Blythburgh: The White Hart

The pub is a focal point for the community in a way that all pubs should be. Outside is a beer garden with stunning views over the Blyth estuary, so if you bring your binoculars you could do a bit of birdwatching along with your pint.

There is certainly a superior quality of conversation at the White Hart. Or perhaps it was just the night we visited; at any rate, it required no great arts of eavesdropping to hear the gems coming from the next table. A party of four, who originated from Walthamstow, from what I could glean, first brought themselves to my attention with the line: “All your clothes were bought by your mother until you met me.”

Whether the speaker had taken on the mother's role, or managed to teach her spouse to shop for himself, was not clear. But it was not obvious that any miraculous sartorial transformation had taken effect.

The conversation, showing the disregard for logical progression that conversations often have, moved on to fruit. Another lady (the males of the party staying rather quiet), piped up with: “I eat kiwi fruit when they are squidgy”.

It was a line to put you off your dinner, but was outdone with: “I eat them when they are so soft that they can't stand up”. Having missed something in the middle, I was left unsure whether kiwi fruit were still the topic of conversation: I rather suspected they might have moved on to bananas.

Luckily at this point our food arrived, providing a distraction. A worthy distraction it was too. The White Hart does proper pub food, reasonably priced, with favourites like lasagne and sausage and mash livened up with a nice range of specials, which might include scallops to start and oven-baked trout with almonds or steak by way of mains.

The pub is a focal point for the community in a way that all pubs should be. There is a post office and shop in the grounds, opened seven years back in a derelict barn, giving villagers a replacement for the post office which had shut and winning praise from the Prince of Wales. And though there are plenty of holiday-makers and visitors in the restaurant, there is still a good crowd of locals round the bar.

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Outside is a beer garden with stunning views over the Blyth estuary, so if you bring your binoculars you could do a bit of birdwatching along with your pint.

Inside is a traditional bar, dating back to the 17th century and with nice wooden benches, plus a large restaurant area.

This is an Adnams pub, so the beer has not had too far to travel from nearby Southwold. I have had cheaper pints, however - Adnams bitter was £2.60, while Regatta and Broadside an eye-watering £2.90 and £2.95. We enjoyed a couple of nice pints of Regatta before realising how expensive it was, then switched to the equally good bitter.

Having skipped over starters, our mains, a steak and kidney pie and a Mediterranean vegetable pudding, were good, rib-sticking stuff. The pudding featured courgette in a herby tomato and onion sauce, in a thick suet pastry speckled with what might have been mustard seeds. It came with chips and vegetables, though new potatoes, salad and peas were also on offer.

Why peas were not categorised as vegetables was left unclear - we had nice fresh runner beans, carrots and leeks instead. The chips were pretty good too, chunky and cooked just right.

There was a bit of a tale to the steak and kidney pie. The Real Ale Drinker is a fish fan and had been tempted by the seafood platter and the baked trout, but had recently eaten an awe-inspiringly bad steak and kidney pie in a London pub: pallid pastry, meanly filled, and with a dreadful, reddish-brown, watery sauce.

His grief at the experience had barely diminished in the fortnight since. Most people would have steered well clear of the dish for some time afterwards, but he felt the need to exorcise his demons and create a happier memory. Luckily, this one did the trick. The pie dish was filled to the brim, with plenty of meat inside and a nice crust on top.

He did observe that it might have contained slightly more kidney, but it was not much of a complaint.

The population of Blythburgh must have a sweet tooth, if the desserts on offer at the White Hart are anything to go by. A list of proper puddings - spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding, jaffa pudding, lemon sponge, and apple and blackberry pie - would have been quite creditable on its own, but as well as ice-cream and cheese there was one of those multi-tiered display cabinets full of every kind of cake and gateau.

Being proper pudding people, we shared a sticky toffee and a spotted dick between us, with custard, of course. A bit more custard would not have gone amiss, but they were quite pleasing. We were certainly full to a point that threatened movement.

The squidgy fruit people had polished off their desserts and seemed stunned into silence, so we took that to be a good thing. As is the White Hart, even if the beer is a little deer.

t The White Hart, London Road, Blythburgh; 01502 478217

t Where is it? On the A12 at Blythburgh, near the A145 turn-off.

t Can I stay? Yes, there are four en suite rooms.

t Do I need to book? A good idea in the restaurant, especially at weekends.

t Vegetarian options? Yes, several.

t Is there disabled acess? There are no stairs in the pub though the toilets are not specifically adapted.

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