23 Apr 2008

A Toilet Habit

DESPITE THE lame motto, ‘modern cuisine with a touch of class’, I was impressed by the comforting, hearty, traditionally British food at Ipswich's grammatically questionable 'Vanillapod'. Finicky diners may balk at bastions like Prawn Cocktail and Welsh Rarebit, imagining such stomach staples as beyond retro-resuscitation. And surely Waldorf Salad is too desperately ironic to actually eat without 'Fawlty Towers' regurgitation? But considering St. John's giddy rise, I suspect most Alpha males would immediately warm to a menu which harbours a specific ‘Offal’ section.
I sat in the presence of a "£12,000" art commission, completed by a (financially enriched) demon crayon wielder. Whilst this was sufferable, I remember another tableau in a Bucks restaurant. My father enquired after the identity of a (raunchy) nude, only to be told that the muse in the frame was the person taking the question...
Moving on, I enjoyed the best lamb this year, a slow roasted shoulder. This considerable meat marathon (shared with my friend) languished in its dark, glossy, meaty juices, the fronds of protein effortlessly parting from the bone. '06 Madfish Pinot Noir from Western Australia was just about man enough to tame the slightly minted sheepmeat. Made in part using carbonic maceration (of Beaujolais fame), this was a strapping, spiced (vanilla, black pepper and mace), swollen cherry and earthy mushroom scented wine. Its label, apparently representing 'Aboriginal understanding of unity between land, sea, stars, animals and people', was certainly more elegant than the restaurateur's badly framed squiggles.
Loo design in eateries often reflects the owners mentality and financial situation. Time Out even did a sweet-smelling feature last year. From memory, my favourite facility is the glamorous, tinderbox, French maid attended 'must wee' attraction at Sketch. At Vanillapod, the rest-room confers a curious message. In their loo seat, they have installed a disconcerting agglomeration of razor blades, barbed wire and drawing pins. Painfully tangible.
Vanillapod serves traditional food worth preserving, although their ‘touch of class’ is delicate. And aside from the name, the only encounter with vanilla seemed to be in the wine...
Vanillapod - 4a Orwell Place, Ipswich. IP4 1BB. T. 01473 230254
Also pictured: orphan lamb (the guilt) and pig sundial at 'Jimmy's Farm', Wherstead, Suffolk; the 'Butt & Oyster' at Pin Mill. The centrepiece within this former smugglers den, it tenaciously resists gastronomic gentrification. I enjoyed crisp, breaded whitebait and fresh prawns with a grapefruit bitter half of Adnams Explorer.