The Suffolk pub serving a gourmet Sunday lunch three days a week
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
What makes the perfect autumn/winter pub? Ideally a fire – its warmth being enjoyed by a contented dog. Definitely real ale, on pump, dropped off from the local brewery. And absolutely rib-sticking, lip-licking, rich, decadent food. I’m talking simmering braises of falling-apart beef, enveloped in pastry. Game pot roasts. Fudgy, toothsome desserts.
Somewhere you can experience all these things is at The Froize Inn at Chillesford, a short drive from the Suffolk coast.
At the hob is inimitable chef David Grimwood who I first encountered years ago, selling pheasant burgers (mighty fine they were too) from a street food van at Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival.
I share a mutual appreciation for proper, no-frills grub with David, and have enjoyed dining at The Froize with my family many times. There’s no proper set menu. Everything’s lined up on a hot plate, where David and his team stand, ready and waiting to serve.
It truly is a great pub. But, David says sadly, he nearly “jacked it all in” earlier this year, having been closed throughout all the lockdowns, not resurfacing until well after other hospitality venues had flung open their doors. It has been an opportunity though, to rise like a phoenix from the flames, and start anew.
“I turn 67 this year. My inner 40-year-old doesn’t like that very much. I’ve spent the majority of my 48 professional years now on hard kitchen floors. It’s hard work. I couldn’t do it [offer takeaways],” David says of the lockdown months.
“So we’ve come back in a different way. The Froize has changed. We’re no longer just food. The restaurant is at the heart of what we do, but it’s condensed. What I’m really excited about is we’ve started up a series of workshops and music events under our Folk at the Froize banner. I wanted to create a bit of magic - something to entice people to go out again.
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“There are loads of lovely people out there with tremendous skills they want to pass on. And by creating these little classes and putting on some food, we make a really good experience. A genuine experience.”
Those workshops began with a butter and cheese-making course, knife-making and stargazing – but have taken a turn towards nature. The pub, which is surrounded by countryside and has an enormous garden, is just the spot for enjoying the wilderness, and a whole series of events has been planned right through winter. This includes, coming up on November 14, Fieldfares and Redwings. Priced at £55 per person, arrive at 8.30am for refreshments, enjoy a morning session learning how to identify winter thrushes and other immigrant birds, and a two-course lunch follows.
The sessions have, says David, been a joy. It’s been wonderful, he adds, to see people enjoying themselves at the pub again – and not just because of the food.
As well as cooking, the chef’s other passion is music. More specifically folk music, which has been part of the pub for many years - and even more so in this newer version of The Froize.
“The gigs have been extraordinary,” David smiles. “We started Folk at the Froize five years ago and have become well-known on the circuit. Agents will get in touch with us now to let us know who’s on tour. It's a huge genre – from Americana, to old-fashioned rock, which is what I was weaned on.
“I know so many professional singers and songwriters out there who haven’t worked for 20 months and are desperate to get out and play!”
The next gigs are Edgelarks on November 7, and Green Matthews on December 18.
As for food, David says his Clubcard is the future. “When we re-opened I decided we would only open for Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes. But there may be the odd evening. Clubcard (free) members will get first dibs on tables, and on tickets for events. It’s a way for us here to avoid that horror of the no-show, which plagues our industry.
“Between Christmas and New year three years ago we had 60 no-shows in a week which is crippling. We're looking forward to putting on a pudding club, curry nights – those kinds of thing.”
David describes food at the Froize as “very rustic and hearty”.
“It’s a full hot table of delights from Britain and Europe. The kind of thing you’d find down a windy old lane in France. I don’t do pretty food. But I don’t think anybody beats me for flavour.
“It’s a feast. And we’re having fun with the food.”
All the meat cooked at the pub is local, including plenty of game. Fish comes in fresh from Mike at A Passion for Seafood and other local suppliers. And vegetables are grown on site by David’s youngest son in the many polytunnels on the grounds. In season, that’s anything from redcurrants and gooseberries, to dozens of varieties of tomatoes, beans, salad leaves, brassicas and more.
“Having spoken to so many customers, asking what they want, Sunday lunch is the thing they enjoy more than anything else,” David adds. “And we do that every day we’re open. We have everything. Fantastic Suffolk beef, beautiful Blythburgh pork...we usually have 10 dishes on each day. Always some fish. Game, such as our wonderful venison pie. And I get badgered for the devilled kidneys. We've been making them for years now and people still adore them.
“We have gluten-free and dairy-free options (just call in advance) and vegetarian dishes. Plus, plenty of vegetables of course.”
The only thing that IS on a menu is a list of puddings. Amazingly, the pub used to have 24 available at any one sitting. “It’s quite daunting isn’t it,” David smiles. “The take-up of dessert with our customers is around 80% so we think it’s worth going to town. We shall definitely continue with our sunken chocolate pudding, sherry trifle and sticky toffee.”
David says he’s proud they’ve managed to bring the pub back. “The places that survive now will be the ones that evolve and do something a bit special and unique. I love what I’ve created over the years. It’s a bit of a privilege to do this isn’t it?”
Find out more at froize.co.uk