The Bell Inn at Middleton is an undiscovered gem. I don't like to start my review posts with sentences like that very often. After my first visit to the Suffolk country pub on Saturday I could only think of things I absolutely loved about the experience - the unspoiled traditional feeling of the pub; the idyllic village setting; and the sprawling, simple beer garden - so it was definitely in need of sharing. I wouldn't dream of making you promise not to tell anyone, either. Once you've tasted the food, you'll want to tell people about it too.
It was a gorgeously sunny day on Saturday as we pulled into the pub's car park and took in the relaxing scene. People lounged on wooden benches and drank glistening pint glasses of Adnams' finest. Bright and bountiful hanging baskets of flowers adorned the pink, painted walls of the pub. Some leftover Jubilee bunting waved lazily in the breeze and a collection of quirky garden gnomes stood to attention at either side of the pub's doorway. Inside we found a friendly welcome and more telltale signs of a good British pub. Clean, simple wooden tables, no music, a few blackboards displaying the day's food specials and menus in chalk, and a lovely little Good Pub Guide 2012 "Value Pub of the Year" award taking pride of place above the bar.
We decided to eat in the garden, although there were plenty of tables in the bar and dining areas, and ordered at the bar. Lowestoft Cod and Chips for The Boy, and Smoked Haddock with poached egg for me. The menu featured all the usual pub classics: fish and chips, scampi and chips, lasagne, as well as some more unusual gastronomic delights, like Sea Bass and Mackerel fillets with beetroot. The pub was fairly busy so there was a little wait for our food, but only as long as one would expect for freshly prepared meals. When the food arrived, we instantly felt the pub lived up to its accolade. The portion size alone made the reasonably priced meals incredibly good value!
Luckily, they tasted good too. My large plate contained a generous helping of roughly mashed potatoes (also known as rustic mash apparently), which was well-seasoned but not too creamy, making a good vehicle for the smoked haddock and runny yolk of the poached eggs. The portion was so large, however, that I had to donate one of the poached eggs to The Boy's plate for dipping his chips! The haddock also came with a dish of fresh vegetables, including some amazing, sweet carrots and plump, bright green florets of broccoli, which regrettably I was unable to finish.
The smoked haddock was exactly as it should be. Undyed, firm, peppery, and, I suspect, sourced from local fishermen Pinney's of Orford. With the rich yolk, a forkful of mash, and, now and again, a sharp sour caper from the plate's garnish, the strong flavours of the smoky fish were complemented perfectly. Next time I visit The Bell, I'm taking a larger appetite and a gang of friends to help me taste the rest of the menu!
The Bell Inn
Suffolk IP17 3NN