Review: Head to The Douglas Bader in Martlesham Heath for traditional pub food in a friendly setting

The Douglas Bader in Martlesham Heath.
L-R Andrew Smith, Margaret Barrett (owner) and Kieryn Lestra

The Douglas Bader in Martlesham Heath. L-R Andrew Smith, Margaret Barrett (owner) and Kieryn Lestrange - Credit: Archant

Claire Holmes visits The Douglas Bader in Martlesham Heath

Setting

Just minutes away from the A12 and in a prime position for both local residents and visitors to the area, The Douglas Bader provides a warm welcome to its guests.

Margaret and John Barrett took over the pub in 1998 and have since made their mark on the watering hole – developing the menu and extending the building.

The pub is named in honour of the famous World War Two fighter pilot who served in the war despite having lost both his legs roughly 10 years earlier. He was based at RAF Martlesham Heath for a period of time and the pub is located on what was once the airfield runway.

It overlooks the village green and on the warm August night we visited the pub, a group of young men were playing football on the grass while dog walkers and runners occasionally passed by.

Interior

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The Douglas Bader is a traditional pub and the interior reflects this, with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and numerous tables and chairs dotted about. It is a large pub and could easily cater for large parties or extended families, with a number of areas for guests. There’s the main bar area, a conservatory area and a games room with a pool table and darts board.

Outside, there’s a sheltered patio which looks like it would provide the ideal place to enjoy a refreshing beer or a light bite in the day, while other picnic tables enjoy the direct sunlight.

If you’ve got younger members of the family in tow, it’s worth knowing that The Douglas Bader welcomes visitors of all ages and has a children’s area within the pub, piled high with toys. There’s also an aquarium in one corner which is bound to keep youngsters amused.

And, if you’re with teenagers who can’t bear to be separated from their smart phones for more than two minutes, it may be refreshing to know that the pub offers free wifi.

As you walk in the building, a frame showing pictures of Douglas Bader opening the pub in 1979 can be seen in the foyer and other pieces of memorabilia hang on the wall elsewhere in the pub.

Food

To say the menu at The Douglas Bader is extensive is an understatement.

With appetisers, starters, sharing platters, all day breakfasts, jacket potatoes, baguettes, sandwiches, salads, grills and burgers available as well as the pub’s main dishes and specials, diners here are certainly spoilt for choice.

The menu has good options for both vegetarians and meat-lovers, with favourites such as toad and the hole and beef hotpot sitting alongside spinach and mascarpone lasagne and vegetable oriental stir fry.

To start, we were nearly swayed by the seafood platter to share (which comes with yellow fin sole goujons, scampi, calamari, onion rings, potato wedges and sweet chilli dip), but instead opted for separate dishes.

I chose the homemade chicken liver and bacon pate which was wonderfully smooth and flavoursome and came complete with tangy onion chutney, while my friend opted for potato skins stuffed with bacon and cheese.

For mains, we didn’t know where to start. The homemade beer battered fish of the day (which was haddock and cod during our visit) looked fantastic when it arrived at a nearby table and I was also temped by the home baked honey roasted local ham.

Other dishes available include Scottish haddock fishcakes with an applewood cheese centre with salad and new potatoes, hunters chicken with homemade potato wedges and salad and Aberdeen Angus lasagne.

We were really impressed with the different options that the menu gave us and especially liked the fact that a number of the main dishes could be ordered as a smaller light bite.

In the end, I opted for homemade steak, pepper and ale pie with chips and peas, which was featured on the specials board. The beef was lovely and tender and topped with some tasty flaky pastry, while the fresh-tasting peas added a hint of summer to the dish. My friend chose the belly of pork with homemade cider sauce which was served with apple mash and fresh vegetables. Again the meat was tender, and the accompanying items complemented the pork well.

Both our portions were huge, and would quite easily please even the biggest eater.

The Douglas Bader uses local producers and supports local businesses whenever possible, and the meat for our choices had been bought from Duncan’s butchers in Martlesham Heath, while vegetables came from Foskers in Ipswich.

After such a large meal, we were left wondering how we were going to squeeze in a dessert (embarrassingly, we’d both already had to undo a button on our trousers!) but on closer inspection of the dessert side of the menu, we found the option of a smaller sweet. Available as a sticky toffee pudding, lemon and lime mousse or three layered chocolate mousse, these mini desserts came with a choice of hot drinks and were the perfect way to finish off the meal.

Other desserts on the menu included honeycomb pancakes, chocolate brownie sundae and homemade fruit crumble.

Drink

Like all good pubs, The Douglas Bader has a wide selection of drinks on offer, with real ales, a selection of wine and spirits and a range of non-alcoholic drinks available.

Price

The Douglas Bader represents really good value for money, with starters for one ranging in price from about £4 to £5.

Main meals can be purchased for about £8 (or for about £6 as lighter bites) while burgers, baguettes and jacket potatoes are only about £5.

Desserts range from roughly £3 to £5 and the mini dessert and hot drink combo we enjoyed was only £4.

The pub also has some fantastic offers which run throughout the week. Two steaks and a bottle of wine can be purchased for just £25 on Fridays and Saturdays between 6pm and 9pm, for example, and between Monday and Thursday from 6pm to 9pm two specials from the board can be enjoyed for just £10.

Summary

Written on its website and in the pub, The Douglas Bader’s strap line is ‘Don’t fly past, drop in’ and, if you’re in the area and looking for a traditional, friendly pub, I would definitely urge you to do just this.

With large portions, home-made options and friendly and welcoming staff, the pub is ideal for friends and families who are looking for the location for an informal get together.

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