The Viper, an Essex oasis

We were on our way to Suffolk for a week in Orford. The journey’s about 200 miles, much of it the sort you’d happily miss: M3, M25, A12.  I’d reckoned in advance that we should be somewhere on the A12 at lunchtime, and with the help of the Good Beer Guide I’d identified a watering hole. ‘The Viper’ sounded like just my sort of pub: traditional, good beer, brewed locally. Mill Green is one of those hamlets that exists on a map but on the road you’re never sure whether you’ve just been through it or it’s still to come.

So we left the A12 and took to the lanes, self driving, wife ‘navigating’. We missed a turning almost at once  (on the slip road, to be precise!). So right away we were in recovery mode. Self getting tetchy, wife getting rattled. Blood sugar low and that particular ill-humour that comes from losing one’s way.

The lanes twisted their way through woods, junctions had no signs. I was reduced to intuitive navigation. I felt sure we must be close. We rounded a bend in shaded woodland and there on our right, positively shining in a sunlit clearing, stood The Viper. Easy parking, people in gardens, parasols, pints – suddenly all was right with the world.

And how right. This is one of those rare pubs that manages to make everyone feel good without it being clear how or why. The pub may be very busy, but everything still works. The food is good without it pretending to be a restaurant, and mercifully not ‘gastro’. There’s a wide choice of excellent local beers, served as they should be, and lots of tables in the garden.

I’ve only ever been to this pub twice, both times en route for holidays in Suffolk. But it’s right at the top of my list. I’d rate it 9/10, maybe even 10/10.

According to the Good Beer Guide, it’s the only pub in the country called The Viper – not perhaps the most compelling of names.

I’m glad it’s not my local. I’d never get anything done. Well, I think I’m glad.

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