Review: The Suffolk cafe in world's top 10% according to Tripadvisor

The wonderful apple tart at The Angel in Needham

The wonderful apple tart at The Angel in Needham - Credit: Mark Heath

Our food reviewer Mark Heath and his dad Peter visited The Angel in Needham Market for lunch on a Tuesday. Here's what they made of it... 

"What's the difference between a café and a bistro, anyway?"

Mouth half full of burger, my old man's got me stumped. I quickly Google it.

"Apparently a café is a place where people mostly go to get coffee," I inform him. "A bistro is a place which serves "a mixture of food and drinks."

"Ah," comes the retort. "Well this is definitely more of a bistro then - and a good one at that."

He's right. While The Angel can be found referred to as a restaurant, café or bistro depending on where you look - a sign says both café and bistro above its door - there's no doubt that whatever the classification, it's top notch.

The Angel in Needham has been named in the world's top 10% of restaurants by Tripadvisor

The Angel in Needham has been named in the world's top 10% of restaurants by Tripadvisor - Credit: Mark Heath

Don't just take my word for it. No less an authority than Tripadvisor have given The Angel a Traveller's Choice Award, recognising the top 10% of eateries in the world, according to reviews.

It's that which has brought us here, on a crisp, sunny November afternoon. At least it did when we finally found it - though the Angel is on the High Street in Needham, it's fairly unassuming. I think we drove past it twice - not what you'd expect of a place with such a lofty reputation.

Most Read

Once inside, we're seated quickly in the small but perfectly formed downstairs area - seven or so tables spaced out and divided with the now-familiar Covid screens. There's an upstairs too, which is worth remembering at busy times.

The menu is large and enticing, from all-day breakfasts to toasties, sarnies, salads, wraps, starters, mains and desserts - the Angel has all bases covered. From a café to a restaurant, one might say. It can serve alcohol too, which is always worth noting.

Mark's starter at The Angel in Needham - crispy beef salad

Mark's starter at The Angel in Needham - crispy beef salad - Credit: Mark Heath

We're in this for the full experience, so each pick a starter and main - along with a latte for me and a pot of tea for popz - and await our scran.

That duly arrives quickly - crispy beef salad for me, crispy whitebait for dad.

Both dishes look good, and eat well. My beef is crispy and dry - in a good way - with a lovely Chinese style flavour and plenty of crunch. That's all offset nicely by the fresh, crisp and varied salad sitting beneath.

Dad, who it should be noted is something of a café connoisseur due to his passion for cycling - he lists me his top three scone and coffee locations in Suffolk and Essex while we wait - is also happy with his.

Peter's crispy whitebait at The Angel in Needham

Peter's crispy whitebait at The Angel in Needham - Credit: Mark Heath

A plentiful portion of fish, coated in a light and crispy batter and served with tartare sauce and a salad.

The batter is particularly praised. "It's so light you can see the blighters looking at you," opines dad as he dips one headfirst into the tartare.

A good start, then, with the main event coming up.

Here, I've gone for the burger - a good indicator for any eatery, I always think. Dad, an athlete still at 74, has opted for the pan-fried seabass.

My burger, to which I've added cheese as an optional topping - and why wouldn't you - is nicely presented, clearly home-made and comes with a pile of skin-on fries and pot of coleslaw.

The burger at The Angel in Needham

The burger at The Angel in Needham - Credit: Mark Heath

It's a brioche bun too - another tick. The fries are tremendous - crispy, salty, not at all greasy - and the burger is tasty, if a little dry. I prefer my patties to be left a touch pink, but it's not for everyone, of course.

Dad finds his seabass a little dry and overcooked too - though not by much - but is a big fan of the crushed potato, chorizo, pea puree and white wine cream accompaniments. The presentation, too, is spot on.

Two courses down then, and I ask dad if he can find room for a dessert. 'If that apple tart is homemade," he says, nodding at a menu blackboard over my shoulder, "I'm in."  

Peter's pan-fried seabass at The Angel in Needham

Peter's pan-fried seabass at The Angel in Needham - Credit: Mark Heath

We're promised the tart is indeed homemade, and thus we order two up to cap the meal.

And what a cap it is. We're presented with two very sexy individual tarts, topped with a sliced strawberry, dusted with sugar and making friends with a pool of custard.

They are delicious. Short, crumbly pastry, big chunks of apple - neither too sweet nor too sour - and that cracking creamy custard.

The best apple tarts either of us have had for a while, we agree.

All told, the meal comes to just over £52 which, for three courses and drinks, I think is perfectly reasonable.

The wonderful apple tart at The Angel in Needham

The wonderful apple tart at The Angel in Needham - Credit: Mark Heath

"I enjoyed that, son" my old man says as we head out of the door.

Cafe, bistro or restaurant - whatever The Angel wants to call itself, we'll be back. 


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter