Heaven and Hell: With Brendan Padfield of The Unruly Pig

Brendan Padfield, owner of the award-winning gastropub The Unruly Pig, near Woodbridge

Brendan Padfield, owner of the award-winning gastropub The Unruly Pig, near Woodbridge - Credit: Claudia Gannon

Entrepreneur Brendan Padfield is a former solicitor, who six years ago fulfilled a lifelong ambition to open a restaurant.

His gastropub, The Unruly Pig, just outside Woodbridge, is multi-award-winning.

Last week they were recognised and named in the UK's top 10 gastropubs by Estrella Damm, giving them the highest ranking in East Anglia in UK Top 50 Gastropub Awards 2021, along with being named Dining Pub of the Year  by The Good Pub Guide 2021.

Brendan loves living in Woodbridge, with his wife Claire and has two grown-up daughters.

Here he talks with Gina Long.

With outdoor hospitality opening from Monday, how will you be adapting at The Unruly Pig?
We are going to trial opening at the weekends, weather permitting and see how things go.

We have a marquee, but as I understand it, the law requires this to have two sides fully opened, so bring your woollies (and maybe even a hot water bottle)!  

Fingers crossed for fine weather.

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It will be so good to welcome back our wonderfully supportive customers and friends.
What is your connection to East Anglia?
I have lived in East Anglia for over 40 years, starting in Norwich where I did my practical legal training, moving to Suffolk in 1995.

We have adored living here ever since.

What a fantastic county in which to live and work and bring up two kids.
What is your East Anglian Heaven?
The food of course! East Anglia is just foodie heaven - abundant fresh produce from caring producers right on our doorstep: Orford lobsters and skate; Rendlesham forest game; Dingley Dell Pork; Fen Farm butter and raw milk (and of course their St Jude cheese); Tuddenham asparagus; Truly Traceable pies ...to mention but a few.
What is your East Anglian Hell?
The train service.

When I was commuting, missing that last connecting train to Woodbridge from Ipswich (on the Lowestoft line) was hellish because it happened so often.

Standing in the rain at Ipswich station waiting for a taxi late at night (when invariably also knackered) was never a highlight of my week.
What’s your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
This could put the cat amongst the pigeons!

There are so many worthy candidates it would be invidious to pick one above all others so in no particular order: The Bildeston Crown; Maison Bleue and Pea Porridge in Bury St Edmunds; Morston Hall, the Duck Inn at Stanhoe and The Gunton Arms in north Norfolk. I love the Sicilian waiters at L’Escargot SurMer in Aldeburgh.

Trong’s in Ipswich is the best Chinese/Vietnamese around (and a favourite since our daughters were very young) and finally The Galley in Woodbridge for a stonking Turkish meal.
What’s your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?
When our daughters can both get back to Suffolk at the same time (sadly a rare thing even at the best of times) in good weather, nothing beats sitting on Shingle Street beach, contemplating the vast North Sea with a bottle of something lovely, gossiping giggling and putting the world to rights.

Otherwise a pasta supper with family and friends in the garden at home in Woodbridge.
What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
I never tire of Ramsholt church, in Suffolk as it stands so lonely yet regally over the River Deben.

Its windswept location lifts my heart every time we visit. It was lovely to see it featured in the recent film The Dig.
What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
When the Orford fisherman start catching the new season’s lobsters as it means that Dave Wall, head chef at The Unruly Pig will be making his famous lobster risotto.

Orford native lobsters may not be the biggest but they have the sweetest meat.

Dave’s risottos are heroic.

Bi annually, it’s Art for Cure’s amazingly eclectic art exhibitions that raise huge amounts of money to support cancer relief work locally.

Brendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig near Woodbridge in Suffolk

Brendan Padfield was a solicitor before opening The Unruly Pig - Credit: Claudia Gannon

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?
The history of the development of castles!

My kids will give me such stick for answering this truthfully.

From the age of eight, I was brought up in North Wales, a location replete with Edward I’s magnificent castles.

As a boy, I remember the jaw-dropping moment when I first set sight on Conway Castle.

As much as I love Framlingham castle locally, the sheer size and majesty of the likes of Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech castles cannot be beaten
What is always in your fridge?
Parmesan, anchovies, red chillis and smoked bacon or pancetta.

These are the “must haves” for my two favourite fall back, easy peasy, done in a jiffy meals: spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, chilli and anchovy or spaghetti carbonara.
What’s your simple philosophy of life?
What goes around, comes around.
What’s your favourite film?
Cinema Paradiso.

Second to Puglia, I love Sicily where this film is set. It’s a nostalgic, feel good, weepy that for me evokes so much about my favourite country in Europe: Italy.
What was your first job?
A warehouseman at Marks and Spencer.

Back in the 1970’s, supermarkets did not discount when sell by dates were about to expire. M&S sold out of date food at half price to their staff.

My Mum loved me even more when I came home with half price duck and rum babas!
What is your most treasured possession?
My father’s writing slope.

In the Second World War, after liberation, Dad was posted to Holland.

It was initially really tough with shortages of everything but he shared his food rations with the Dutch family where he had been billeted.

When he moved on to Berlin, their gratitude was such that they insisted on giving him their antique writing slope.

Dad always spoke highly of the Dutch (and the liberated Germans).

Recently, my wife had the slope restored for a surprise Christmas present. It holds a special place in my heart.
Who do you admire most?
The medical and nursing professions.

I am partisan as our youngest daughter is a hospital doctor in London.

They study hard for years on end, work silly hours and yet, unless very senior, they are not comparatively well paid. In this pandemic, they have put their lives on the line to selflessly save others.

They are stoic, courageous and uncomplaining because they have a clear sense of duty.

Heroism personified.
What is your biggest indulgence?
Paintings - I spend far too much on art but it gives me such pleasure
What do you like about yourself most?
Oh heavens ...maybe that I don’t feel guilty when I have second helpings of pudding or another glass of wine.
What’s your worst character trait?
I am impatient. My wife also suggests that I rarely listen to a word she says ...
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
The Salento in Puglia, Italy where we holiday each year (when allowed).

Great history, superb seafood and magnificent  “cucina povera “ as the Italians call it (fab peasant cooking to you and me).

It is still possible to get high quality, traditional trattoria food in Puglia.

I kill for sea urchin pasta or Puglian red prawns.
Best day of your life?
Two: the days our daughters were born.

I wept each time.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
I do like Fen Farm Skyr yoghurt with some honey ...but in truth nothing really beats a bacon and fried egg pitta bread sandwich - the pitta manages to envelope all the runny yolk without it squirting out everywhere!
What’s your favourite tipple?

Give me a great red Bordeaux and I am a happy chappie.

I have a serious weakness for white Burgundy too.
What’s your hidden talent?
If anyone ever finds out, can they tell me please.
When were you most embarrassed?
Being publicly castigated by a Crown Court judge for having the “stupidity”  to move across the well of a court when a witness was swearing the oath.

I didn’t even know that was such bad form – they didn’t teach me that at law school!

I was a trainee at the time and was mortified. I never did it again.
What’s your earliest memory?
Waking up early morning on the Holyhead ferry to see Dun Laoghaire (Dublin) harbour on our annual trip to Ireland.

My mother was from County Down (where the stunningly beautiful Mourne mountains sweep down to the sea).

I have a special affection for the Irish -they know how to enjoy life. I was last in Ireland for my 60th birthday.

Dublin is such a mature and proud city with cracking restaurants (as well as great craic).
What song would you like played at your funeral?
My daughters will split their sides at my answer here too.

Maybe no song as such, but I would really like Mozart’s Ave Verum to be sung.

In my early years I was taught by Latin loving nuns and I used to sing this chant in the school choir (at the age of eight).

It is now a very nostalgic piece of music because it brings back happy memories of my childhood and somehow reminds me of my mother (who despaired at my subsequent irreligiosity).
Tell us something people don’t know about you?
Oh hell.

Well here goes: I am a very bad, lapsed Catholic (see above) but when the kids were younger I used to drag them to mass and got roped into being a Sunday school teacher.

My hypocrisy has no end!

What is even more funny is that some ex-pupils can now walk into The Unruly Pig and publicly proclaim “Oh I remember you when you taught me at St  Thomas’ in Woodbridge”.

The Unruly team think this is hilarious and the kitchen gives me unadulterated flack.

They find the thought of me trying to teach religion or any degree of  holiness incredulous.

They have a point!
What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I have broad shoulders from being a litigation lawyer for over 30 years.

Sticks and stones etc.

What I will not tolerate however is when customers are offensively rude to the team. I have zero tolerance and ask offenders to leave.

Happily this is a rare occurrence
Tell us why you live here and nowhere else.
So many reasons: vast skies; crashing waves; smoked ham from Pinney’s (Orford); sunsets at Kyson Hill ( Woodbridge); Blythburgh church; peace and serenity.

In normal times, also easy proximity to London where our daughters live.
What do you want to tell our readers about most?
After the toughest year in hospitality, I am so grateful that I and my fellow hospitality businesses can again re-open and welcome our customers back through our doors.

How lucky I am to have such a fabulously talented team at The Unruly Pig, many of whom have worked with me for years.

Dave Wall became head chef the day we first opened six years ago and his deputy Karl Green joined us shortly thereafter in December 2015.

Their kitchen brigade and all the front of house team have achieved so much more than I imagined was possible and that is because of their sheer hard graft and dedication.

They are the only team in the UK to have twice won Best Front of House Team in the UK Top 50 Gastropub Awards and only last month the whole team won the Highest Climber award in the same prestigious UK list.

They have done all the hard yards.

I am so proud of what we have built together: see theunrulypig.co.uk/ or follow on social media.

If you have an interesting story to tell, please email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: geewizzgee1 Instagram:ginalong_geewizz