The firm time I realised the poetic genius of BRAPA was when Simon described Ipswich as “a cross between Ely, Knaresborough and Monaco“.  Like Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, that would have seemed “ludicrous” a few years back. But now I have the confirmation of Mrs RM that this is absolutely true.

Image result for ipswich waterfront
Ipswich at night – photo Nick Rowland

You really need to visit on a sunnier day than we did to see the Monaco connection; the waterfront is quite something, using the Orwell better than Norfolk uses the Wensum.

We were really impressed by the new housing developments on the banks of the Orwell just south of town, which are accompanied by some striking public art.

Ipswich Town FC forward line 1957-58 season

My Dad used to bring me to Portman Road in the late ’70s, squashing me against the safety barrier at the front in the hope that I’d lose weight that way.  Back then Ipswich looked a rough old place coming in from the A14, until you got to the little clutch of beauty around Buttermarket (top) and St Nicholas St.


Despite the marina developments, this isn’t a posh town; the money lies in Woodbridge and the holiday coast. That means you still get proper shops, like this one selling the latest hipster LPs.


Back in the ’80s Ipswich was the place for vinyl rockabilly LPs and bikers playing “Stairway to Heaven“, a sanctuary from Norwich’s indie scene.

If craft beer is taking over middle England, you should see it in Ipswich.  Five years ago Adnams dominated, now it’s Thornbridge, Earl Soham and Aspalls.


The Arcade Street Tavern certainly pulled off the café/bar combo very well, with the coffee of the day by a distance. The beer was merely OK (NBSS 2.5/3), with bottles of Meantime seeming to pull the trade away from a decent lunchtime trade. Some of the most complex sets of steps in an old building anywhere though, so Simon should probably make sure this isn’t his sixth pint of the day when he visits.

We’d only had 3 packets of crisps so Mrs RM was craving food, always a downside to the real pub experience when she joins me on these trips.

The Spreadeagle is the other new GBG entry, and looked a pretty gorgeous lunch stop as we entered.  The nice lady went into great detail about a new menu launch next week, before becoming Mrs RM’s friend by rustling up one of those cheese and ham platters that us southerners see as an acceptable ploughmans.  It was fantastic, Stinking Bishop and all.


The pub is a brick and beamed little gem, which make my various photos of moustachioed women from the gents seem a bit daft.

Lots of Grain beers in their Suffolk flagship; the cask had a slightly strawy taste, the Lignum Vitae keg was superb (i.e. cold, strong and hoppy).  If I keep writing about the superiority of keg, real ale will be dead by 2019.  It will certainly be a thing of the past unless great pubs like this get more lunchtime drinkers, replaced by hobby pubs opening at 5pm, which won’t do at all.

Some fantastic ’70s disco to accompany our lunch, and to be fair a trio of blokes in suits did escape from the local insurance office to drink Friday pints as we left. I salute them.


  1. I’ve never been to Monaco so the comparisons are always difficult for me to understand as the docks (aka waterfront) have always had an industrial edge for most of my life, more apparent if you head towards the old Tolly Cobbold brewery, though I recognise on a warm summers day/evening it’s very pleasant to sit by the waters edge.

    To my mind Adnams have never dominanted Ipswich,or Greene King similarly, due to the aforementioned Tolly Cobbold, the gap they left when they demised was filled with Punch,Enterprise & the like, The Spread Eagle being the prime example a former Tolly Cobbold that languished & often closed, for many years as a tied pubco pub,till Grain took it on.

    That side of town people would more likely visit the Dove Street Inn for lunchtime trade, the homemade food & fine selection of beer is hard to overlook, and well worth a visit if you ever come back this way.


    1. Really helpful response. Yes, Cliff Rd round to the Tolly Tap a real contrast. Good point about Tolly, though the Punch estate that inherited sites served Adnams I guess.

      The Dove St Inn is a favourite. I’ve been to 25 pubs in town over the years, but tend to write about the Beer Guide newbies.


      1. If you head back again soon, we are just down the road from the spread at the Briarbank Brewing Company.
        We just made the GBG (and finally got a semi-correct entry). We love our beer as you’d expect from a bar attached to the brewery, so always look forward to people Sharing their opinions of us.


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