Restaurant Review: First Cafe, Debach: “It’s a bit quiet but the food’s great value”

A wholemeal panini filled with cheese and ham.

A wholemeal panini filled with cheese and ham. - Credit: Archant

We checked out a new cafe found on an old Suffolk airfield

Tuna and cheese panini.

Tuna and cheese panini. - Credit: Archant

Food

My friend Nicola thought I was a wee bit mad dragging her out into the middle of nowhere to this café, based at an old airfield on a burgeoning business estate.

But it’s only 15 minutes from the centre of Ipswich, and we were after a break from the hustle and bustle of town, so it seemed ideal.

The location is certainly unusual and the set-up quite different (it’s almost like a mini converted container) but it was nice to get away from it all.

Hnoeycomb rocky road

Hnoeycomb rocky road - Credit: Archant

Straight off the bat, a few of the things we wanted to try from the menu weren’t available – perhaps as it was a Monday they were waiting to restock?

Cakes at the counter looked nice and fresh, and there was a small specials board too, although some of the items on it, it turned out, were off limits too. Shame.

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So our choice came down purely to what they DID have – and that was paninis. Ham and cheese for me, and tuna and cheese for Nic.

It was refreshing to be offered a choice of brown or white bread – unusual for a ciabatta – and we were surprised, when they came to the table, at how big they were.

These sandwiches were whoppers, and served with crisps and side salad too.

The bread, it has to be said, was a joy. Fluffy and holey in the middle, with a thin crusty exterior, it tasted so, so fresh, and nothing like those rubbery, jaw-breaking ones you get in the supermarket. I asked where the ciabatta were from and it turns out they’re sourced from a bakery in Brighton, which I actually found a bit disappointing considering there are some really excellent bakers in Suffolk.

The fillings of the paninis were generous and tasty. The tuna wasn’t mushy and pappy. The cheese had a nice mature, salty bite. And the ham was the real deal, not the floppy wet ‘pretend’ sandwich ham I detest.

Our bellies fully busted from the enormity of our bready main courses, Nic and I couldn’t help but eye up the cakes and eventually caved.

We tried the honeycomb rocky road – packed with fruity bits, chewy bits, rubbly biscuit bits and a good dose of crispy, sweet honeycomb. Nommy is the only word that applies.

A slice of chocolate cake was moist, light and very very chocolatey without being sickly.

But the star of the show was a slice of toffee cake, all rich with good brown sugar, sliced through with a hint of salt and a hum of warming nutmeg.

To say we were full is an understatement.

Drink

It was good quality tea and coffee had been sourced. There was Frank and Earnest coffee from Bury St Edmunds, a range of local and organic soft drinks and Suki tea – which is excellent.

Nic had a regular brew and I chose peppermint tea, which came in cutesy see-through teapots. It would have been nicer if the pots weren’t dirtied by water marks. I always think there’s a sense of occasion when drinking Suki as they are such nice blends, and a polish of the teapot would have made it feel a bit more special.

Ambiance

First is all raw wood and industrial pendants. It’s rough and ready but in a tasteful and, dare I say it, quirky, way. The café is really bright and felt airy despite its less than capacious footprint. It was a little soulless on the day we visited as it was just us and a couple of other people eating.

Service

The two ladies on duty that day were pleasant enough, but it would have been good from the outset to be told what was off the menu, so we didn’t have to keep changing our choices.

Location

It’s not too far to drive out to from Ipswich and is ideally placed for travellers heading over to Wickham Market or back to Claydon. If you want to escape from it all to get a bit of work done over a coffee, it’s perfect.

Parking

There is parking just outside for about six cars, but the café is quite small so that’s ample.

Price

It was just over £23 for two large paninis, three cakes, two hot drinks and a soft drink, which wasn’t bad going for the quality of what we had.

Highlight

The paninis were excellent in terms of the freshness of the bread and the deep fillings.

Summary

We enjoyed the food at First, but it was a little bit too quiet for us. It would be interesting to see what it’s like on the weekends. If there’s a bit of a buzz at brunch times we think that could be a great time to visit.

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