Ipswich's Arboretum is a town centre treat
This is one gastro pub you want to return to again and again
Sandra Roberts enjoys several visits to one of Ipswich's best gastro pubs
When you find yourself eating out somewhere for the third time in four weeks, it’s a pretty good indication that the place in question is doing something right.But in this instance you don’t have to take just my word for it. The Arboretum, which served up fantastic food for a recent ‘girls’ night out, provided a delicious meal on my husband’s birthday and a terrific Easter treat for visiting relatives, is currently rated as one of Ipswich’s top restaurants on the Tripadvisor website.And on the evidence of my three recent visits, it’s throughly deserved.Situated at the top of the High Street, just a few hundred yards from Ipswich town centre and the arboretum after which it is named, it is less self-consciously ‘gastro pub’ than its country cousins. No low beams or inglenook fireplaces here. It’s a town pub decorated in low key bistro style with muted walls, soft lighting, a few scattered paintings and pictures and wooden tables garnished with the traditional wine bar accessories of candles stuck in empty wine bottles. There are no printed menus. Instead on one wall is a large blackboard listing that day’s lunch and dinner dishes. The menu changes frequently and on each visit, was significantly different from the previous time. The only dish out of the 10 or so on offer that survived was the house fish pie with creamy leeks.The menu makes for an absolutely mouthwatering read. There are few pub food cliches here. No fish and chips for example, in fact no chips at all. Instead, you are invited to choose from delights such as whole grilled sole with nutty butter and kale �13, wood pigeon cassoulet �12, or venison haunch steak with sweet and sour red cabbage, �14. My husband twice plumped for the Toulouse sausages and mash (�10), three juicy sausages served with the creamiest mash and a mound of butter kale. My favourite was the local muntjac steamed pudding. It’s difficult to describe just how delicious this was – chunks of melt in the mouth venison and a rich, tasty gravy held inside a perfect suet crust that was just the tiniest bit chewy and served with creamy mash and curly kale. Absolutely gorgeous!I also found myself plumping one evening for the locally bred Berkshire pork chop with apple sauce and black pudding – slightly unusual as I never normally choose pork when dining out, or indeed eating at home. However, like everything else it was delicious (in particular the black pudding) and I had no regrets!The starters are worth a mention too. My husband began one evening with the potted pork with soused courgettes. The pork came beautifully presented inside a tiny kilner jar and topped with a layer of butter. It was served with two thick slices of country style bread and a heap of sliced courgettes soaked in a delicious marinade.He also managed to make it to dessert twice, choosing bread and butter pudding each time. This is his favourite dessert of all time, so big praise for the delicately lemon-flavoured version which he said was one of the best he’d ever had. I’ve only managed pudding once, choosing the walnut tart one night. It was nice – a sweet pastry filled with a chewy, nutty mixure – but very sugary and possibly the only dish I wouldn’t choose again.So, how much does it all cost? Obviously it depends on what you have but I would say that �30 a head would get you a good two-course meal with coffee and a half bottle of wine (from a very decent and well-priced list), or if you’re in a hurry, �15 should buy a decent main course and a half of something on draught from the very extensive selection available. Whatever you choose, you almost certainly won’t be disappointed. As for me, well I can’t wait to go again. Wonder if I can make it four visits in five weeks?
The Arboretum, The High Street, Ipswich Tel: 01473 22177