Pub/Bar of the Month August 2011: The King's Head, Laxfield, UK
The King's Head, Laxfield, Suffolk, UK
Start talking about the great country alehouses of Britain and one name that is almost certain to pop up in the conversation is The King’s Head at Laxfield.
It’s unlikely, though, that whoever first mentions the pub will call it by that name, as it’s more commonly known by its nickname of ‘The Low House’.
Laxfield is a neat little village tucked into the Suffolk countryside between Southwold and Stowmarket. The 16th-century pub, in time-honoured fashion, sits directly behind the church.
From the outside, the pub is picture postcard perfect, cream-coloured, neatly crowned with a thatched roof and fronting onto the church graveyard.
Inside is even more charismatic, a clutch of ancient rooms sparsely lit by inadequate, small-paned old windows.
For me, the highspot of the pub is the area that confronts you as you open the front door. While there is a bench along the wall, the main seating here is provided by an enormous curved, high-backed settle, almost creating a room in itself as it blocks out the draughts of winter and pulls customers in towards the open fire.
Follow the red- and black-tiled floor around the back of the settle and you can head left or right. Left leads to a small dining room (just five tables), while on the right side you’ll find two more bars.
I say bars although they are just a couple of tiny rooms, simply furnished with Spartan comforts. Indeed, one of the rooms consists of just a large farmhouse table squeezed between bench seating.
Throughout the pub, low, cracked ceilings hold in the homely atmosphere and the murmur of conversation, years of tobacco smoke lending a honey-brown patina to the paintwork.
One of the great pleasures of The Low House is witnessing the confusion on strangers’ faces when they try to buy a drink, because the pub has no bar counter.
To order a pint, you just step straight into the tap room, amid all the cask racking, and give your selection to the staff member loitering there. If you want crisps or nuts, you serve yourself from a cupboard.
More substantial food is also available too, and is very popular, with home-made pies and fish fresh from the nearby coast being specialities.
Like all the great rural pubs, there are few distractions at The Low House. Forget music, televisions and gaming machines.
If you want entertainment here, you’ll have to make it yourself by reading the newspaper or joining in the chat, all of which becomes more pleasurable with a pint of gravity-drawn Adnams Bitter in front of you.
The pub is now part of the Adnams estate, and offers most of the Southwold brewery’s beers, plus one or two guests.
The Adnams beers are terrific at the worst of times but here, with the fire crackling, rain rattling the window panes and the darkness of winter closing in outside, beer surely never tasted better.
The beer is almost as memorable in summer, when you can repair to the surprisingly spacious garden at the rear to savour the fresh Suffolk country air, or even play a little croquet or petanque.
If the temptation to have another becomes too great, and you can’t bear to drag yourself away, there’s even en suite accommodation in a former stable block so you can extend your stay.
The King’s Head, Gorams Mill Lane, Laxfield, IP13 8DW
Tel. (01986) 798395
Opening Hours: 12–midnight; 12–3, 6–midnight in winter