Three days in the UK this week, on tour to see some customers and to visit a trade show. Gives me ample time to explore the culinary delights of Newmarket! Not that I have any business here, but it’s the home town of my Woman in UK, and reasonably convenient for reaching the motorways towards the Midlands.
The true vocation of Newmarket is evident a few miles before entering the town centre: a large bronze statue of a prancing horse and his stableboy dominates a large roundabout – for Newmarket is the home of British horseracing. Horsey features are abundant – vast fields with “gallops” surround the town, motorists stop and give way to horseriders, on busy gallops crossing a public road, riders can even pull a special handle at “racehorse crossings” to turn traffic lights red. An accident with a horse would surely be very expensive, as these are no ordinary horses, but thoroughbred beasts that are traded by tycoons, royalty and sheiks at the local horse sales.
The NEC exhibition halls in Birmingham have little to offer beyond overpriced sandwiches and bar food, so it is with pleasure that we return to Newmarket for our evening meals. On the three nights we have a fair cross-section of British cuisine: the chinky, the tandoori and the pub dinner. The Chinese and Indian restaurants in the town centre were very good, but special mention must go to The Old Plough pub in Ashley, a village just outside Newmarket. It is here where my Woman in UK and her husband take me on Tuesday night.
From the outside The Old Plough is unassuming, but the warm, cosy interior with the roaring open fireplace is welcoming. All kinds of bric-a-brac adorn the stone walls. Just the sort of place to spend a couple of hours with a few pints of Caffrey’s to enliven the conversation. But this is much more than a pub, it is a fine restaurant well known in the area with a fine wine list to boot! Fish is a strong point here, and after a starter of excellent grey shrimps on toast (nowhere to be had in Italy), I know exactly what to order: a grilled Dover Sole! Good Dover Soles are getting ever rarer, especially in the size served here – huge! We are not disappointed – the sole is juicy and meaty and served with a choice of a dozen different vegetables. Well cooked veg is a rarity in Britain, where cooking of peas and carrots varies wildly from the almost raw to the mushy, but here at The Old Plough they get it just right. The wine of choice tonight is a Lugana from the South of Lake Garda. I have written about this wine before, and I am surprised to see it on offer so far from its home region. Just the right degree of dryness to go with the sole. We barely have room for dessert and here too I am not disappointed – a crème brulée with a layer of raspberries. Scrumptious! Special Gastronaut Best of British Pubs award! The prices are correct for the UK: £ 150 for three, including two bottles of wine and pre-dinner drinks.