Review, The Freston Boot: 'Destined to be one of the best dining pubs in Suffolk'
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
Watch out gastropubs of Suffolk – there’s a new kid in town. OK, so it’s not THAT new, but bear with.
The Boot at Freston, named one of the top pubs in the world according to Tripadvisor this summer, has just taken on a new head chef, seeking to elevate the offering even further.
Found on the outskirts of Ipswich, just beyond Suffolk Food Hall, The Boot boasts a huge garden with smallholding, private dining lodge, a smokehouse. Big plans are afoot for 2022, but for the time being the most thrilling news is the addition of exec chef Louis Andrews.
Cut from the same cloth as award-winners such as The Unruly Pig’s Dave Wall (who, incidentally he worked with for a couple of years), Louis left school at 14, joining the Milsom group as a KP at Le Talbooth- where he could get stuck in to learning ‘proper’ cooking.
Having worked at other venues for the group, and for Milsom alumni Tom Bushell at The Marquis in Upper Layham near Hadleigh, Louis then set his sights on London, taking a position with Tom Kerridge at his eatery in Trafalgar Square.
Talking to the chef, his passion for his vocation is clear. He’s been working 100-hour weeks since joining The Boot in October, personally seeing off every plate of food in a feat of dedication he says is above and beyond, but essential in establishing the pub as somewhere that’s serious about setting out its stall in the foodie arena.
Louis has built a solid team (Largely of former colleagues) quite quickly - no mean feat at a time when chefs are rare as flying pigs. And the kitchen is gradually being built to his spec.
- 1 New store opens in California fulfilling owner's dream
- 2 Face masks to be compulsory in shops and public transport, PM announces
- 3 Thousands of cigarettes seized after HMRC officers raid Ipswich stores
- 4 Gambling addict stole £25k from elderly woman she befriended
- 5 Pensioner who was racially abusive has jail sentence cut
- 6 Online shoppers head to Ipswich for big brands like Primark
- 7 Ipswich man charged with string of motoring offences
- 8 Could American fast food chain Wendy's open a Suffolk restaurant next year?
- 9 Jailed in Suffolk: The criminals put behind bars this week
- 10 Van driver jailed after A12 crash left motorist with life-changing injuries
Despite talking confidently about his food, Louis is still rather modest – saying he hopes next year the pub will be where he wants it to be.
But, having had a sample, I think what he’s achieved in such a short spell is phenomenal.
Step one begins with sourcing the best raw ingredients, from Dingley Dell pork, to Heathers beef (reared and matured for the pub over at Copdock), eggs from the pub’s own hens, and vegetables from the garden.
There’s little to no waste (Louis is even making ketchup from the gherkin pickling liquor). And everything is made in-house – from sourdough bread, to 12 flavours of ice cream.
Step two is technique. Schooled in traditional, time-honoured methods, and with all the classics up his sleeve, Louis ensures the utmost love and attention goes into every plate as he designs it. A bowl of prawn and crayfish pasta with sweet chilli sauce, for example, starts with a slow-cooked shellfish bisque, with the addition of a reduction of heritage tomatoes.
Step three in the success of the pub is Louis’ playful, thoughtful touches. Be it a sprinkle of popping candy, a sparse peppering of micro herbs, or a few toasted seeds – flavour is paramount.
Visitors to The Boot can look forward to trying chef’s almightily sized burger, which he says is modelled on a Big Mac. And, in coming weeks, his own take on a Snickers bar.
We arrive to try dishes from the new menu on what’s probably the coldest night of the tail end of 2021 so far.
There’s a serenity in driving away from the Orwell Bridge under the cloak of darkness – the bobbing lights of nearby boats in the distance.
Climbing the little hill that leads to the hamlet of Freston, The Boot, with its flickering lanterns on the doorstep, is a welcome sight.
On first glimpse as we enter, I’m so pleased to find myself in a proper Suffolk pub. What do I mean by that? Well, it hasn’t been slapped with Farrow & Ball and chintz. There’s a place for that look, and I appreciate it, but I do love the timelessness and simplicity of a bare walled inn, with tiled floors, exposed bricks, beams and toasty wood burners. It absolutely feels like the kind of place you can dip into with your pooch and muddy boots after a bracing riverside walk.
The bar is comfortably full with more than a dozen cask and keg ales to choose from, both local and sourced from elsewhere in the UK. Another sign of a good pub in my book.
We take a seat by the wood burner with a pint of mellow Ay Up pale ale from Yorkshire, all malty and velvety smooth, for him, and an uncharacteristically savoury, minerally French Viognier for me, with just a blush of stone fruit and vanilla.
The procession of food begins. Louis has put together a tasting menu for us, so for reader purposes a starter will set you back around £8, main course £15 to £17 (more for steak), and puds £7.50.
To begin, in what I have to say is a striking bit of tableware, is a crisp cauliflower bhaji, with pops of nigella and sesame seeds, lemony hits from micro coriander, pickled cucumber and onion, coconut yoghurt and mango chutney. It’s delicious. Sweet, a hum of spice, salty, savoury – everything you could want from classic Indian street food. I could eat this over and over again.
Next is a silky bowl of pasta, layered with tender crayfish and prawns, bound in a sweet chilli sauce of immense depth, with slivers of sweet pepper and a lemon crumb. It’s a flavoursome triumph.
As is the pub’s take on a duck taco (from the school of Milsom), which sees shredded duck turned in sticky hoi sin, and served with mustardy kohlrabi (an underused winter veg), dressed frisee leaves, nigella seeds, and a shard of poppadom. This puts a smile on both our faces – we've eaten this dish all over East Anglia at restaurants owned by Milsom or headed up by the group’s former chefs, and it always sparks a touch of nostalgia.
Mr J declares the blue cheese and wild mushroom mac and cheese the best he’s ever had – which rather dampens my sails having been told just the night before my own version was “epic”. But he’s right. It’s decadent, gooey and quite mellow with the blue cheese, which is matched with bosky hints of truffle. Fresh tarragon leaves elevate the taste.
You surely can’t go wrong if you use Dingley Dell pork as a starting point? Our final savoury plate is a round of slow-cooked belly, with a thin, crisp layer of crackle, and a kiss of smoke from a spell on the kitchen’s barbecue. This fine piece of meat could carry the plate alone, but it comes inky dark black pudding mash (Louis hasn’t skimped on the pudding), kale, and honey roasted heritage carrots. I’m not sure about the sharp cider vinegar and mustard cream sauce, which is a bit too lip-puckering for my palate, but my husband wants to take the rest of the jug home in the car.
Our first dessert is a refreshing wedge of chargrilled caramelised pineapple with homemade coconut sorbet, dehydrated pineapple bites (slightly addictive), toasted almond and coconut, and lime zest. Louis’ plated version of a pina colada. I like how it’s not oversweet. Sometimes you just want something light and bright at the end of a meal, and this is perfect – especially if you’re watching your waistline.
Oh the irony of the statement above, because I get completely stuck in (excuse the pun) to a round of squidgy, fudgy sticky toffee pudding, glazed with sauce, and finished with custard, homemade ice cream, a ginger-infused brandy snap, and surprise nuggets of popping candy. It has me grinning from ear to ear.
Still there is more.
A sophisticated-looking cheese board of Black Bomber, Baron Bigod and Binham Blue, dressed with shavings of celery, fig chutney, pickled walnuts, truffle honey and posh crackers. Yum.
Then. Fit to bursting. A plate of homemade chocolates arrives for each of us. I’m a bit of a fudge nut, and can say the pub’s pecan and chocolate variety is one of the best I’ve eaten for a very long time. It’s not cloying or too sucrosy, and has a properly toothsome texture. As for the coconut truffle....
We head back into the cold night, sated, and feeling like we’ve stumbled upon a future frontrunner in our food and drink awards – maybe even national accolades. A must-visit.