tudor times that the bitter taste became fashionable.

Be sure to eat in the sublime restaurant. Take a table by the window, looking down the avenue of lime trees to the entrance of the Cornwallis. The trees were topped to 30ft when Eye airfield was built in the Second World War. After dinner, retire to your room. Just be careful which one. Room six is haunted by a priest writing his sermon. Room seven by a lavender lady. And room eight by three highwayman, and a cat. If you really want to know you've been haunted, room eight is probably the one for you.

According to the Campaign for Real Ale, the most popular inn ghosts include nuns, monks, nobles, royals, headless horsemen, anyone who committed suicide, anyone who was murdered, and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Peterborough branch, footsteps are most common - though "nudging" and "strange smells" have also been reported. My local has its own strange-smelling nudger. Unfortunately the culprit is still very much alive. Does this mean exorcism is out of the question?

The Tudor Bar, The Cornwallis Country Hotel and Restaurant, Brome, Eye, Suffolk, 01379 870326.

You can e-mail Richard Johnson at drinkwithrichardjohnson@yahoo.co.uk

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