Review: The White Lion Aldeburgh

The White Lion, Aldeburgh

The White Lion, Aldeburgh - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis explores a spot that’s perfect for family dining

Summer is a time when families feel the pinch. Paying for activity clubs, extra childcare and for day trips out with the kids means there is often less cash to go around.

This is why, if you do decide to eat out this summer, you’ll want to be sure your money is well spent.

I’d been assured that The White Lion was a brilliant place for families to eat. Sure, what’s not to like? It is positioned as close as you can get to the beautiful pebbly beach, and there are a bunch of super-talented chefs in the kitchen.

We popped by on a Monday evening and found the brasserie pleasantly buzzing for an early weekday night, filled with a real mixture of clientele from families, like us, to couples having a soiree and groups of friends sharing drinks at the bar.

The brasserie is smart without being pretentious. Soft hanging lighting, gentle grey paintwork, and sparse décor, with a little jazz in the background making for an instantly relaxing setting.

At the table our children Ella, 8, and Ethan, 6, were quickly handed colouring sheets to keep them occupied as we browsed the menu. I ordered a cool glass of Walker Bay rose from South Africa - I’d already spotted what I wanted to eat, you see, and knew the strawberry and vanilla scented wine, with acidity and a dash of lingering pepper, would be the perfect partner to my meal.

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My husband had Ghost Ship because he loves the stuff.

A generous basket of homemade bread soon made its way to our table with sticky balsamic and fruity olive oil.

Starters included good vegetarian options such as goat’s cheese panna cotta with pickled beetroot and ham hock ballotine with mustard celeriac remoulade, watercress and baby pickle salad.

I always have a hankering for prawns in the summer months and could eat them day in day out quite happily so I opted to begin with the tempura king prawns with guacamole and chilli and pineapple salsa.

The prawns weren’t really tempura (in a cornflour batter) and were simply battered. Not that it really mattered. They were seasoned very well, the batter was crisp and tasty and I loved the sweet/hot addition of the salsa, which brought additional texture and interest to the plate. Although the guacamole was good, and had a nice hint of zing and coriander, I didn’t really get it with the prawns – but that’s just me.

Mr Jarvis was more than happy with his layered organic chicken terrine which was balanced beautifully with an array of salty, crispy, fresh flavours. Garlic and parmesan mayonnaise, baby gem, anchovies and focaccia crisp all added something to the dish.

Ethan copied his dad and had the terrine from the children’s menu, albeit a less garnished version to suit smaller palettes. He liked the meatiness and the allium flavours that came through.

While Ella followed suit with me having prawns in a cocktail, served in her very own little pail. There were plenty in there and it took her a good while to get through them.

Main courses are plentiful, again, with several options for veggies, like caramelised shallot tart (which even I was tempted by), gnocchi, and a butternut squash pasta dish all making it onto the menu.

For meat eaters there’s steak frites, or Dingley Dell pork chop, Proctor’s sausages, roast chump of lamb and confit Gressingham duck leg. And, being by the sea, you can always expect to find exceptional seafood here.

Ella and Ethan were over the moon with their child-sized fish and chips. The fish was, quote, juicy. And the chips were just the right side of crisp and fluffy. We all tried the batter which had a lip-smackingly savoury flavour, encasing the fish in a gorgeous edible blanket.

Over the table there was an equally juicy burger of epic proportions with garnishes that included a not too fiery wasabi mayonnaise – it got a big thumbs up.

And I ploughed through summer on a plate. My soft, yielding roast hake was served on a huge bed of greens and leeks with a whoosh of pea puree, charred asparagus, and a deeply rich, utterly irresistible prawn butter that tied the whole thing together. It was addictive.

We never forgo pudding, we’re much too greedy for that.

Ethan, who more often than not prefers to eat his main course very very slowly, continuing to do so as we eat dessert, decided he would like a pud too. He had a gigantic banana split from the children’s menu – well that’s one way to make them eat fruit!

Served with flair it came adorned with sprinkles, fresh raspberry and chocolate sauce, ice cream, cream and all that jazz. He was silenced. There wasn’t much left after he got tucking in.

Ella, without fail, always has a brownie when we eat out so it didn’t come as a surprise when she plumped for this from the children’s menu. It was a good portion and came with ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was also marbled – what a novelty.

She found the brownie a little bit too dark for her taste, but I swiped some from her plate and it was just gorgeous and clearly made with the best quality chocolate.

Hubby had chocolate torte with honeycomb ice cream which was, again, very dark. It had a smoky depth and finesse that can only be achieved by using excellent ingredients.

For me, the pieces de resistance of my meal was dessert. I have got a sweet tooth. I ordered the passion fruit parfait. Passion fruit can end up tasting artificial when used in cakes and puddings but the zingy, almost fizzy tropical essence of the wrinkly purple fruit wasn’t lost here. It shone through and danced on my tongue. Underneath was a thick and sherbetty lime curd. And to top it off there were macarons filled with more curd and a white chocolate buttercream. They looked perfect – as if they’d been flown in from a dainty French patisserie (although they are made at the restaurant by the talented pastry chef).

We enjoyed every aspect of eating as a family at The White Lion. The kids were made to feel welcome. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff. And the food was a cut above. I’m always surprised and disappointed when decent restaurants compromise on the quality of their offerings for younger diners (who hasn’t eaten a beautiful dinner out while their children are fed frozen chicken nuggets?), so it’s nice to know there are places that exist in Suffolk, where little people can eat as well as their parents.

Go give it a go for yourselves.