Pub Food Profile: The Golden Boar, Freckenham, Suffolk

By Jessica Harvey Jessica

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Restaurant, Bury st edmunds, Public house

Routine can sometimes be rather disillusioning. For starters, it represents the drudge of the day-to-day. It's the supermarket big shop, paying the...

Routine can sometimes be rather disillusioning. For starters, it represents the drudge of the day-to-day. It's the supermarket big shop, paying the bills, the standard chicken dish that's always on the menu. Routine is not romantic. It's not exciting. It's not life-affirming.

But ordinariness does have one major reason for being. If anything, it positions itself as an opportunity to create something better; something more appealing; something more special than ever expected. With this kind of perspective, the Golden Boar in Freckenham, Suffolk, has succeeded in becoming a hidden gem of a pub, a fine dining award-winner and a shining example to us all.

The Enterprise Inns establishment, situated in a small village about five miles from Newmarket, has been run by husband-and-wife team Vaggy and Carolyn Spyrou together with their son Luke and head chef Sergio Neale, since October 2007. The pub has a 30/70 wet/dry split and was recently named Velvet Magazine's 'First for Fine Dining', gaining publicity to the residents of Cambridge, Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Ely and Saffron Walden. To win the award, the pub beat top Cambridge restaurants such as Alimentum, which has three AA rosettes and is currently going for a Michelin star.

So how did this happen? Luke explains that it started with a plan to recreate the London dining scene out in the countryside."We came up from London about three years ago. Our chef Sergio worked in the West End for 10 years at One Aldwych," he adds, noting that to have that kind of expertise in a pub kitchen is a trump card. "You don't find this sort of thing near here. Most places are typical steak-and-chips places and with nothing too creative in other areas.

"They're nice, but people aren't surprised and they like the different combinations that we do. It makes us unique."

The team saw the area as a chance to create something unexpectedly brilliant out in the sticks. "In London, you're overcrowded with choice. Every other place is a good restaurant," says Luke. "Here, it's not as saturated as that. It was our idea when we came here, to turn it into something really great.

"It's quite an affluent area, and we looked in Newmarket and Cambridge and there's not really anything else like it." Luke adds that the locals like hidden gems and feeling as though they've stumbled upon a treasure.

In this sense, he suggests, a pub can fit the bill much better than a restaurant because it's approachable and not too aloof.

"You come in and it's just so real - all oak beams and handpumps. Then, if you go through to the back into the conservatory, there are royal curtains and twinkling lights." Plus, people are getting London-standard food, but at country prices".

But how does the Golden Boar cultivate its reputation for being a great discovery for people 'in the know'?

"I think the main thing for us is word-of-mouth publicity," says Luke. "Almost every time someone new comes in, I ask if they were just passing through to try to find out how they've heard of us. They often say: 'Oh, my friend came here and said it was brilliant, so we thought we'd come along too'."

Luke says he thinks people like the notion of not having known about a place before and therefore discovering it. "A lot of them come in and say: 'I didn't even know this was here!' Slowly, I've seen a huge change in the clientele.

"We have people who seem to be more aware of their food - it's becoming a bit more of a destination," he adds. "We've got people ringing up and booking for lunch, and coming in for a whole afternoon.

"Plus, we have a website now. Last time I looked, we were getting, on average, 2,000 hits per month, from nothing in 18 months."

So what sort of dishes does the Golden Boar have to offer? "A mix of traditional pub food with a dining menu to give the kitchen a chance to really shine. On the bar menu we've got fresh beer-battered fish & chips, while on the à la carte menu we do pan-fried sea bass with smoked mash as well as baby shrimp and pancetta bacon dressing," says Luke. "We've just launched our autumn menu too. That includes things like venison and Welsh rarebit."

"It's all seasonal and we try to keep everything as local as we can," he adds. "On our menu, location gets mentioned a lot. We'll say: 'Chippenham Park honey' and 'Suf-folk lamb' to highlight where it's from."

However, as Luke points out: "It's not all about the food. Often, people come in for the atmosphere."

It's something The Golden Boar's staff feel strongly about - creating an experience and a special time for people. But sometimes creating a special experience for customers involves not only meeting expectations but going beyond them, challenging diners to embrace something unfamiliar.

Luke remembers that when the team moved into the pub, they included a standard chicken dish on the menu to answer apparent demand from locals. But it never sold. "When our locals first used to come in, they'd compare us with what was here before, note that there was no chicken on the menu and ask why," he says. "We had a lot of people asking for chicken, so we put it on the menu, but it didn't sell."

Why not? Could it be that the clamour for chicken on the menu was not based on what customers actually wanted to eat, but was simply a reaction to a menu that didn't seem to match their expectations of what pub food had always represented?

Luke says: "People were just used to seeing it there. It's routine, but not necessarily what they want".

The Golden Boar is appealing for its lack of chicken dish. Its less ordinary approach. Its attitude.

It serves as a reminder to all licensees running great country pubs that also deserve the description of 'hidden gem', to remember that what people expect from their average day is not always as far-reaching as what they'd really enjoy.

Routine is everyday - it's the stuff you have to do, but not the stuff you really want. "I'm not sure if people like going into supermarkets now," says Luke. He's right, of course. They don't like it. If only there were an opportunity for pubs in all of this.

Golden Boar suppliers

MEAT​: Burtons Butchers

VEGETABLES​: Accent Fresh

FISH​: Wyken Provisions 01638 555157


CHEESE​: Hamish Johnston

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