Restaurant review, The Butt and Oyster, Chelmondiston: “Solid pub cooking”

Prawn, samphire and spinach curry.

Prawn, samphire and spinach curry. - Credit: Archant

We checked out this popular riverside pub.

Chicken and halloumi burger with harissa mayonnaise.

Chicken and halloumi burger with harissa mayonnaise. - Credit: Archant


Growing up, Sunday afternoons often consisted of long walks with the family dog, ending at a pub. One of my family’s favourites was this ancient inn, perched on the River Orwell. I can’t say I remember the food all that well, but I do recall there was a house along our walking route that had a gigantic St Bernard dog who I became very fond of and looked out for every time we ended up in this part of the world.

I returned this week with husband in tow. The rain beating at our ankles, we dashed in out of the cold to find a cosy, proper Suffolk pub with regulars drinking and laughing around the bar, and friends sharing platters of smoked fish.

While most of the main menu consists of ‘something with chips’ (and some superfood salads) the specials boards had something a bit more interesting to offer.

Lemon and lime cheesecake.

Lemon and lime cheesecake. - Credit: Archant

After an enormous basket of local bread with rapeseed oil and vinegar and a chunky briny tapenade, we cracked into our starters. A thick, chunky smoked mackerel pate, packed with ripped shreds of fish, bound in a creamy but light and lactic dressing that kept it from being heavy. I wanted to see how well the kitchen balanced the vanilla and cauliflower puree that came with my scallops and bacon. And the answer was, very well. They’d used just enough to add a subtle buttery note. But the spice was lost when paired with the bacon. The scallops were fat, plump and cooked bang-on.

Mr Jarvis raved about his burger, which piled high chicken breast, squeaky halloumi and salad, with harissa mayo served on the side (a nice touch – I hate too much mayo in a burger). It came with crispy chips and slid down a treat. From the specials board I went for shellfish again, this time a Malaysian prawn curry with samphire and spinach. Samphire isn’t yet in season so it was surprising to see it being used. However, it brought texture, crunch and a brackish touch of salt to what was a really very good curry. Flecked with fresh herbs and slices of red chilli, it was perfectly layered, with each bite bringing heat, then sweetness and a lick of citrus. There were loads of prawns (nicely cooked) in the generous bowl of sauce. And the spinach hadn’t reduced to mush. My only negative is the presentation. It looked lovely with the rice in a skillet and the sauce in a rustic bowl, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to eat. I had to ask for a spoon to decant the sauce into the rice.

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To finish, from the list of homemade classic puds, I had to go for the Baileys crème brulee, which was delightfully silky smooth, with a burnished, thin crackling top. It didn’t need the shop-bought wafer straw biscuits though. And on the other side of the table was a massive wedge of mousse-like lemon and lime cheesecake – the fluffy filling sitting on a thick chocolate biscuit base. It defeated my other half, but definitely put a smile on his face – as did most of the meal.

This is good, solid pub cooking.

Scallops with bacon and cauliflower and vanilla puree.

Scallops with bacon and cauliflower and vanilla puree. - Credit: Archant


It was nice to see real ale (from Adnams) being tapped right off the barrel. There was a usual pint of Ghost Ship for my Mr, and I stuck to an Appletiser. Continental lagers feature on the pumps. And there’s a concise wine list as well.

Rustic smoked mackerel pate with salad and fresh bread.

Rustic smoked mackerel pate with salad and fresh bread. - Credit: Archant


It was a quiet weekday evening, but the pub filled out more as the night rolled on and it was great to see a mixture of both diners and drinkers. It’s clear to see the pub is well-used by locals. The location is fabulous, literally right on the river. And it was quite atmospheric sitting in the ancient building as the rain lashed through the dark at the windows. There’s a tasteful seafaring theme running through the bar and dining areas which I thought was rather cute.


The lady who served us was nice and helpful. It was very evident the younger members of staff who waited on us had recently gone through training – lots of ‘sirs’ and ‘madams’ so it’s clear they take customer service seriously. The young guy who cleared our plates was trying very hard and was ever so sweet.


I can’t speak for the gents, but the ladies’ toilets were spotlessly clean and smelled fresh too. There were deliciously scented soaps and hand lotions which was a nice touch for a pub.


The car park at the back was quite crowded but we managed to grab a space. A short walk up the road is a public car park that only charges a small fee.


The bill for bread, drinks and three courses for two came to just over £65.


The prawn curry was delicious. The kitchen had judged the flavours perfectly and the taste built, layer after layer, in my mouth. They might want to rethink the out of season samphire though.


We both left the pub full and happy. Service was spot-on, and the food, although not fancy in any way, really hit the spot and couldn’t be faulted for what it was – proper pub fare.

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