Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Love a Ploughman’s lunch? Try this pub…

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Summer is nearly upon us (although the weather would beg to differ). When it’s hot and sunny outside, what’s your go-to pub grub of choice?

For me, it’s got to be a Ploughman’s. But what exactly makes a particularly good Ploughman’s? It’s a controversial topic.

At its simplest, a Ploughman’s lunch is a good wedge of cheese served besides bread, butter and some kind of pickle or chutney. In addition, though, some may include a chunky pork pie, thick-cut ham, salad, fruit, pâté, boiled eggs…the list goes on.

In recent weeks, I’ve stumbled across a Bury St Edmunds pub that serves an incredible Ploughman’s lunch. It uses local produce. It was so large I needed to take half of it home, as well as being amazing value for money. You’ll find that Ploughman’s at freehouse Oakes Barn.

It’s a pretty unassuming pub on St Andrew’s Street South, just south of the main town centre. Oakes Barn describes itself as “a proper British real ale pub”, and prides itself in particular on its community spirit.

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Exterior

That community spirit is clear to see in the blackboards and pinned posters around the pub, advertising upcoming events and partnerships with local groups and charities. On the real ale side, a board beside the bar advertised six real ales (starting from just £3.70 a pint!), plus six kegged beers and a range of ciders. You can even order a flight of ales or ciders if you’re struggling to decide which one you’d like. Oakes Barn is West Suffolk’s CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2024, too – an impressive accolade!

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Bar

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Events

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Beers and Ciders

In the main dining/drinking area it looks pretty traditional, jazzed up with some fairy lights. It seemed like the clientele was a real mix of people, and everyone we spoke to was really friendly. We perched ourselves at a high table by the door to peruse the menu.

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Interior

Almost every dish on the Oakes Barn food menu is under a tenner, which is refreshing to see. There are light bites. You’ll find burgers. Choose from pub classics, baguettes and sharing platters – and desserts listed on a blackboard on the wall. (The Baileys bread and butter pudding is on my agenda for our next visit!)

The ale-battered fish of the day (£12.95) was a generous portion, and came with some of the most beautiful pub chips we’ve had in a while. We loved the crispy batter and flaky fish, and the mushy peas were pretty decent too.

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Fish and Chips

At the child’s request, we added a portion of ale-battered onion rings (£3.50). He chose well! While slightly on the greasy side, the batter was incredible and he demolished a significant number of these!

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Onion Rings

And so, onto that Ploughman’s. The Oakes Barn version is available in two sizes, priced at either £8.95 or £12.95. Knowing I’d be sharing with the boy I went for the larger one…and “large” was somewhat of an understatement.

Three ramekins contained tiny pickled onions, creamy coleslaw and a beautiful apple-based Suffolk chutney. That’s an entire pork pie at the bottom right (with plenty of jelly, just how I like them), as well as two enormous wedges of Cheddar on the left.

What you can’t see beneath the mountain of salad leaves is a huge mound of Suffolk ham, complete with creamy, melt-in-the-mouth fat. If that wasn’t enough, a bread and butter board followed the main dish out of the kitchen. Four enormous hunks of bread – a half baguette in total – arrived beautifully warm and with plenty of butter to go around.

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Ploughman's

Oakes Barn Bury St Edmunds - Ploughman's Bread

There was no denying the quality of the ingredients, with the ham, the pie and the chutney in particular deserving special mention.

What also deserves a special mention is the service: friendly and helpful throughout, with a real effort to make our son feel welcomed. I’m looking forward to heading back to try more of their ciders – but this time I’ll order something smaller food-wise and save space for dessert…

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