13 of the quirkiest places to eat in Suffolk
- Credit: Rachel Edge
From a dairy farm, to boats and cinemas….dining out in the county doesn’t have to be boring.
Eat….in an ancient museum
Arlingtons in Ipswich formerly housed the town's musum, and was a ballroom. Today, the loft heights of the galleried second floor hall are dedicated to serving tapas-style plates of food to share…and a drop or two of their house vodka. The chef's menu spans the globe, including multiple vegetarian and vegan options, and truly has something for everyone to enjoy, be it their own succulent vodka cured salmon with plump chive pancakes and horseradish cream, their own smoked duck with walnut and blue cheese salad and homemade beetroot sorbet, or the very popular, pretty pink dragonfruit bavarois cake.
Eat…on a boat
Neptune Quay is home to the elegant Mariners 1900 restaurant, an elegantly furnished moored boat - all brass and polished wood, crisp linens and shiny glasses. The chef (formerly of the Waterfront restaurant nearby) offers a regularly changing menu with a distinctly European feel, while service is friendly and classy. Their set menus (Tuesday to Friday lunch and Tuesday to Thursday evenings) are an absolute steal, priced at £17.95 or £20.95 (dinner) for three courses. Recent dishes have included organic smoked salmon with avocado, crab and fennel salad and Champagne vinaigrette, and nougat glace with red fruit coulis.
Over in Orford and you can meander the rivers Alde and Ore on a magical trip aboard the Lady Florence. Beginning at 4pm, the three hour journey includes commentary along the way, with full bar service, before the bell is rung for supper in the dining area.
Only 12 people can be accommodated, so personal service is something the team prides themselves on. The cruise is £22.50 per person, with starters from £5.95 and main courses from £9.95, all using local produce where possible, be it homemade smoked Pinney's mackerel pate with dressed leaves, a hot Suffolk country pie, or Cape Malay pudding, steeped in syrup with custard.
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Eat…in a hut
OK so it's not as primitive as it might sound. A former finalist in our Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, this is a really lovely place for a spot of tea and cake. It's just off the river Deben and faces the town's model boating lake, with a large deck (complete with blankets for chilly days) sprawling around its sides for enjoying the view and sunshine. They use lots of local produce for the menu, including locally sourced meats and bread from The Cake Shop Bakery, serving up filling breakfasts, cakes, ice creams, and hearty lunches.
Eat…at the cinema
We're so lucky in Suffolk to have several independent cinemas, from Leiston, down to Ipswich. And two of them offer pretty darn good food. The Riverside in Woodbridge is renowned in the town for its excellent wine and great food - and it's listed by Michelin and also in the Good Food Guide. There's a suntrap terrace, or eat inside the glass-fronted, rather lovely restaurant space, where the plates are crafted from scratch on site (including bread and pasta) using seasonal, local produce. For £38 per person you can enjoy a film and three course dinner. Anything from grilled place with Greek olive and sundried tomato crushed potatoes with basil pesto, to Nanny Joy's sticky toffee pudding with banana and fudge ice cream. Call ahead to book and for the latest menus.
Over in Bury St Edmunds and at No. 4 on Hatter Street, the Abbeygate Cinema's idiosyncratic restaurant/café is totally different, boasting a north American/Canadian vibe in the food offering, with such a mouth-wateringly good menu it's often hard to decide what to have. Pop in for barista coffee and cake (from Nanaimo bars to billowing meringues).
Tuck into their signature brunch bowls on Sundays. Or take your pick from poutines, loaded Korean fries, Mongolian tofu, jambalaya, warm cavolo nero salad (delicious), porchetta sandwiches and more. It's a real gem. They're well stocked with local beer and cyder…and serve cocktails too.
Eat….at a vineyard
The Leaping Hare at Wyken Vineyards has rightly had a spot in the Good Food Guide for over 25 years. And visiting the glorious location, it's not hard to understand why. Aside from the gardens to visit, a wonderful regular farmers' market and a glamourous country lifestyle shop, Wyken's 400-year-old barn houses a café and restaurant where low food miles and seasonality are king. The menu changes often to embrace the freshest ingredients plucked from the kitchen gardens and local farms. Recently the restaurant's served the likes of Wyken venison fillet with spiced kofta, smoked potato and caramelised shallot, and toasted pinenut and honey tart with basil sorbet, lemon and olive oil. Lighter bites can be enjoyed during the day in the café, with the chance to take in rather lovely parkland views if you sit outside.
On the second Friday of every month until September, award-winning Flint Vineyard in Earsham near Bungay, is teaming up with its neighbours Ampersand Brew Co to put on Fridays at Camphill (named after the farm where both businesses are based). Inspiration for the event came from Hannah and Ben Witchell's experience of food and wine nights while living in France. The concept is simple. Great food, local wine and beer, and a relaxed atmosphere.
The location, overlooking the Waveney Valley and vineyards, is stunning, especially as the sun begins to set. Each month different street food providers bring their goodies along, with Pie Central, Nomadi Pizza, Hay Hay, The Cabin, Cocky Dogs and more lined up for 2019. The event runs from 6pm to 10.30pm with live music and children are welcome.
Eat…on the beach
It's neither a restaurant nor a café, but The Old Fishing Hut by Felixstowe's modern new pier is just the ticket if you fancy a wholesome lunch on the beach. The quaint little hut serves local seafood and shellfish, from dressed crabs, to oysters, cooked prawns, whelks and cockles…as well as the owner's own smoked mackerel and smoked salmon pate and more. Just take along a bottle of wine, some crusty bread and mayonnaise and you've got a feast to relish.
There are buffets…and there are buffets. We've all had a dodgy carvery of fibrous overcooked meat, lank veg and still solid spuds, but The Froize in Chillesford does things differently. Chef/patron David Grimwood stands at the 'pass', bearing his cheeky grin, lustily describing the main courses of the day, served straight from the hotplate. Slow-cooked meats feature heavily, be that a thick-crusted pie with lashings of gravy, chicken curry on the bone, or super slow-roasted pork. Plate up your own choice from the range of potatoes and vegetables. It's pricier than the average carvery, but the quality befits the cost. If you can spare a bit of room, make sure you have pudding too - there are loads of homemade sweets to choose from.
Eat….on a farm
Opened earlier this year, Old Hall Farm in Woodton (on the Suffolk/Norfolk border near Bungay) truly showcases the farm to fork ethos. While sitting out overlooking the farmland, you can tuck into breakfasts of their milk-fed pork sausages, bacon and free-range eggs, lunch from the salad bar, open sandwiches, paninis stuffed with anything from Baron Bigod brie and Candi's Spiced Carrot Chutney or their own pulled pork with homemade apple sauce, and a range of homemade cakes and savouries. On warm days make room for the farm's Jersey milkshakes and gelato.
Eat…in the jungle
Urban Jungle in Beccles really is a sight to behold - be you greenfingered or not. The huge glasshouse café is loaded with lush potted exotic plants, flowers, succulents and cacti. While a 'secret' sky-high hideaway makes a nice nook to escape to with a good book, coffee and cake, it's magical to take a seat in one of the niches created in the main part of the building, where home-cooked Mediterranean -style food is the order of the day- using homegrown vegetables and herbs where possible. The menu spans from brunch, through to plates of Moroccan chicken tagine with rice, homemade hummus with slow-cooked pulled lamb, crispy onion, pomegranate and flatbread, and a range of cakes. Many items can be prepared gluten-free.
Eat… street food in a courtyard
If you've got a penchant for Thai cuisine, have you heard of Eliza's? The Thai street food offering, cooked in the courtyard of DP's bar in Aldeburgh is pretty special, and very popular, with booking highly recommended. Eliza (the bar's owner) spent time learning how to cook authentic dishes while out in Thailand, and puts a local twist on the plates she puts out at the former chemist and book shop, from Tuesday to Saturday evenings from 6pm onwards.
Try everything from crispy pork with sesame sauce, to crispy Aldeburgh cod with garlic and black pepper, and seafood tempura with lime sauce.
Eat…in a coach house
The Coach House Tea Room at Helmingham Hall must have one of the grandest entrances of any café in Suffolk. Your drive into the hall, weaves you though mature parkland, accented by ancient trees. The tea room, at the Stables, is available to eat in whether you visit the gardens or not (we recommend you do), and welcomes guests at the same opening times. Choose to sit outside, or in the high ceilinged building, hung with bunting and local artwork. They serve lots of hot and cold savoury dishes, but the speciality has to be their wide range of homemade cakes, and the vintage afternoon tea (book in advance) which is generously sized and delicious.