New Ipswich cafe brings a touch of French class to the town
- Credit: Archant
Get small batch coffee, ‘amazing’ hot chocolate, healthy breakfasts and continental sandwiches at The Green Room.
What do you get when you cross a manager and customer service expert, with a barista and a scientist? Nope, it’s not a rubbish joke, it’s the bods behind Ipswich’s latest café, The Green Room. The trio of Hayley (who worked for Nobu and the Orient-Express), Naomi (previously with award-winning Applaud in Ipswich) and Su-Ling (a scientist, interior decorator and marketer with a penchant for old buildings) have just opened the café at St Margaret’s Green in the town.
We found out more about what’s on offer from Su-Ling.
Q: So what was your vision for the café and its style? Did you have to do much work?
A: The shop was riddled with woodworm and rot. The floor was about to cave in as all the supporting beams had turned to dust. All the pipes and electrics had to be replaced. And we replaced damaged floorboards with new ones with had milled to match. Also, the cellar was flooded, with no ventilation. It was awful! We worked with a conservation consultant to ensure we stayed within guidelines and totally stripped back the external woodwork that had centuries of thick paint. That was a labour of love. My husband Jonny and I spent months doing that. I wanted to work with the building and its age, sympathetic to its Georgian silhouette. It was most recently an antiques shop and with my love of auctions, the furniture is all mahogany or dark oak.
As for the vision…I’m a huge Francophile and I love the Paris café scene so we do certain things in a French style. I didn’t want it to be an office away from home, so we have chosen not to open up our Wifi, but to suggest people have conversations instead. Today, two separate customers came in with novels. They sat and read and drank coffee. So French. It was today’s highlight. Yesterday’s was the retired musician who came in and played the piano and sang.
Q: What style of food can customers expect?
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A: French! French butter. French jams. And a French chef will be doing our savouries. Where possible we’re using local suppliers like The Cake Shop Bakery in Woodbridge. And we’re very excited to be stocking the Aspall family’s latest drinks venture – Nonsuch Shrubs. We have a range of vegan and dairy/gluten-free options because we feel this is a mainstream need rather than a niche market. And we’re trying to use UK seasonal produce rather than out of season veg such as avocado and green beans. We want to use fresh fruit and vegetables in our cooking as much as possible and have lots of healthy options with low sugar, low salt and less bad fats.
Q: So what’s on the menus? Do you do anything a bit different?
A: At breakfast we have our croissants which are all butter and delicious. The Green Room Breakfast, our signature breakfast, is like a morning tonic. It’s a blend of banana (our one ‘unethical’ fruit) blueberries and apples mixed with natural yoghurt or nut milk, topped with dried fruits, nuts, oats, crushed linseed and spirulina powder. It’s so delicious and satiating, you’d never know it was good for you. We also have my version of scrambled eggs (naturally silky and yolky) on sourdough toast, a vegan option of crushed peas on toast with seeds, mint and olive oil, and deluxe porridge with dried fruits, coconut and nuts, topped with yoghurt, banana, cinnamon and date syrup.
At lunch we have classic French sandwiches such as jambon beurre (thick French butter with prosciutto on baguette), camembert and rocket, rillettes, nicoise and more, all with cornichon and celeriac remoulade. There’s also puy lentils with sliced egg, quiche du jour, soups and a vegan hummus of the day (currently butter bean and garlic with caramelised paprika onion jam).
Q: How about cakes and bakes?
A: They’re homemade and some of them are French such as pear and almond tart, cheese gougeres and Florentines. But we also have more traditional English ones such as lemon and poppyseed cake, and ginger cake. There’s a mix of gluten-free and vegan options. We’re not about showstopper cakes and high sugar content. It’s more home cooking and fresh.
Q: Let’s talk about your drinks menu…
A: We major on the best coffee and the best soft drinks. As well as Nonsuch we have another special bottled cold drinks range coming soon. Coffee is from Small Batch in Brighton, a small business roasting beans they’ve actually been growing themselves! It’s a lighter roast, bringing out the red fruit notes in their signature Goldstone espresso blend. There’s no bitterness with this quality coffee. We also have single origin coffees for plungers which are absolutely amazing.
Teas are from independent company, Joe’s Tea – a new start-up rivalling Tea Pigs. Our standard tea is Twinings English Breakfast because it’s noticeably better than any other high street brand. I refuse to buy catering pack sizes as I think the quality is inferior. Good tea is critical!
Also, I have to mention our chocolat chaud. Two people now have said it’s the best hot chocolate they’ve ever had. It’s my version of a French recipe using solid dark salted chocolate.
Q: A Lot of food businesses are making a huge effort to be eco-friendly these days. Have you put many green measures in place?
A: This should be the norm. I have paid extra to ensure everything is biodegradable and we have takeaway wooden cutlery and paper straws. We stock all glass bottled drinks and have decided against selling water in plastic bottles. All our cleaners are Ecover too. So we’re trying to be as conscious as possible when making any purchase decisions – considering air miles and excessive packaging.
Q: How’s it all going so far?
A: We’ve had so many amazing comments from people. Several have told us we have the best coffee in Ipswich, which is what we set out to do and that alone has made it all worthwhile. People seem to love the ambiance and that we are doing things a bit differently. We already have a set of regular customers.