It’s easy, as food editor, to be distracted by the big, shiny, shouty new restaurant openings. What’s harder, is tumbling upon those lesser-known gems. The kinds of places that are quietly tucked away (often in smaller villages) just doing their thing, getting on with the day-to-day...and doing a flipping good job.

These spots – the ones run often by incredibly small teams (sometimes just one person, or a couple), and usually with a lone chef in the kitchen, need our support more now than ever before, and I’m determined to shine a light on as many of them as I can. So, before I carry on, if you know of such a pub, restaurant or café - one that hides its light under a bushel, get in touch and tell me about it!

Last week my attention was brought to The Pakenham Fox near Bury St Edmunds, taken over a year ago. It had recently held a very successful beer festival, and was just what I was looking for. A good, honest, no-frills local – almost a unicorn in these days of staff shortages and cost rises.

I’ll be honest, my knowledge of Pakenham goes little beyond its mill (great flour by the way). But was we arrived in the early evening, I could see the appeal for walkers who often pass through the village. It’s quite a sweet place. Its main street lined with beautiful historic homes.

Painted Suffolk Pink, the pub was hard to miss, and on a Thursday night through the glow of the windows we could see already lots of people were inside. After abandoning the car in the car park, I took a little gaze into the beer garden. There is, apparently, seating for 400 outside, with far-reaching views over meadows (but it was too dark to see anything frankly). A marquee, we’re told, is being added so people can sit outside, but out of the elements, on colder, wetter days.

Inside, The Fox is your typical English pub. Nothing fancy. Just exposed brick and beam, country-style tables and chairs, chequered floors, and the gentle cacophony of chatter.

At the pumps we were happy to spy lots of local and interesting ales and lagers – changing regularly. On our visit, including nearby Artefact’s Coffee Stout, Kings by MIghty Oak, and Mauldons Suffolk Pride.

Mr J went for a gently malty Victoria Bitter from Earl Soham Brewery. I’d been distracted by the cocktail list, and a non-alcoholic mojito, which they actually made pretty well. Not too sweet. Just the right amount of tang.

Seating is split across various nooks and crannies, and we perched ourselves out of the way in a back room (Mr J gets embarrassed by me snapping food shots – especially if I have to call on him to provide lighting).

East Anglian Daily Times: Beer battered haddock and chips at The Pakenham FoxBeer battered haddock and chips at The Pakenham Fox (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

The menu is pub grub. But homemade pub grub at that. No starters per say, but a list of snacks, platters to share, and more substantial plates.

These range from crispy whitebait with homemade tartare sauce, to homemade mac and cheese with garlic ciabatta, Suffolk sausages and mash, and homemade chicken or vegetable curry – all hovering at around £13 or under.

I went with lots of other diners and chose The Fox’s homemade steak and ale pie. The debate rumbles on over whether stewed meat under pastry can be classed as a pie. While a properly encased pie IS the dream, there really is nothing wrong with this kind of arrangement. Especially when, as at The Fox, the pastry if puffy and crisp, and the filling is fork tender, rich and packed with flavour. Their version even had a jaunty little pastry fox on top! It came with a mountain of house-made triple-cooked chips which looked anaemic, but had just the right amount of crunch, peas, and roasted carrots and parsnips.

Opposite was a golden beer battered fillet of haddock, flaky and melting within, served with (again) loads of those chips, homemade tartare sauce and mushy peas. A respectable version of a pub classic, with not a dot of grease.

Puddings at The Fox aren’t homemade. I’m a dessert fiend so it was a slight let-down for me. But not everyone is as fussy as I am, and how could I blame them when the kitchen is a one-person band, and they’ve already put the homemade touch into the main courses?

East Anglian Daily Times: Chocolate orange pudding at The Pakenham FoxChocolate orange pudding at The Pakenham Fox (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Anyway, there was nothing wrong with our bought-in melt-in-the-middle chocolate orange pudding. It had a buttery orange taste, and hadn’t been nuked to destruction!

If you’re after good value, a decent beer, and filling, warming, familiar food, you won’t go far wrong here. Visit at lunchtime and explore the wonderful walking routes around the area.