Our food reviewer Mark Heath and his wife Liz visited The Dog, in Norton near Bury St Edmunds, for a Saturday night dinner. Here's what they made of it... 

Ipswich Star: The Dog in Norton is pretty as a pictureThe Dog in Norton is pretty as a picture (Image: Mark Heath)
Gandhi told us that the secret of life is to know oneself. Now, Mahatma knew his stuff and far be it from me to argue with that, but on top of those wise words, I reckon you also need a few key contacts and places for a happy existence.

A trustworthy mechanic. A reliable plumber. A brilliant butcher. A creative accountant. A better half willing to put up with your myriad of flaws and tolerate you on a daily basis.

And, friends, a good pub. They are one of life's greatest, yet simplest pleasures - knowing you have a quality watering hole you can pop into for a quick pint or some good grub is very warming wisdom.

Thankfully, we're blessed with plenty of top tier boozers in Suffolk, from the likes of uber-foodie destinations The Unruly Pig, The Brewers in Rattlesden and The Peacock in Chelsworth to your salt of the earth boltholes where the beer is good and conversation lively.

Ipswich Star: The interior at the Dog in Norton - wooden floors and exposed timbersThe interior at the Dog in Norton - wooden floors and exposed timbers (Image: Mark Heath)
For us, the Norton Dog has always been more of the latter - a beautiful, welcoming pub with a brilliant beer garden in the summer and a cosy fire in the winter, perfect for those spur of the moment pints or quick but quality classic pub meals like burgers or fish and chips.

But, as we discovered on our recent visit, The Dog is also much more than that.

We booked for an early Saturday dinner, arriving at 6pm to find a decent smattering of guests already enjoying the fare.

As we ate, a steady stream of folks came through the doors, many chancing their arms without a booking. My advice - make sure you book. The Dog is a popular place.

Before we get to the food, a note on our surroundings. The Dog is an idyllic country pub, all wooden floors and exposed timber beams, fireplaces and horse brasses.

The exterior is pretty as a picture in summer, flowers and hanging baskets aplenty, and their beer garden is a cracker, offering private tables tucked away in little bays.

READ MORE: Mark Heath's favourite places to eat in Suffolk

We were there for a serious feed though, and ordered up a couple of pints of Peroni (£6.50 each) while we chose our weapons.

On top of its normal menu, The Dog offers a large gluten-free range boasting 17 choices - very good indeed - and a specials board which is always changing and very much worth a look.

Ipswich Star: Make sure you check the specials board!Make sure you check the specials board! (Image: Mark Heath)
We both went with that specials board for our starters - I'm a sucker for a scotch egg (£7), while Liz bravely ordered the salt and pepper squid (£7.50).

I say bravely because I'm always wary of straying away from 'classics' in a pub - pies and burgers are one thing, but seafood and pasta are often very much another, as we've found out through bitter experience.

But, given we were there to test The Dog's foodie credentials, squid was the perfect dish - so good when done right, but far more likely to be done wrong.

Ipswich Star: The salt and pepper squid starter at The Dog in NortonThe salt and pepper squid starter at The Dog in Norton (Image: Liz Heath)
Happily, I can report The Dog aced this test. The squid was crunchy and well-seasoned on the outside and lovely and meaty on the inside - no chewy or greasy issues here. The sweet chilli dipping sauce worked well, as you'd expect.

My scotch egg was good too. Cooked so the yolk was still runny, with a crispy coating and some absolutely cracking home-made tomato chutney which really lifted the dish. I would have liked my salad to be dressed, but other than that, a fine introduction to the meal.

Next up, the main events. Liz again went with the specials board, opting for the pan-roasted chicken (£17.50), while I wanted to continue our examination of more foodie-style dishes and ordered up the barbecued rump of Suffolk lamb (£22).

Ipswich Star: My scotch egg starter at The Dog in NortonMy scotch egg starter at The Dog in Norton (Image: Mark Heath)
Liz's first, and this was the dish of the night. Superbly-cooked chicken, served with seasonal veg, a big hunk of dauphinoise potato, plus bacon, mushrooms and baby onion in a red wine sauce.

This blew our socks off. It looked great - very Insta-friendly - and ate even better, all brought together by a sauce which was so deep and rich it made one feel good about life. A cracking dish, one a level above 'normal' pub fare and very much flirting with gastro-pub goodness.

My lamb was also very impressive. Lovely slices of meat, cooked to a perfect pink, with just the right amount of smokiness from the barbecue.

Ipswich Star: The pan-roasted chicken breast special at The Dog in NortonThe pan-roasted chicken breast special at The Dog in Norton (Image: Liz Heath)
It sat atop a foundation of seasonal veg and samphire - the latter really adding a salty, fresh crunch to proceedings - while a base of bubble and squeak brought more texture and depth of flavour. I would have liked more sauce in a pot to add as I saw fit, but again I'm picking hairs.

These were two very good dishes, which way exceeded our expectations. We already knew The Dog does pub classics well, but this was so much more.

Ipswich Star: The barbecued lamb main at The Dog in NortonThe barbecued lamb main at The Dog in Norton (Image: Mark Heath)
Onto desserts then, and again the gluten-free range was impressive - seven of the eight options boasted a GF label.

All of the Dog's desserts are homemade, and my eyes were drawn to the Nutella cheesecake (£8), while Liz opted for her favourite sticky toffee pudding (£8) - if it's on a menu, she will order it.

And it was a fine example of the genre - a goodly portion, dripping in butterscotch sauce and with a happily-melting honeycomb ice-cream perched atop it. The sponge was light, the sauce sticky and sweet. Super.

Ipswich Star: The sticky toffee pudding at The Dog in NortonThe sticky toffee pudding at The Dog in Norton (Image: Liz Heath)
My cheesecake, though tasty, was perhaps the one dish which missed the mark for me. It looked great and I applaud the idea, but it was just too rich for my tastes. Half the portion would have sufficed.

Overall though, we left The Dog with the sort of warm glow you only get from a good meal.

A few final notes. The service was enthusiastic, warm and friendly, while the atmosphere was relaxed, yet busy and buzzing - in a good way.

Our food far exceeded what you'd expect of traditional pub fare and, while expensive at £96, was well worth the outlay.

Ipswich Star: The Nutella cheescake at The Dog in Norton - very rich!The Nutella cheescake at The Dog in Norton - very rich! (Image: Mark Heath)
You could also eat well for a fraction of that price - our drinks totalled £26, for example, while mains start at £14.

Good pubs which do everything well - from setting to beer to food - are hard to find.

We've found a very good one in The Dog.

I'm told new season menus are days away. So now's a good time for you to find it too.