Food reviewer and columnist Mark Heath shares his thoughts for February, including a trip to Suffolk's award-winning gastropub The Unruly Pig and other notes from the foodie scene....

If you do some research - as I have, via my old friend Google - you will learn that the term 'gastropub' was first coined back in 1991.

Then, David Eyre and Mike Belben took over the Eagle in Clerkenwell and first stated the aim of serving restaurant-quality food in a good old-fashioned pub setting.

In the years since, gastropubs have become ubiquitous. In fact, it's rare now to walk into a boozer which isn't trying to force feed you a tasting menu or tell you about its bespoke butters.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course - like any business, pubs have to move with the times or risk getting left behind. The days where peanuts and pints kept pubs profitable are long gone.

Ipswich Star: Suffolk's Unruly Pig has twice been voted the best gastropub in the UKSuffolk's Unruly Pig has twice been voted the best gastropub in the UK (Image: Mark Heath)
And in fairness, a good gastropub is a joy. Fortunately, in Suffolk, our gastropub cup runneth over.

In the latest itineration of the now-prestigious Estrella Damm Top 100 UK Gastropubs list, we can boast four - The Ufford Crown (85), The Brewers, Rattlesden (70), The Greyhound, Pettistree (66) and the top porker, The Unruly Pig (1).

The latter is a true Suffolk success story, having taken the crown for two out of the last three years, and in doing so seeing off some titans of the restaurant scene.

Tom Kerridge's incredible but very pricey two Michelin star The Hand & Flowers, for example, is only tenth on the list, while fellow celebrity chef Paul Ainsworth's The Mariners in Rock is deemed worthy of just the bronze medal.

Having been to both of the above eateries and a good portion of the rest of the Top 100 - some of it is work, honest - it seemed shameful that, as a Suffolk-based food lover/writer and aspiring bon vivant, I'd never darkened The Unruly Pig's door.

Thus, my better half and I drew up a culinary hitlist for 2024 and headed to Bromeswell this past Saturday, fully expecting to have our foodie flabbers gasted.

Ipswich Star: Tasty - our fried oyster at The Unruly PigTasty - our fried oyster at The Unruly Pig (Image: Mark Heath)
First impressions were great. The Unruly Pig looks tremendous inside and out, the sort of place where you instantly feel comfortable and at home.

In many ways the interior, with its classic woody pub vibes, well-spaced tables, high-backed booths and even a roaring fire right next to our dining spot, reminded me of the aforementioned Hand & Flowers.

The welcome from the front of house team was warm too, and we were delighted to find some dog treats and a bowl of water waiting for us at our table - the UP, unlike many high-end gastropubs, is genuinely dog friendly, and our boy got plenty of fuss.

Another lovely touch is the eclectic art all over the pub, apparently sourced from owner Brendan Padfield's personal collection. We had a Last Supper recreation featuring cast members of TV juggernaut The Sopranos next to us, which really caught the eye and got us talking.

Now, at this point, I fully expected to be moving on to the food and telling you how incredible it is.

In truth though, I'm afraid we were a little underwhelmed.

Firstly, let me say that it's obvious a huge amount of skill, care, creativity and flair goes into the cooking at The Unruly Pig.

We enjoyed our fried oyster with smoked chilli (£4.50), focaccia with various fancy butters (£4) - there's a whole column to be written on the preponderance of those these days - and the smoky little arancini bites (£7.50).

But we had the same issue with all our bigger plates - namely, they were just too rich for our tastes.

Ipswich Star: My agnolotti pasta starter looked great and was perfectly cooked - but very richMy agnolotti pasta starter looked great and was perfectly cooked - but very rich (Image: Liz Heath)
My agnolotti pasta starter (£13) was beautifully presented and cooked perfectly, but after the first couple of bites I was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of cheese and truffle.

The theme continued with our mains. Liz's sirloin steak (£38) looked cracking, but came with an incredibly rich bone marrow sauce and parmesan chips which were more akin to door stops - hulking rectangular blocks of fried potato fully loaded with grated parmesan.

Likewise, my Iberico pork (£31) was served the prettiest and most perfect of pinks, but came accompanied by a creamy mash laden with rich, fatty black pudding.

For us - and I appreciate everyone's palates are different - it was just all too much. We needed some acidity to cut through all that fatty richness, but there was precious little balance to be found.

Ipswich Star: Liz's steak main at The Unruly Pig. Again, it looked great - but again was very rich. Especially those hulking parmesan chips!Liz's steak main at The Unruly Pig. Again, it looked great - but again was very rich. Especially those hulking parmesan chips! (Image: Liz Heath)
Which was a shame, because I really, really wanted to love The Unruly Pig. 

The service was top tier - even down to taking some money off the bill because we'd left so much food - and the whole vibe otherwise was spot on.

Maybe we just ordered the wrong things on the wrong day. Or maybe my expectations, given our visits to other pubs below it on the top 100 list, were just too high. 

I'd love to know what you've made of your visits there - email me on and let me know.

Tasting notes

- Exciting news out of West Suffolk in recent days, with Bury St Edmunds-based Masterchef star and private chef Hannah Gregory announcing that she hopes to open her very own neighbourhood taqueria in the town.

Ipswich Star: Masterchef star Hannah Gregory is planning to open TACOR in Bury St Edmunds this yearMasterchef star Hannah Gregory is planning to open TACOR in Bury St Edmunds this year (Image: Hannah Gregory)
The plan is to launch TACOR in what was the Pizza Shed space behind The Beerhouse on Tayfen Road, just down the hill from the train station.

Having eaten Hannah's food before - her takeaways during Covid, themed around her travels, were the stuff of local legend - the idea of her opening a space serving tacos, her greatest passion, is compelling.

She's asking for help to get the project off the ground - follow her on Instagram at @wandersups for more details and check out her Kickstarter page. 

Hannah told me: "The menu will consist of a meat/fish/veg option and will change monthly and include dishes such as my signature chipotle and mole shortrib tacos, cochinita pibil tacos and coconut prawn tacos.

Ipswich Star: TACOR will offer a range of tacos - Hannah's greatest passionTACOR will offer a range of tacos - Hannah's greatest passion (Image: Hannah Gregory)

"Alongside this will be sides such as totopos and dips, the best Caesar salad and a monthly dessert special.

"I will also be offering seasonal market-led specials which will have some more ‘non-traditional’ dishes such as venison tacos and kimchi quesadillas. 

"Wherever possible I am looking to work with local suppliers, producers and growers and will be growing as many of the fresh chillies and herbs as possible within my kitchen garden, keeping food miles to a minimum."

She added: "Bury St Edmunds is fast becoming the food destination of East Anglia and prides itself on its independent food scene, something I am beyond keen to contribute to and support in its growth."

Get involved if you can! You can contact Hannah at

Ipswich Star: Justin Sharp and Pea Porridge retained their Michelin star for a fourth yearJustin Sharp and Pea Porridge retained their Michelin star for a fourth year (Image: Charlotte Bond)
- Sticking with Bury, I was delighted to see the town's excellent Pea Porridge retain its Michelin star on Monday. Congrats to Justin, Jurga and the whole team, richly deserved!

If you've never been, you really must. You'll struggle to find a better value Michelin star eatery in the country.

I had wondered if Lark may join it in the Suffolk star ranks after a sensational first year but, alas, no. They have the Bib Gourmand though, and next year could be the one!

Elsewhere in the region, it was great, too, to see Galton Blackiston's Morston Hall, on the north Norfolk coast, retain its star for a remarkable 25th year.

Ipswich Star: Galton Blackiston's Morston Hall is well worth a visit!Galton Blackiston's Morston Hall is well worth a visit! (Image: Archant)
A trip there is a real experience, with just a single seating at dinner serving the tasting menu, which changes daily. Galton tends to come round to each table and say hello pre-service too, which is a lovely touch.

In the other direction, just down the A14 in Cambridge, Midsummer House kept its two stars and Restaurant 22 retained its star.

Again, both are very much worthy of your custom, In fact, 22 was the best place we ate last year.