The Sail Loft Southwold

Duchess has a surprise for DonQui. It involves food and drink as she knows what he likes. It also appears to be something new, something DonQui has not yet tried.

Now DonQui is firmly of the option that the food in Suffolk is amongst the best to be had in England. Fresh and locally sourced, it may not have the international variety one can find in London but the quality and value for money are simply outstanding.

Being the sort of animal who constantly seeks out all the best pastures, DonQui had assumed that he had sampled all there was to be had close to his home paddock. Imagine his surprise, therefore,when Duchess leads him to a new place just beyond the sand dunes of the Southwold beach.

Sail Loft Southwold

Sail Loft in Southwold opened a few months ago, after renovating an old Italian restaurant that had been closed for years. DonQui’s initial impression is very positive.

Yes it had an inevitable nautical look but it was done in a very tasteful way without any fishing nets, faux pirate junk, nor any other kind of tourist tat. Instead there was lots of distressed, reclaimed wood which gave a modern and comfortably casual up-market atmosphere.

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DonQui’s mane stood up in delight when he saw the rather good wines and the seasonal specials on offer.

Sail Loft menu

Despite the nautical name this was not the sort of place for sea-side holiday fish and chips!

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A plate of crispy salt and pepper beef with carrot, radish and coriander serves as a shared starter. It is out of the ordinary and very tasty indeed. More than enough for two to share, it serves admirably to keep the wolf away while waiting for the main course and sipping on a most excellent Argentinian Malbec. The wine is a bit on the expensive side for Suffolk (although it would be a bargain in London) and DonQui appreciates the option of a glass, a carafe or a bottle.

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The main courses are roast partridge with root vegetables and a blueberry sauce, for DonQui; slow cooked Blythburgh pork belly with red cabbage, roast potatoes and cider gravy for Duchess. Both are exquisite. Autumn is game season and DonQui can rarely resist a game option when it is on the menu. Some game birds can, however, be a bit on the tough side. This one however is succulent and perfectly cooked. The sweetness of the blueberries in the sauce is a perfect counter-point to the full flavour of the game bird.

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Blythburgh pork, from just across the river from Southwold is becoming increasingly sought after and DonQui has seen it on menus in several London restaurants. How much better to have it close to home just a few miles from where the pigs are reared? It is ’melt in the mouth’ tender and full of delicious taste. The red cabbage, cooked with apple, is a perfect compliment. DonQui’s only criticism is that by serving the pork belly on top of the red cabbage the lovely cider gravy became lost in the cabbage. The latter does not need it, while the pork is a little on the dry side without. This is fixed when the chef provides a jug of extra gravy on request.

Desert is a shared ‘autumn fruit mess’ — a seasonal variant on Eton Mess (non Brits may have to look this up). Figs, apples and blackberries are the fruit and they worked brilliantly together with the cream and broken up meringue. DonQui tucks into it with such delight that he completely forgot about taking photos!

DonQui will most definitely be going back!

Chateaubriand for Two

DonQui felt like it was time to get reacquainted with some of his local food haunts. The Anchor in Walberswick is one of his favourites.

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Now Walberswick is an odd sort of place. Once a thriving small port it is now mostly a holiday destination which rather resembles the set of an Agatha Christie film. Known as “Notting Hill on Sea” for the number of film and TV celebrities who have taken up residence, it can be pretty crowded in summer but off-season it starts to regain its quiet charm again.

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Just across the Blythe river from Southwold the crossing to Walberswick is by ferry — if you can call it that.

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It is actually just a small boat. There is a foot bridge a bit further up river but if you want to go by car from Southwold to Walberswick you have to make a detour of over 8 miles to get around the Blythe.

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Named amongst the 50 best gastropubs in Britain, the Anchor has managed to maintain a good balance between top-end food and a relaxed country atmosphere. Prices are on the steep side but the food and drink are well above average.

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DonQui prefers sitting in the bar area when he can get a spot there. There is a table reserved for locals (on the right of the photo) which has caused some consternation amongst the many tourists. DonQui, however, supports the idea which is very similar to the Stammtisch found in many German Gasthäuser. Although not exactly a local himself, DonQui now has a standing invitation to join the table.

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On a warm day the back terrace is very nice and some weekends they have entertainment. There is, however, one side room by the toilets which if you sit there feels a bit as if you have been ‘Sent to Coventry’ (non British readers may need to look up the meaning).

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As the hectic summer season had come to an end DonQui manages to bag a table in the bar and settles down to enjoy the local Adnams’ Ghost Ship while contemplating the food options. It turns out to be “steak night” and what is more a chateaubriand is on offer.

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Chateaubriand is perhaps slightly out of fashion these days but DonQui always finds it a rather special treat. Cut from the centre of the beef filet it is cooked whole and then divided up between two of you. From local Red Poll beef (a Suffolk breed) the Anchor’s chateaubriand was perfectly cooked and served with both Béarnaise and peppercorn sauces on the side. Alongside were grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, carrots and a choice of dauphinoise potatoes or chips.

Washed down with an Argentinian Malbec it was a most enjoyable meal in a great atmosphere.