Sibton: Food inspector gatecrashes birthday party

WHEN the mysterious stranger at table 13 started taking photographs of his food, it put a dampener on landlord Neil Mason’s birthday celebrations.

The boss of the White Horse Inn in Sibton, near Framlingham, was having “a few drinks” at a party with friends and family for his 50th last month when it became clear an AA restaurant inspector was in the building.

But the sobering experience ended with the best possible present when the pub was presented with its first ever AA rosette the following morning.

Mr Mason said he and his wife Gill had been waiting for the inspector for two years – and could not believe the night he chose to turn up.

“It was the big 5-0 so my wife invited a few friends round for supper and a few drinks to celebrate,” he explained.

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“But the evening altered when we realised we had an AA restaurant inspector at a table – and it was table 13 – picking his way through three courses, sticking his knife into potatoes and skewering them around to see if they fell off.

“He obviously didn’t say he was coming but it became obvious when he started taking photos and playing around with his food – not many customers take photos of their food.

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“So my attention was somewhat distracted from the celebrations. We had been waiting for a long time for the inspector to come and had given up. What a night for him to choose to come!”

The inspector was also staying at the inn so Mr and Mrs Mason had an anxious overnight wait to hear his verdict. But rather than a hangover, Mr Mason was handed an AA rosette for food while the inn received a four-star rating for its accomodation.

“We are absolutely delighted, over the moon,” he said.

“It’s probably the best birthday present I could have asked for and it’s a credit to everybody who works here.”

He paid tribute to the work of his 16-strong staff, including head chef Michael McMullan and sous chef James Finch.

Mr and Mrs Mason and their son Luke, 13, moved to Suffolk to run the pub five-and-a-half years ago. Previously, Mr Mason ran a design and print business in Nottinghamshire.

The inn was named Best Food Pub at the EADT Suffolk Food and Drink awards in 2008 and 2009. That double success meant it was not allowed to enter the 2010 contest.

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