If you happen to find yourself in the garden centre at Suffolk Food Hall in Wherstead this week, something new and shiny might catch your eye. A neon sign, beckoning you over...and into the Cookhouse building. After being suitably distracted by the many food businesses doing their thing on the ground floor, follow the staircase upwards and into The Restaurant @ Suffolk Food Hall. 

The enormous space (also accessible by lift) has been utterly transformed by designers Arrange Spaces, who have taken cue from the food hall’s farming roots, creating a contemporary dining room with a nod to agriculture. 

Corrugated metal work, ladders fixed to the ceiling, dairy barn style lighting, and swathes of wood mingle with elegant scallop-shaped window seats, private booths, and banquette arrangements, upholstered in teal, ochre and maroon leather. 

And then...of course...there’s that view, out across the river Orwell.

East Anglian Daily Times:

East Anglian Daily Times:

The refurb, says marketing manager Nick Punter, brings the restaurant in line with the heritage of the family farming business, while increasing seating capacity, and ushering in a sense of warmth. 

“It’s been open 10 years and it did feel like it was time to update,” he says. “We listened to feedback from customers about the ambience. They said it felt a bit too open...so we took that and went from there.” 

The farm’s own Red Poll beef has always been a feature on the menu, and remains a firm fixture alongside other locally sourced produce, and supplies from the food hall’s deli and bakery. 

East Anglian Daily Times:

East Anglian Daily Times:

Breakfast hasn’t changed significantly, offering regular favourites such as pancakes, eggs Benedict, and the huge Farmer’s plate – a feast of the butchery’s own sausages, Suffolk bacon, black pudding, fried eggs, field mushrooms, potato hash, beans and thyme roasted tomatoes with toast and butter. 

But the main menu has had a ‘switch up’, with some interesting new additions sitting alongside the eatery’s ubiquitous Red Poll steak and chips and loaded burgers. 

They include a gorgonzola Scotch egg with house made green pepper relish, deconstructed millionaire’s shortbread, and (a new favourite of restaurant commercial manager Emily May), beef shin. 

“It’s cooked down, pulled and mixed with chorizo in a tomato sauce – almost like a gravy. That’s such a warming dish. It comes with roasted butternut squash on top, rice and crème fraiche. It is really really nice!” 

Afternoon tea (£17.50) continues to be served. But those with a savoury tooth will be pleased to see a brand-new offering from 10.30am to 4pm. 

East Anglian Daily Times:

“The light bites menu is a huge difference,” says Emily. “We used to have a break between breakfast and lunch, and then afterwards it was just afternoon teas. Now we run this menu all the way through. A lot of restaurants and pubs out this way shut at 2.30pm, so it gives people another option.” 

The menu is loaded with sandwiches (hot smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, and brie, pesto and mixed leaf among them), as well as cheeseboard, charcuterie, and vegetable platters. 

“We soft launched the sandwiches before we shut for the refurbishment,” says Emily. “They were so popular. They are at the upper end [in price] but when you see them...they are big. Not the kind of thing you’ll find in a café. They’re a proper meal.” 

Food is complemented by a short list of teas, Butterworth coffees, hot chocolate, interesting soft drinks, and Adnams beer, gin and vodka, as well as wine. 

And the monthly quiz nights (£25 per person including food) are back, with dates available to book now online. Nick says to look out for the vintage market – taking place this April, too. 

The Restaurant @ Suffolk Food Hall is open Wednesday to Sunday, 9am to 4pm. Find out more at suffolkfoodhall.co.uk