Head chef Dave Wall has had his culinary imagination piqued by foraging and local produce, creating an inventive offering that goes much further than pub grub, says Tessa Allingham
On a spring day in 2007, Dave Wall was sent foraging. Carl Shillingford, his then head chef at the Anchor Inn in Nayland, Suffolk, wanted wild garlic, some St George's mushrooms and wood sorrel.
"I didn't get it," Wall says. "Why waste time when you could ring a supplier?" Now head chef at the 90-cover roadside pub-restaurant just outside Woodbridge, he definitely gets it, and his own chefs will regularly bring bag-loads of wild garlic from spring forays into nearby Rendlesham Forest. He's not a wild food purist, but Wall believes in working with what's grown, reared or made in his immediate east Suffolk surroundings, in celebrating the shifting seasons, and in teaching his young brigade the location-rooted style of cooking that he learned from Shillingford.
d garlic, for instance, may appear fresh and in an oil alongside veal tartare, or puréed with spring lamb, morels and a fine-layered potato terrine, or stirred through a creamy risotto.
Food comes to around £26 per head, with owner Brendan Padfield describing the menu as ‘Britalian'. A deeply flavoursome hare ragù (all local game sells well) is stirred through a tangle of tagliatelle; and hand-rolled squid ink farfalle with cuttlefish, tomatoes, samphire and courgette curls make a striking plate.
"We want to have broad appeal," says Wall. "But I also want to straddle the idea of a pub and restaurant; for dishes sometimes to challenge." An oyster velouté comes with smoked eel, sea herbs and pickled apple, the latter cutting the richness of the shellfish (religiously from Pinney's of Orford) blended with cream and stock, while the eel and sea herbs support the oysters' natural salinity. "Some people struggle with the texture of oysters, so this is a gateway dish."
e bestseller is the Unruly burger. "Plenty of chefs put a burger on because they have to. I've made thousands, but I still take pride," Wall adds. The brioche is from Pump Street Bakery in Orford, and the meat (from butcher John Coleman's Essex herd) is minced in-house and served with Roquefort and onion jam. "We sear it at a high temperature then trim the sealed meat, so we can serve it pink. It increases our unit cost because we throw away 5%-10% of every joint, but it's worth it. A burger has to be pink!"
The dessert menu always includes a pannacotta, and a white chocolate tart appears in various guises, the sweetness cut with seasonal fruit. Wall's favourite, however, is a showstopper that pairs mousse, tuiles and a brownie made using 72% Madagascan chocolate, again from Pump Street ("it slashes into my margin, but it's worth it") with Campari-soaked confit blood orange, fresh segments, caramel and honeycomb.
The 6/7/5 à la carte is supported by regularly changing free-from and vegetarian menus, while a 2/2/2 set menu (£16 for two courses, £19 for three) changes most days.
As well as being an art-lover whose personal, eclectic collection fills the Unruly Pig's interior, Padfield is a wine enthusiast. A Meursault ‘Le Limozin' Domaine René Monnier (£57) and Carpineto's single vineyard Brunello di Montalcino (£55) sit alongside craft beers, £16 ‘wines of the month', non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip, locally brewed LA Brewery's Kombucha and homemade cordials.
Wall learned his craft in high-end restaurants and rural pubs like the Anchor. Working for the Gordon Ramsay Group at the Boxwood Café and Claridge's taught him the importance of ‘systems'. "I teach my young chefs to be good cooks, but also how to run an operation, construct a menu, work as a team." He applied the learning during four years as head chef at Le Talbooth, Dedham, and the skill made him an attractive candidate when Padfield was recruiting.
e Unruly Pig's early months were testing. Fire ripped through the building weeks after the March 2015 opening, closing it until December. "The decision to offer a 50% discount through January and February backfired," Wall recalls. "It was mental, 90-plus hours a week of pure graft." But the 10-strong brigade dug in, and accolades have been bestowed locally (the Unruly Pig is the Suffolk Food & Drink Awards Restaurant of the Year 2018) and nationally: the team won the front of house gong in this year's Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs Awards, and Wall was one of three finalists in the 2018 Craft Guild of Chefs Pub Restaurant Chef award.
From the menu
• Gin-cured trout, oyster mayonnaise, cavolo rapa, pickled cucumber £9.50
• Smoked haddock arancini, slow-cooked duck egg, spinach £6.95
• Lovage soup, apple, brioche croutons £7.50
• Partridge agnolotti, game broth, Parmesan, sage £16.50
• Risotto with morels, peas, asparagus, wild garlic £14.95
• Paccheri pasta, prawn, chorizo, ‘nduja, hispi cabbage £15.95
• Rum baba, pineapple, vanilla, caramel £7.95
• Salted caramel tart, milk purée, honeycomb £7.50
• Muscovado pannacotta with coffee, walnut £7.50
The Unruly Pig, Orford Road, Bromeswell, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 2PUwww.theunrulypig.co.uk
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