Review date: June 2014
TASTES OF SUMMER
Restaurants come, restaurants go but after 20 years The Galley has become a firm and favourite fixture of Suffolk’s culinary establishment. Anne Gould called in for dinner
It’s a warm summer evening and Uğur Vata is sitting outside on Woodbridge’s Market Hill welcoming his guests for the evening - much like he’s always done. Inevitably there are kisses and handshakes all round before being welcomed indoors - because Uğur knows literally anyone who is anyone round here. And while there can’t be many restaurateurs who are on first name terms with most of their customers there are even fewer who can remember exactly what you ate or drank last time you visited and the time before. Oh, and even the date of your birthday too. Whether or not Uğur’s consummate hospitality is hardwired into his Turkish ancestry, this standard of service has ensured that The Galley is known just as much for its warm welcome and bonhomie as its food.
Twenty years ago, when The Galley first opened in Ipswich, Uğur was very much the new kid on the block and way ahead of his time insisting on sourcing his food locally, seasonally and from the very best producers. Nothing has changed much there but consistently maintaining exceptional quality for two decades is to be much applauded. However it’s this commitment to excellence that’s kept him and his restaurant, which ten years ago moved to new premises in Woodbridge, in the forefront on the Suffolk food scene.
Dining at the Galley can be a different experience every time. Offering two private dining rooms, one on the upper floor and one in the refurbished wine cellar along with the two main restaurant areas to choose from, you can enjoy the ambiance of the Galley and the beautiful views over the Market Hill and when the sun is shining, sitting outside is always very popular. For Uğur summer has always been about lobsters, seafood and the menu certainly didn’t disappoint. The only problem was, after admiring his taste in art and views over the Market Hill from our table, that we had to decide what to eat.
Probably the bravest choice of starter would have been asparagus and rhubarb soup - but there were 14 other possibilities to go for too. Smoked salmon, squid, duck pate, hummus, fish soup smoked mackerel, Falafel all ready to turn a girls head, but I couldn’t resist giant scallop in Champagne and dill sauce for its rich sweet softness. I would make the same choice again. My companion had new season sardine fillets with herb and garlic sauce - a generous portion but too good to hold back for the mains and pudding to come.
Meat eaters are well served at The Galley with Scottish Aberdeen Angus, calves livers, duck breast, Suffolk pork, Welsh lamb and Turkish lamb stew. Decisions, decisions but if fish is your favourite there was local cod and skate from Orford or sea-bass and of course lobster - so of course there was no decision. Thank you Uğur your lobster with herbs was heaven on a plate, an absolute treat, the King of shellfish, a winner every time. Across the table my friend had skate with caper-berries, which she reports was soft and succulent. All main courses at The Galley are served with an appropriate side dish - we had gently roasted new potatoes which were firm, tasty and swiftly dispatched plus a salad of baby leaves from Newbourne.
Of course Uğur is as much an expert with wine as he is about food - I’ve learned over many years that his recommendations are to be listened to. This passion for the noble grape extends further too - his beautiful wine cellar below stairs with its long wooden tables and temperature controls bears testament to this. So it’s inevitable that the wine list will doubtless delight connoisseurs with its quirky depth and breath. On the day we ate, for example, he was offering a Kir Royale with sparkling wine from Brazil, sourced from an importer in Ipswich, to mark the start of the World Cup. He also chose a dry Riesling made in the Alsace style to go with our fish which was honey-coloured and tasted deliciously of delicate peach and apricot.
When it comes to desserts - well I’m not really a pudding eater, cheese is and always has been my thing. Well that is except for when eating at The Galley - where in my opinion you get the best creme brûlée in the world rich with the flavours of vanilla and caramel. There were other choices - rice and vanilla pudding with red berry sauce, a compote of Izmir dried figs and apricots with pomegranate molasses, Turkish Delight ice cream or chocolate brioche bread and butter pudding. But of course it was the creme brûlée and I watched as my friend clearly enjoyed a sticky toffee pudding that was topped with excellent stem ginger ice cream - obviously another triumph.
With the soft midsummer evening light bathing the streets outside as we left it was with memories of a great meal and the knowledge that we’ll be returning again.
The Galley, 21 Market Hill, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4LX