Food review: The pub garden at The Bell Inn in St Olaves is perfect for a sunny day
- Credit: Archant
A sunny afternoon leads us to a pub with a popular beer garden.
On a sunny day The Bell Inn at St Olaves is a popular spot. By the waterside, it has an extremely spacious green space filled with attractive picnic tables that are all well spread out. I've always driven past and thought it looked nice, but had never been until now. Surprisingly, despite the fact it's right on a busy road, sitting out there we couldn't hear any traffic noise - it seemed to just fade away in the sunshine. We grabbed a table and went in to order our food and drinks at the bar. It was casual service and we were given a table number - no fuss. When the waitress came out and shouted our number we raised our hands and the food was brought over. The menu is actually pretty extensive but it was clear the food was typical pub grub and for the most part likely bought in and/or frozen - no bad thing, but it won't be winning any prices for gourmet cooking. My friends Laura and Charly went for a baguette each served with coleslaw and salad garnish - both came with the baguette toasted to perfection, a nice surprise which gave it the ideal clash of textures. Laura selected the grilled bacon, brie and cranberry. The brie was slightly melted; again a pleasant addition and the ratios of all the elements were spot on. Similarly, Charly enjoyed her filling of Atlantic prawns in seafood sauce. The only bad word they had to say was about the salad. It was somewhat lacking and would've benefitted from a dressing - sadly the handful of shredded iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with raw red onion was left mostly untouched. All in all they were excellent baguettes and we can't say a bad word about them. I opted to try a main meal and selected the trio of vegetable sausages with creamy mash, garden peas and red onion gravy. I asked to swap out the mash for chips and they happily obliged. The three sausages were Quorn - not vegetable. If I was being particularly pernickety I would say they should've been described as vegetarian sausages on the menu to make it clear they were a meat substitute and not the kind of sausages made from potato and vegetables mashed together. Nonetheless they were cooked well and tasted very much like a brand of vegetarian sausage I've come across before. The gravy was inoffensive and plentiful, as were the peas. The chips were probably the star of the show, they were exceptionally good and everything a chip should be. The portions were all generous and it was the epitome of an average pub meal. It's hard to properly describe the food at The Bell - it's nothing to write home about, it is what it is but it's perfectly good quality and enjoyable enough. The only trouble being that it's not my kind of thing but then again I'm a massive food snob!
The pub has a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. We had a couple of halves of Heineken and a Malibu and coke.
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This is where The Bell really stands out - the beer garden is in a league of its own and sitting there looking at the River Waveney is definitely a really lovely way to spend an afternoon. Inside parts of the original 1520 building are still in place. It's old fashioned with low ceilings and beams, teacups hanging from the ceiling and it's really cute. There's a help-yourself area with cutlery and condiments for outdoor diners.
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The loos were a bit of a surprise - they seemed fairly new and were really lovely. The interiors were extremely light, modern and shiny - not at all what I was expecting!
Initially I thought this place was really cheap, it came to just over £35 for all of our meals and drinks. But when I was looking back and writing this review I noticed the baguettes were actually £7.50 each which does seem a little steep for what they were, the sausage and mash was £10.25 which is okay - but I know I can get better for less.
Inside wheelchair access may be a little difficult as it's old-fashioned and narrow but outside shouldn't be a problem.
Large, free on-site car park but I wouldn't be surprised if it filled up fast.
Easy to find as it's on a busy route but being on the river, with a big green space it's a bit of a special site.
The staff were smiley, sweet and inconspicuous - 10 out of 10.
The Bell Inn is a great choice for summer nights. While the location and ambiance outshine the food, it's more than acceptable fodder to accompany drinks. Sometimes it can be nice to return to something a little simpler like this place.
This is an independent review