Twenty one years is a long time in one’s life, but to hold sway over the same hot kitchen, cooking lunch and dinner in a 60-cover restaurant for that length of time is really something. To still enthusiastically produce plates of very, very good food is something else. Robert Mabey has been doing this at Aldeburgh’s REGATTA since 1992. He and his wife Johanna also own the place.

Trained at the Connaught Hotel (a pinnacle of London hotel restaurants, in case you didn’t know) and Michel Roux Junior’s “Le Gavroche”, Robert’s cooking is assured and excellent. He has steak, chicken and duck dishes on his menu, all with creative touches and worth a detour, but fish is really his thing. He has his own smoke house, he cures his own gravadlax, and early every morning he is inquiring of his fish suppliers what’s freshly landed and good.

  Regatta Aldeburgh - exterior by day Regatta Aldeburgh - interior 1Regatta Aldeburgh - interior 2

A few evenings back the blackboard of six or so “specials” included sea trout served on a bed of “Vegetable Spaghetti” (long thin strips of carrots, celery, cabbage and other veggies shown the steamer for a few minutes – splendid) with new potatoes, and sea bass on the almost ultimately creamy risotto laced with spring greenery. Mary had the sea trout, I the sea bass. Both pieces of fish had been cooked to juicy not-quite-falling-apart superiority. The accompaniments matched. Seriously good, stylish but nevertheless unpretentious cooking – the hallmark of a chef who is confident of his creativity and abilities.

Earlier I had tried the home-made gravadlax – Nordic in style and quality. Later Mary essayed a Crème Brulée and pronounced it “best ever”.

There are five Mediterranean Nibbles to have with your aperitif (like one of three Sherries, perhaps, at £3.25 a go); nine starters, including minestrone and fish soup, oysters, tempura prawns and home-made goose paté; three meat and two vegetarian mains as well as the daily fish choices; nine puds and cheese. A well chosen wine list leans a little towards New World, and, sensibly, offers four whites, one rosé and four reds by the glass (17.5cl or 25 cl glasses from £4.00 to £6.50). I liked the Pays d’Oc Viognier, not as intense as the Côtes du Rhône Viogniers but bold enough for the gravadlax and a change from the much-offered Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays.

     Regatta Aldeburgh - fresh sardinesRegatta Aldeburgh - sea bass on risottoRegatta Aldeburgh - tempura shrimp

The servers are young, nicely presented, friendly and efficient; the ambience is Bistro rather than posh. And if you’re lucky, himself will emerge from the kitchen after his labours and regale you with accounts of the various vicissitudes of restaurant-running, of the fish catch of the day and the local scene, of which he, his wife and his establishment are an integral part.

A three course meal for two with a bottle of medium price wine costs from about £85.00. Our meal was two courses, with two glasses of wine, mineral waters and espresso coffees and cost £57.00. Very good value. There is a lunch menu, kid’s stuff, gourmet events various, and more, throughout the year. The opening times allow for a pre-cinema meal

Regatta Aldeburgh - exterior at night

Regatta, 171 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AN, telephone 01728 452011. Open every day for lunch from mid-day to 2.00 p.m. and for dinner from 6.00 to 10.00 p.m. Highly recommended. Good photographs, the menu, wine list and lots of news may be found at

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