Review: The Sibton White Horse Inn

Sibton White Horse Inn

Sibton White Horse Inn - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis samples the Sibton White Horse Inn.

Setting

Sibton is a teeny little hamlet close to both Yoxford and Peasonhall. The area is incredibly popular for its beautiful scenery, wildlife and close proximity to Suffolk’s stunning heritage coast.

Interior

Neil and Gill Mason must have one of the most inviting pubs in the county. Throwing open the doors on a cool spring evening we were surprised at the buzz and atmosphere. Locals and visitors mingled at the bar, chatting over a pint of real ale, and diners were spread across the atmospheric bar area and into the dining room.

Throughout, the pub has been kept as traditional as possible, with beams and brick galore, all softly lit by candles and roaring wood-burning stoves.

It’s a welcoming pub, and an evocative one too – a smugglers inn in the midst of the countryside.

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Outside is a thoughtfully designed garden with plenty of covered decked areas for outside dining – in fact, says Neil, throughout the summer chefs will be out in the open cooking local produce over open flames come rain or shine.

Food

Recently appointed head chef James Finch has stepped up to the hotplate.

Trained under the former head chef and with extensive experience from years at the Westleton Crown, James is keen to showcase his skills and to carry on the torch of his predecessor, who helped the inn to gain several accolades.

The menu sings from the Suffolk songsheet, with lots of local produce – meat in particular – to choose from.

Some of the vegetables are grown out back in the greenhouse and pub garden, with more to come as the weather warms-up.

We were tempted by a good portion of what was on offer. Starters included deep fried goat’s cheese fritters with cranberry compote and red onion salad, and chicken liver and brandy pate with homemade bread, sweet chilli jam and dressed leaves.

For the main attraction there was a special of local ham with spiced pineapple chutney, 28-day hung steak from Emmerdale Farm, and brie, courgette and cherry tomato tarte tatin with potato and fennel, dressed leaves and basil oil.

And as for the desserts...who can resist sticky toffee pudding or stem ginger crème brulee?

After much deliberation we opted for a pigeon, ham hock and pheasant egg terrine with carrot and celeriac coleslaw and beetroot dressing, as well as the crayfish and lemon risotto.

The terrine (chef’s ‘posh’ version of a gala pie without the pastry) was sublime, combining lots of delicious gamey flavours with the sweet earthiness of root vegetables. It was also very light, which is just what you’re looking for in a spring starter.

The risotto (a very good portion)was creamy and oozing but not cloying thanks to the touch of aromatic, acidic lemon. The crayfish were well cooked, and the pepper dressing on top gave a pleasing crunch and savoury flavour to a well-rounded plate of food.

Now, I urge, if you love pork, please book a table this weekend and try the pressed confit belly of Blythburgh pork. I haven’t had the meat for a long time, and this was pure, pure joy.

The belly, meltingly tender and soft, topped with crisp skin, was served with some of the stickiest, most unctuous braised red cabbage I’ve ever tasted. Combined with creamed leeks and a slightly sharp Aspalls Cyder sauce, it was a complete triumph and showed off the meat to it’s absolute best.

On the other side of the table, the special of venison pudding with sautéed cabbage, roasted carrots and parsnips and gravy was an absolute treat. The pudding casing was firm and not soggy in the slightest (no hint of a school dinner wobble) and the filling was packed to the brim with ever so juicy pieces of venison.

The sweet accompanying vegetables rounded off the plate perfectly and, as with the pork, the meat was showcased to its best here.

Never ones to turn down a pudding, we moved onto dessert – admittedly my favourite part of any meal.

My chocolate marquise was to die for. A globe of aerated mousse flavoured with good quality chocolate, was perched on top of a cherry soup with morello cherries.

The marquise, although rich in flavour, was so light and melted gently on the tongue, releasing the pure essence of chocolate. And the pairing with morello cherries, known for their tartness, was a clever one, ensuring that the pudding couldn’t be too creamy or overwhelming.

If something fresh takes your fancy, try my partner’s option of lemon and lime cheesecake. Giving a modern twist on a classic, the crisp base and zingy topping were in good proportion, and the St Clement’s sorbet and raspberry sauce cut through the cream, refreshing the palette.

We can’t wait to pay a return visit to the Sibton White Horse, new chef James is certainly making his mark and doing a great job in the kitchen.

Price

Around £50 for three courses for two without drinks.

In summary

A brilliant place for a country lunch or for supper when you want to impress, but don’t want to break the bank balance.

And there’s accommodation too (voted as some of the friendliest in Britain) if everyone in your party wants to enjoy a glass of wine.

Contact: The Sibton White Horse Inn, Halesworth Road, Sibton near Saxmundham, Suffolk, IP17 2JJ. Call 01728 660337. www.sibtonwhitehorseinn.co.uk

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