Review: You won’t find a warmer welcome than that on offer at The Galley, Woodbridge

Ugur Vatar is the owner and chef of The Galley Restaurant in Woodbridge.

Ugur Vatar is the owner and chef of The Galley Restaurant in Woodbridge.

Setting: Enjoying a commanding position on Market Hill in Woodbridge.

The Galley is unmissable in its striking livery of cheerful colours that have been so much a part of its brand since chef proprietor Ugur Vata brought his dining concept to Suffolk more than 20 years ago.

In the evening there is free on-street parking; during the day you can park for an hour but my advice would be to find a car park where you can stay for a couple of hours so as not to rush your lunch. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Interior

We visit The Galley on a balmy Monday evening and the restaurant windows are flung open allowing fresh air to flood through the place.


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There are three distinct areas at the restaurant. Tables on the ground floor are ideal for catching a quick bite or a light lunch; a basement used for wine tastings and other special events, and an upstairs dining room split into an open area and a private dining area.

We were shown to a window table upstairs overlooking Market Hill.

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The room is charming. The work of local artists adorn the walls which are crisscrossed with ancient timber beams. The tables are wooden, like the floor, and we sit on comfy leather chairs as we peruse the menu.

The food

Originally in Ipswich and now in Woodbridge, The Galley offers fresh food, sourced locally wherever possible, that gives Turkish cuisine a modern British twist. It is a unique concept and one that has helped make this one of Suffolk’s best loved restaurants for many years.

As well as the a la carte menu, there are daily specials and even a light lunch and early bird menu which offers three-courses for an incredible £11 per head. The Galley is also known for its lobsters, served as a classic thermidor, with herb and garlic or with a Champagne and dill sauce.

Tonight, however, we choose some local delights and Turkish classics.

For starters we reluctantly cast aside the Turkish-style Mezze, the pate and hand made Falafel in favour of, for me, Capel St Mary organic mushrooms in a herb and garlic hot pot, served in a light pastry case. Across the table, courgette flowers stuffed with feta cheese and herbs. Both were a delight. The mushrooms were dark and flavoursome while the courgette flowers, grown in Newbourne, were cooked in the lightest of batters and made a perfect summer starter. Having travelled from Felixstowe to dine at The Galley, we were pleased to realise that these ingredients had covered less miles to the plate than we had.

When it came to choosing a main, we were again spoilt for choice. Among the dishes were grilled sea bass with Jerez style sauce, crispy Bramfield pork belly with a hot and sour sauce, panfried Gressingham duck with a rich pomegrate sauce and Scottish Aberdeen Angus rib eyes with herb and garlic butter.

For me, however, the choice was easy. Fabulous Turkish lamb stew. It’s an old favourite combining melt-in-the-mouth lamb with courgettes, aubergine and tomatoes, topped with juicy pomegranate seeds and accompanied with a fresh salad and braised rice.

For my companion a Turkish dish from the specials menu, which also included lamb kebabs with homemade humus and warm Orford smoked makerel on a shredded beetroot salad and of course the lobster, but on this occasion he opted for new season Turkish peppers stuffed with beef and lamb mince, rice and herbs, which were outstanding and full of flavour.

And so to desserts and an impressive list of sweet treats assembled by the Galley chefs.

Again there are favourites and signature dishes, among them Ugur’s fabulous rich rice and vanilla pudding, hand churned Turkish delight ice cream and Galley style creme brulee.

On this occasion it was the specials that catch our imagination, a roasted pistachio and yoghurt parfait for me and a rich chocolate brioche bread and butter pudding for my dining partner. Both were a real indulgence and again packed with terrific flavours that brought our repast to a fitting conclusion.

Drink

To accompany our meals we opted for a glass of chilled Turkish rose, which was a refreshing accompaniment. It was a Monday night and we had the car so a bottle was out of the question. That didn’t stop us from having a look at the wine list though, which revealed an interesting choice of wines from both new and old worlds and with the option to try some unusual bottles from Ugur’s native Turkey and surrounding regions.

There were fine wines and sparkles for special occasions and a good deal of solid drinkable wine - in red, white and rose to choose from. We also thought having the wine cellar all around us in the restaurant a charming touch.

Price

With starters and desserts around the £6-£7 mark and mains ranging from £13 to nearly £22 for a whole lobster, The Galley charges a fair price for good quality food.

Ugur and his team have worked hard to make The Galley affordable during difficult times, and his three-course light lunch and early bird menu for £11 is fabulous value for money and reflects his desire to keep his regulars and new comers alike happy through austere times.

Summary

I have long been a fan of The Galley and what Ugur Vata has created in his restaurant. You won’t find a warmer welcome; if you are dining at The Galley then Ugur takes care of you. His personality is as big as the flavours he serves up and it literally feels like you are being welcomed into his home and you will be shown a warmth of hospitality rarely found.

It is also a restaurant for every occasion. On the night we visited one couple was celebrating a significant wedding anniversary, while on another table a group of friends who had moored their boat overnight at the marina were enjoying a meal and a welcome rest from their own galley food.

The Galley champions Suffolk, fresh food and big flavours and I think we are lucky that Ugur made his home here.

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