UK’s No1 gastropub shares secrets behind its menu

By Amelie Maurice-Jones contact

- Last updated on GMT

70% Ugandan chocolate delice with espresso ice cream. This uses local chocolate makers Tosier Chocolate
70% Ugandan chocolate delice with espresso ice cream. This uses local chocolate makers Tosier Chocolate

Related tags: Suffolk, Unruly pig, Estrella Damm Top50 Gastropubs, Awards, Menu

The head chef of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, Suffolk, discusses gastropub’s current menus after it scored first place in the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list 2022.

Head chef of the Unruly Pig Karl Green worked in tandem with co-chef Dave Wall to produce “powerful and memorable” dishes, drawing inspiration from his dad’s cooking, and other top chefs. 

The team always sought the freshest ingredients possible for its menus. Green said: “We're proud of where we are, and we're proud of the ingredients and produce that's around us. 

“We’ve got Rendlesham Forest up the road, which is synonymous with its venison, so we take a lot of whole animals as well. My father in law has a farm just up the road, and they breed large black rare pigs. So quite often, we take one off him as well. 

What’s more, the Unruly Pig’s in-house fisherman brought the freshest fish to the kitchen daily. “He gets it off a boat, and will bring it to us in the restaurant, straight from the sea. So, it could be that he turns up at four or five o'clock in the afternoon, and whatever he brings, will go on the menu”. 

However, it wasn’t all about the meat at the Unruly Pig. Sparkling bright red blood oranges were key to this seasonal menu, as was wild garlic that the team foraged in the forest each morning before work. 

Childhood nostalgia

While most dishes on the gastropub’s menu shifted regularly, the pub’s famed octopus fish has remained a constant. “We would never take it off, because customers would go crazy,” said Green. 

The octopus is served with black olives with squid ink and miso dressing. “I can’t tell you how different this dish is now from when we reopened,” Green said, “but we’ve constantly refined it, changed it and made it better”. 

Much inspiration for Green’s menus came from childhood memories. “My dad is an amazing cook. I’d never tell him that to his face, but he's phenomenal,” he said. 

He continued: “I remember growing up and having this incredible food, and sometimes now they'll be an ingredient that comes and it will spark a childhood memory almost, and you're like, ‘oh, I remember that, dad used to cook that for me’. 

“The dish he inspired the most would be a set menu lunch dish that was treacle and Guinness braised Ox cheek, with homemade pappardelle pasta and gremolata. We used to make pasta together when I was younger and he'd make the most amazing slow cooked ragus. 

“I remember coming home and the house smelling of these ragus. You used to walk in and dribble and be like, ‘I'm home’. So, we have these sorts of things on our menu, and it's nice, because it's nostalgic”. 

Sparking inspiration

Green also sought inspiration from other top gastropubs. Stephen Harris’ the Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, which ranked sixth in this year’s Top 50 Gastropubs list, was particularly influential as each dish was “so flavourful”. 

He said: “We had this amazing turbot dish with caviar sauce, and I could have drunk litres of the caviar sauce.  So when we got back to the pub after the closure, I worked on a recipe with the caviar sauce. I changed it to adapt it to the Unruly Pig, and now we serve it with brill, some broccoli and some seaweed potatoes on the side. It's really simple, but it packs so much flavour”. 

Local suppliers also often sparked inspiration. “The local butchers will literally drop off a whole carcass of venison, and it inspires you to treat that project with the love and respect it deserves,” he said. 

However, said Green, you’re only as good as your team. “We’ve have an excellent team, which we've built up over the years, and we've refined everything over the years. But also, the offerings have changed; they’ve got a little bit more refined.  

“The dishes are powerful, each dish is memorable. In the early days, we had too many forgettable dishes, but now, the attention to detail that we put into every single dish, is where we've come along so much over the years”. 

Related topics: Chefs

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