Southwold: The Boardwalk
Southwold Pier is a huge success story, proving that British seaside traditions are alive and well. IAN COLLINS visited the suitably nautical restaurant The Boardwalk.
Southwold's great advance this millennium has been an advance back out to sea via a brilliantly revived pier. Tasteful progress continues.
A grand re-opening in the summer of 2001 replaced the walk-on-water launched in 1900 and later reduced to a land-locked stump, It was the graceful result of a 15-year-old dream (and a �1.5m overdraft) for owner Chris Iredale.
The (re)builder subsequently sold to Stephen and Antonia Bournes and the couple have worked hard and very creatively to extend a stylish seaside attraction with a warm welcome to visitors of all ages.
And their flourishing business now employs more than 100 local people in peak holiday periods, being Southwold's largest employer after Adnams.
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You can eat at various cafe stops along the pier, and now also at the approach to it – but the fresh ingredient for this season is the revamped restaurant The Boardwalk.
There is a suitably nautical theme.
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Welded metal table lamps incised with fish are unusually understated productions by madcap genius Tim Hunkin.
He made Southwold Pier's bawdy water clock and its Under The Pier Show of amazing amusement machines which have offered novel tours of Southwold and the seabed and now invite us to Whack A Banker. Who could resist?
But for all the location and the decoration and the service (efficient and charming) The Boardwalk's winning recipe is the standard of the fare: wholesome, unfussy, tasty, locally sourced and reasonably priced.
They use many local producers for fresh meat, free range eggs, vegetables, jams and chutneys, including ham and sausages from Blythburgh, beef from Sotherton Farm, bread from Stradbroke Bakery, and even the tea is sourced locally from Wilkinson's of Norwich.
Over the winter they have renovated the restaurant too. There are more seats and a better service area for the waiting team.
The striking Southwold Punt painted by East Anglian artist James Dodds has been made a feature of the restaurant, as is his triptych of a Southwold Yawl.
A wide set menu runs from lighter bites to big platefuls, with a clear effort to keep most main courses below the �10 mark.
From a list of daily specials we went for splendid pea, mint and spring onion soup with wedges of Stradbroke Bakery granary bread (�4.50).
Then I finally plumped for delicious moules frites (�9.75) over similarly priced cod fillet or Blythburgh sausages.
My companion was very happy with red onion, goat's cheese and chives quiche with salad and new potatoes (�8.75).
Resisting cheesecake, pecan tart, chocolate torte, local cheeses and a cool range of ice-cream sundaes, we shared a fab sticky toffee pudding (�4.95).
The Boardwalk is also a good spot for morning coffee or afternoon tea with home-made cakes and scones.
The quality of the food is exemplified by the fact that head chef and his second Richard and MC recently picked up a Silver Award for their cookery demonstration at the Schwartz for Chef Flavour Pairing Challenge in London. They cooked up an amazing menu that included spiced seabass with a roasted sesame and lentil dahl with smoked aubergine, yoghurt and curry oil and for pudding a deconstructed rhubarb and ginger cheescake with rosewater sorbet and spiced pears.
Sir John Betjeman praised piers for providing 'a walk on the sea without the disadvantage of being seasick' - and Southwold's promenaders can now bank on calm stomachs while feasting to their hearts' content.
Opening times: Open daily from 10am, evening suppers 5pm-8.30pm
Prices: Lunch deli sandwiches approx �5.25, salads from �8.95, mains from �9.95. Evening supper starts from �5.25, mains from �9.75, desserts from �5.25.
Vegetarian options: Good plus they always have freshly made gluten-free cakes on sale and gluten-free fish and chips are served on the first Saturday of every month.
Wheelchair access: Yes, though its on a pier so some tricky manoeuvring