Restaurant review: The Dolphin Inn, Thorpeness
- Credit: Archant
We checked out this dog-friendly Suffolk coastal pub.
There was a palpable sense of elation in the air on the Sunday we visited this place. England had just comfortably beaten Sweden in the footie. It was the hottest day on record this year. And the streets were filled with happy (if very under-dressed) daytrippers.
We found the pub a little oasis in this pretty mock Tudor village. Tucked away a short walk from the famous boating lake, the colourful picket-fenced garden offered plenty of tables, a doggy drinks station and, thankfully, a shaded, covered area.
I thought the menu was a little stroke of genius. Waiting around for long stints is the last thing anyone wants in this heat, and executive chef Chris has devised a concise list of picknicky, easy to prepare, quick dishes which can be produced by the kitchen in a flash.
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We sampled three main courses. The ploughman’s came without the requisite browning slice of apple and stringy celery stick – but who really eats those anyway? Instead there was a neat pile of dressed salad leaves and a pot of sticky onion relish to go alongside a pretty massive wedge of Suffolk Shipcord cheese, Parma ham, sticky maple glazed chorizo, and a homemade, sun blush tomato flavour sausage roll, with flaky, golden pastry. It was ideal picking food, and more like a tapas plate than something pub revellers would have enjoyed in yesteryears (bread, cheese and pickle) but it certainly ticked all the spots. A little more bread wouldn’t have gone amiss though – because there really was a lot of cheese!
On the other side of the table was a soft rectangular flatbread, stuffed to bursting with grilled local minute steak, topped with a king prawn skewer, and served with buttered, seasoned new potatoes, a salad and a lemon and chilli pesto. The meat was still juicy and hadn’t been cooked to leather. And the prawns were a nice addition, but the star was that pesto, which perked everything up with a mellow hum of heat.
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It wasn’t until I finished eating my kiln smoked salmon salad and went to order desserts that I spotted the menu again and realised three elements were missing (broad beans, edamame beans and new potatoes). I was so hungry I hoovered it right up and had been stealing everyone else’s carbs. The salad (sans the above) consisted of an assortment of interesting leaves – curly, frizzy, buttery, in a rainbow of shades, with slivers of soft, sweet roasted fennel, bright red baby tomato halves, capers, and a rather humungous, succulent piece of oaky fish. It was my own stupid fault I didn’t get to eat the complete dish – had I realised sooner and gone back to the staff, I’m sure the forgotten elements would have been added sharpish.
In any case, the server at the till took off one of our puds. There was a no-nonsense, deep bowl of Eton mess – ripe berries, chewy meringue and thick cream. And a chewy-edged brownie, which was imbued with rich muscovado and coffee notes. Delicious. The only criticism here was for the ice cream – a little too icy and crystally rather than creamy.
I loved the fact there were two containers of chilled water at the bar to help yourself to. A welcome relief on such a hot day. There was a range of interesting beers, but it was an Adnams Ghost Ship kind of day.
I thought this was well planned out. I’ve never seen the ‘buzzer’ system in place in a freehouse before, only in larger chains. You ordered in the conservatory dining area, took your buzzer disc, and collected your food when it flashed. Our food was ready in around 10 minutes. Staff were then free to clear tables. Great idea.
There was a lovely feel to this place which felt like a proper family-friendly pub. Noone seemed hurried or fraught despite the heat. Dogs happily hid under the tables with their bowls. Some folk had a go at petanque under the tree. It was like being at a little village fete. Very nice.
Three main courses and three puds came to just over £60. It was about average for the area and didn’t seem excessively priced.
Is quite limited to the rear of the pub beside the Dolphin’s own shop. There’s a public car park close to the seafront south of the pub.
The pub is all on one level inside and the garden is large and spacious- you shouldn’t struggle.
We thought the ploughman’s was ideal for picking at during a hot, lazy Sunday with a pint.
The Dolphin has a lot going for it. Great location. Smiling staff. Decent food made using local ingredients. They also regularly have a roast and crumble offer on a Sunday which is well worth seeking out. We’d definitely recommend it if you find yourself in this part of the world over the summer.