Restaurant review: The Fox, Newbourne
- Credit: Archant
What’s the food like at Suffolk’s Pub of the Year? Charlotte Smith-Jarvis checks it out.
When we visit the Fox early on a Friday evening, just after 6pm, there’s already quite a buzz building. Drinkers are leaving with their pooches, all set to hit the road on a jaunt. Friends stand at the bar choosing from the large selections of beer. A long table of colleagues arrives for a leaving do – weighed down with flowers and gifts.
I’ve worked in village pubs, and lived across the road from a rather famous one for a spell and I know for somewhere out in the sticks to be this busy, it’s got to be doing something right.
Anyway, the pub had me from the moment I walked through the door and saw blackboards scrawled with specials. I love that.
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There’s quite a selection on the menu, and all tastes and dietary requirements seemed to be catered for. The blackboard specials were also quite impressive, using seasonal ingredients such as game.
To start we sampled a special of Thai chicken patties with Thai green dressing and stir-fried veg. Flipping heck, it could have been a main course. We certainly got our £5.95 worth! The plate arrived with two extraordinarily generous burger-shaped patties, which had a strong note of fresh coriander and were seasoned very well. The veg brought colour and crunch to the party, but I’m afraid the flavour of the dressing was a bit lost in the mix. A kick of chilli or a spike of lime or lemongrass was needed to give it a boot up the bum so it could stand up to the chicken. On the whole a good plate though and one that could pass for a main with a smattering of chips on the side.
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Tempura prawns with chilli sauce did what they said on the tin, and were pleasingly ungreasy.
But the best starter of the lot was a smoked salmon Scotch egg. A delicately crafted nugget, oozing golden soft set yolk, which wasn’t overpowered by the subtle smoked fish. A creamy dill flecked sauce brought it together quite nicely.
Being in the midst of prime game season, I found the promise of a proper suet game pudding irresistible – and what a flipping plateful this was. Now I have an appetite on me, but a quarter of the way through I was huffing and puffing and wishing I’d worn trousers with a button.
The billowing plate offered a podgy pud, filled with pheasant, partridge, pigeon and venison chunks, with an almost sage and onion flavour about it. There was a little too much pastry on the bottom for my liking (it was around 3-5cm thick) but had it been my hubby tucking in, this would have made his chops drool.
Not only were there root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, swede), roasted to sweet, chewy perfection, but further accompaniments included kale (fresh and well cooked) and a pile of mash. They could have done away with the mash in my opinion – it was a carb too far. But, again, who can slam generosity?
The whole thing was livened up by a full gravy boat (all for me, hooray) of winey, thick gravy to douse plate with.
My husband had initially chosen the smoked haddock pie, but saw a burger arrive to another table and changed his mind pronto. The Fox’s version is formed from minced rump and fillet steak, so really did taste a cut above others (there have been many) we’ve tried in recent memory. The burger was juicy, not too dense, and seasoned just the right amount. It was bolstered by his additions of, oh everything – crunchy onion rings, cheese, bacon. Homemade burger sauce on the side brought a mouthwatering tang to it. And those chips. Oh those chips. We have to put them on a pedestal because they were pretty well perfect. You know, yieldingly fluffy on the inside with a naughty crunch to the exterior.
Also tried was slow cooked lamb shank in a rosemary and red wine gravy with mash and vegetables. Another very big plate that proved excellent value for money. The meat simply fell away from the bone, and the piquancy of the gravy sliced through this cut’s innate unctuousness.
I didn’t have room for pudding – now there’s something you won’t hear me say often!
I opted to share with another diner the special of apple and blackberry jelly with ice cream. But, alas, when it came to the table it was suspiciously red. I enquired and it turned out it was actually a raspberry and apple jelly. I’m allergic (but not deathly so) to raspberries so it was a good thing I asked. Everyone else said it was a tasty pud which wasn’t over set, and had a sherbetty sweet/sourness to it.
The chocolate fondant tried was, I thought, the least successful dish of the night. The sponge around the gooey middle was a tad too thick and dry, and the batter itself was much sweeter than any of us would have liked. Using a darker chocolate to balance it would give better results.
Our favourite pud was a mango cheesecake, which came with the playful touch of little mango spheres. This dessert wasn’t overly sweet and had fruity, tropical kick.
Apparently after 4pm on Sundays it’s buy one get one free on roasts here. We’ll definitely be back to give that a go!
There was a decent range of lagers and ales at the bar but I wasn’t Des when we visited so Mr Jarvis stuck to cola while I sipped on a fruity, open, rich but not overwhelmingly tannic Malbec. It was an ideal choice with the game pie. And I was interested by the wine list which, although limited, had a number key to help diners pick the best plonk for their meal. If you’re into gin there’s a long list to pick from, with a variety of premium Fevertree tonics.
Staff were knowledgeable about the menu and seemed keen to ensure we had a good time on the night. They were helpful and friendly without being in-your-face. I was impressed by the male waiter. I said I liked the plates our meals came on and he rattled off the supplier in his next breath!
As I said earlier, the atmosphere was unexpectedly buzzy for early evening in the countryside. We were pleasantly surprised.
This shouldn’t be an issue. The dining areas are on one level and the main dining room has a decent amount of spacing between tables.
There’s a small car park at the front and signs point to an overspill car park. I’d get there early if you want a space.
It was just under £115 for three courses for four with two drinks each.
Although it was a gut-busting portion I’m going to say the game pudding. If I hadn’t had a starter I’m confident I could have ploughed through this one. It was very tasty indeed.
A friendly spot offering pub grub with a bit of extra pizazz and thought. We thought it was ace.