Inside Suffolk’s Best Restaurant- The Unruly Pig

The kitchen team at The Unruly Pig Picture: Tim Bowden

The kitchen team at The Unruly Pig Picture: Tim Bowden - Credit: Tim Bowden Photography

The Unruly Pig fought off fierce competition to win in the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2018.

One of the dishes which won The Unruly Pig Best Restaurant in the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards

One of the dishes which won The Unruly Pig Best Restaurant in the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards 2018 - plancha grilled octopus with nduja Picture: Tim Bowden - Credit: Tim Bowden Photography

The 2018 Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards ceremony was an emotional event for Brendan Padfield - owner of Best Restaurant winner The Unruly Pig in Bromeswell.

It was the third year in a row his gastropub had faced scrutiny from judges, and the eatery was up against stiff competition – The Bildeston Crown, Tuddenham Mill and 1921.

“When the announcement came I genuinely couldn’t get out of my seat,” says Brendan, who reveals he is “enormously proud” of The Unruly Pig team for taking the prize.

“I can’t tell you how much I’m thrilled. I was very emotional on the night because of a number of things. Firstly because, selfishly, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Then because of our history and the fire…it’s not been an easy ride. I couldn’t be more proud of this guy Dave [head chef Dave Wall] in the kitchen who’s taken this leap of faith. Think of it objectively. He’s worked in some of the best kitchens in the country, and one of the best in East Anglia, then this mad lawyer comes along and says ‘do you want to come and work for me’.”

According to Brendan, judges praised the octopus starter, as well as singling out front of house manager Amy and the rest of the team for being friendly and offering a genuinely warm welcome. “Aside from our food, that friendly welcome is what we are known for. A chef came in for private dining upstairs recently and took me aside and said ‘there were four waves of hello when we arrived’. It’s very simple but it works.”

As for the food of Dave and his brigade, Brendan says there have been many highlights.

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“I’m a sucker for puddings and Dave’s pistachio and fig sponge with whisky crème anglaise hit every spot. He managed to raise it to a sophisticated level.

“Another stand out is his parfait – one of the few things we always have on the menu. The funny story there is when he was going to put duck liver parfait on the menu initially I said ‘hang on, does this fit the brief?’

“But I tried it and I’ve never had duck liver parfait like it in the world. I’ve seriously never had better. At the moment we have on quail liver with pink cooked quail breast and a little brioche bun – delicious.”

Dave is rightly proud of his team for playing their part in the win - especially as he wasn’t in the kitchen himself during the judges’ visit.

The chef, who revels in creating ‘Britalian’ dishes such as risottos, deep braises and fresh handmade pasta for the menu, using the best local and seasonal ingredients, says at the heart of his kitchen is ‘real cooking’.

“We’re not into water baths,” he laughs. “We do a lot of cooking on the bone, using things like butter, garlic and thyme. It makes a huge difference. It’s not very easy to be honest - it amplifies the difficulty level massively in the kitchen. The customer won’t know that, but they will taste it on the plate. My ethos is very much flavour first. It’s always at the forefront of the way we design any dish. There’s no micro cress or powders. With the Instagram generation we’ve got now, so many chefs think about how well something will photograph but getting 10,000 likes doesn’t mean you’ll be serving great food.”

When asked about his favourite dishes from his menus so far, Dave instantly picks out the octopus raved about by awards judges. “Since we’ve put it on it’s not come off the menu. At the moment it’s served with nduja and chorizo tortellini. We braise the octopus whole in a stock flavoured with chorizo and paprika, give it a gentle heat, then trim the flubbery part off. We trim it right back then plancha it and make a dressing from the ink and miso, which is not very English or Italian but gives the dish that umami flavour. It’s one of those dishes I’ve not changed that much (not many run more than a couple of months) but I really like it. We’ll always keep octopus in some form on the menu.”

From the current menu Dave recommends the local lamb rump, served over slowly cooked, very thinly rolled out lamb belly with peas, sweetbreads, potato terrine and wild garlic.

And, of course, there’s The Unruly Burger, with its stand-out Roquefort mayonnaise to tuck into too.

“It’s been our biggest seller for a long time and it’s an important part of our offering – I’d say it’s out ‘fish and chips’. Burgers are a huge part of the industry and the British public love them. Come and give it a try.”

Jon Matthhews of Best Restaurant sponsor and co-judge Bidfoodsays:

“In a fiercely competitive category, The Unruly Pig excelled in all the criteria that we, as judges set out. The food was of the highest standard coupled with outstanding customer service. The whole experience defined them as the overall winner. Best Restaurant in Suffolk? Absolutely. Bidfood are proud to sponsor and recognise a thoroughly deserving local business.”