With a specially curated collection of 16 beautiful pubs and restaurants with rooms across East Anglia, Chestnut offers guests a truly personal service. Whether popping in for a drink, or making a weekend of it, Chestnut has a property that is perfect for you. Founded in 2012 by Philip Turner, the group celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2023, and with two new properties joining the group this year, Chestnut continues to flourish.
Under the spreading branches of the chestnut tree, community, and nurture, is key. All properties within Chestnut are at the heart of the community and while all offer exceptional food, a relaxed ambiance, attentive service, and cocktails to make even the most jaded palate happy, it is the community feel that shines through. This extends not just to those who visit the bars and restaurants, but also to those who work there, who are nurtured in their careers, every step of the way.
Chestnut was founded by Philip Turner. Born on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and having travelled the world, he returned to Suffolk in 2006 but continued to work in the City, latterly as Managing Director and Global Head of Alternative Financing at RBS Markets. All that would change in 2012 when he turned his back on City life and established Chestnut.
“There is so much to be proud of across East Anglia,” explains Philip. “From the place and the people to the provenance, this part of the world offers so much. While East Anglia is not on the road to anywhere, I knew that London was moving East and that Cambridge was the fastest-growing city in Europe. Add in a few other factors that I believed would bring people to the region, and forming Chestnut seemed to be the right idea at the right time. Other parts of the UK have celebrated their region so well – I thought that it was time we did the same.”
The initial seed of the idea came in 2010 when Philip was at The King’s Head in Moulton, near Newmarket, for Guy Fawke’s night. Having enjoyed the evening there with friends, if not the chaos of a busy and understaffed bar, he discovered two years later that the pub was for sale. This was to become the first property for Chestnut, as Philip purchased it and transformed it to The Packhorse Inn, taking its name from the heritage around it.
Opening in October 2013, The Packhorse is now a very popular pub with great food, awarded three AA rosettes, a garden, and eight bedrooms. One of the menu highlights is their Great British Beef Feast Sunday lunch – a sharing roast fit for a king, offering treacle glazed short horn fillet of beef, ox cheek slow cooked in local ale, roasted bone marrow, and all the sides you could dream of and more. For four-to-six people to enjoy, this two-course feast is a favourite way for many to relax and enjoy a Sunday afternoon get together.
The following October, The Rupert Brooke opened in Grantchester, a stone’s throw from the vibrant sights and sounds of Cambridge. A pub with a courtyard garden and rooftop terrace, The Rupert Brooke has an open-plan restaurant as well as a conservatory dining room, offering relaxed brasserie-style dining; think smoked chicken salad and Cambridge gin-cured salmon alongside stone bass and five-bean cassoulet. From private events to intimate get-togethers, The Rupert Brooke is a perfect place to meet.
After time for Chestnut to grow, The Northgate joined the group in November 2016, a striking Victorian townhouse in the heart of Bury St Edmunds. Offering nine bedrooms as well as a garden terrace, striking bar, and restaurant, The Northgate is a true mix of eclectic and traditional. At The Northgate, even the cocktails are seasonal, with Head Chef Greig Young crafting modern British menus that celebrate the fabulous provenance of East Anglia. Not only does this property offer dinner and nights away but is also a place to meet friends for coffee mornings and relaxed afternoon lounging.
A third Suffolk property opened four months later, this time in Woodditton near Newmarket, The Three Blackbirds. A delightful 17th century village pub with bedrooms, The Three Blackbirds was hit by a devastating fire one year later and with love and care, the team worked tirelessly to bring this fantastic building back to life, retaining its charm while adding modern twists and bursts of colour. With nine artfully designed rooms, the heart of The Three Blackbirds is its restaurant, with a menu very much focused on the best of the region including its meats, cheeses, and Fenland fruit and vegetables.
October 2017 saw The Black Lion in Long Melford, the heart of Suffolk, open. In keeping with the character properties already under the spreading Chestnut tree, The Black Lion is a 15th century inn with a garden terrace. It was also voted the Best Place to Stay in East Anglia by The Sunday Times, with 10 bedrooms including a grand luxury suite overlooking the village green. Again, under Philip’s vision, at The Black Lion, traditional receives a modern twist, something that is reflected through both the décor and the menu – think Jerusalem artichoke and pear salad with roasted chestnut, goats’ cheese and sage, or apple and walnut pavlova with marigold and apple sorbet.
In August 2018, the newly refurbished Westleton Crown joined Chestnut, an iconic pub with rooms that is much loved by locals and visitors alike. Positioned on the edge of a quintessential Suffolk village green, and with a garden terrace that calls for al fresco dining on a summer day, the Westleton Crown takes its interior inspiration from the wildlife and landscape outside. Bedrooms range from family duplex rooms to large king rooms – and even a bolthole for the solo traveller! The food is hearty and inspired by the sea and the land such as grilled mackerel fillet, charred potatoes, spring onion and mustard vinaigrette.
The same month, The Ship in Dunwich also opened, located just a short stroll from the beach and offering warming log fires in winter and sun-trap gardens in sunnier months. With 16 bedrooms on offer, there is something for every person and every budget including rooms with views out over the Dingle marshes towards Walberswick and the sea. With inspiring scenery all around, the setting inside is just as charming, with hidden nooks to unwind in and enjoy fantastic fare. From a pint of prawns with aioli and lemon to gilthead bream with charred greens, anchovy aioli and lemon, the influence of the sea just a few metres away is evident. With proper, hearty pub food on offer, The Ship is a true destination pub for high days and holidays alike.
Found in Saffron Walden is The Eight Bells, which joined Chestnut in December 2018. A 16th century timber-framed pub with a peaceful garden terrace, the interior a marvellous mixture of period features with modern style – and it works so well! As well as fabulous starters and mains, The Eight Bells also offer grazing plates – think vegan slow roasted heritage carrots, hummus, carrot top and parsley gremolata or Crown & Queue’s Devil’s Mortar spicy spreadable sausage with sourdough – plus an enviable gin list – several of which are celebrated in cocktails!
Also joining the branches of Chestnut in December 2018 was the aptly-named The Weeping Willow, found in Barrow near Bury St Edmunds. A beautifully restored 16th century pub, it was expanded in 2017 to create a very modern country pub, kitchen, and garden that is at the heart of the local community. With open fires, a light and airy conservatory dining space, and a private dining room for 12 people, plus a spacious garden with nurtured flora and fauna and open views, The Weeping Willow celebrates the very best of the region. Again, the menu is a fantastic mix of local flavours and inspired offerings for meat-eaters and vegans alike.
Down in the heart of Constable country, where the Suffolk border meets Essex, is The Crown, and this opened its doors in July 2019. A speciality here is the Catch of the Day menu including dishes such as grilled whole sardines with feta, beetroot and cherry tomato salad and toasted sourdough. There is also a wine cellar with over 250 bins available – including to takeaway. The Crown also offers The Folly – 11 bedrooms including the Dedham and the Higham, both with French windows leading out on to a private terrace with breath-taking countryside views. The Crown is a true country pub with that little extra something, making this a wonderful location be it for lunch or to base yourself and explore the area.
The year 2020 was remarkable for Chestnut, and not only in the way you might think. The first Norfolk property was acquired and opened in February, The Globe Inn. Situated on the North Norfolk coast in the ever-popular seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea, The Globe is an award-winning inn with a terrace and 19 bedrooms, including a well-equipped bolthole for the solo traveller and suites in the courtyard wing. As you would expect being on the coast, the chefs work closely with local fishermen and butchers to create dishes such as smoked haddock kedgeree scotch egg, served with coriander, turmeric and celeriac remoulade and bone marrow brisket burger with Norfolk dapple cheese, pickles, onions, and fries.
The next Chestnut property opened in October 2020 – The Cricketers at Clavering in North Essex and close to the borders of Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. A 16th century country inn with bedrooms, including fully accessible rooms with a wet room and parking close by, The Cricketers maintains a traditional, classic look throughout. The Michelin-noted restaurant again celebrates local produce, with bread baked fresh every morning and fish arriving daily. Among such classics as Cornish skate wing with capers, samphire, and almond beurre noisette can be found alongside The Cricketers superfood salad – avocado, quinoa, pomegranate, beetroot, roasted squash, toasted seed, walnuts, cucumber, broccoli, baby spinach and basil with a blueberry and ginger dressing. There is even a dog menu – with offerings to chew, to nibble, to gnaw, and to drink, such as 0% alcohol Bottom Sniffer Beer!
A second Norfolk property was added in November 2021, The Feathers in Holt. Just three miles from the coast, The Feathers is a 16th century inn with bedrooms, including family suites, and a terrace. The menu is very much good pub food, but with seasonal specials on offer as well as special steak and themed nights. Currently closed for refurbishment, The Feathers was joined by The Lawns, also in Holt. A Georgian townhouse, The Lawns offers ten bedrooms and a sunny south-facing garden, while the menu has something for everyone, be it a sandwich, nibbles or something more hearty.
Completing the collection are two new properties opening soon – The Carpenters Arms at Great Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire, and The Maltings in Weybourne, North Norfolk. And you know that more will follow – pubs and restaurants with rooms that blend historical buildings and traditional features with modern colours and personality. And at each, the menu particular to that property, capturing the immediate flavours on the doorstep.
In 2013, Chestnut was small but with big ambition – to showcase East Anglia through accessible, welcoming, and unique environments. “The one constant factor that you’ll find through all of our pubs is the experience that we want to be able to provide our guests with, and that should create memories that they can take away with them about the region,” explains Philip. It is real love and passion for East Anglia that has propelled Chestnut over the past nine years and is evidenced through the care and attention to detail at every property.
This care extends beyond Chestnut walls, however. At the start of the pandemic, Chestnut launched The Giving Tree, a charitable foundation to support local communities, with initiatives including cooking, packaging, and delivering over 25,000 meals to NHS hospitals, care homes and hospices in East Anglia. Then in October 2020, they cooked and delivered free school meals followed by Christmas food hampers for families in need.
The environment is also a concern, and chefs across Chestnut are working towards being less wasteful and more sustainable. At The Packhorse Inn, for example, the leek top leftover from the main menu lamb dish goes into a soup while the vegetable stock is made from vegetable trimmings, all of which are full of goodness and flavour. “We are also embarking on our most environmentally sensitive new build project, where we are looking at techniques to minimise carbon, off-grid primary electricity supply and so on,” says Philip.
Just like the beautiful tree it is named after Chestnut is spreading its own touch of style and magic across the region. The individual properties offer something for everyone, be it AA rosette-winning food, inspired cocktails, a place to escape for the night, or somewhere to sit and have a meal with family or friends. Accessible to everyone, including your dog, the reach of Chestnut is one that we can all enjoy.
Norfolk: The Globe Inn, The Feathers, The Lawns, The Maltings
Suffolk: The Ship, The Westleton Crown, The Northgate, The Packhorse Inn,The Black Lion, The Weeping Willow, The Crown
Cambridge: The Rupert Brooke, The Carpenters Arms, The Three Blackbirds
Essex: The Cricketers, The Eight Bells
For more information, visit www.chestnutgroup.co.uk
- Greig Young, Head Chef at The Northgate, shares his recipe for beef tartare, whole grain mustard, broad beans, endive, black garlic mayonnaise
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