During lockdown the nation grew appetites for lots of weird and wonderful things. Have we ever so passionately advocated for banana bread? Or walked so much? We ordered cake to our doorsteps in a bid to counteract the lockdown blues. And discovered a newfound adoration for houseplants – even the ones we might have routinely mocked our parents for when we were kids. Didn’t everyone have a spider plant lurking in a corner, quietly spawning its own little offspring to be donated to friends and family?

While banana bread seems to have dropped off the radar, our desire to indulge in good cake and to fill our homes with greenery shows no waning.

And you can find both at the region’s coolest new café - The Suffolk Jungle Room in Metfield – which opened this week, much to the excitement of owners Sam Coe and her partner Tony Prince.

“For me, this is a complete whim,” Sam laughs, talking about the business, where customers can have a bite to eat, or stop in to buy, or get advice about, indoor plants.

Sam, a musician, found her plans completely halted in 2020 by Covid when her European tour was cancelled. She managed to do a few performances online, but nothing can truly match the buzz of being in front of a live audience. “I had to rethink my career,” she says, adding that Tony had been working as a commercial refrigeration manager at the time of Covid.

“During lockdown Tony’s children (eight and 11) came to live with us so we decided it wasn’t ideal for him to be travelling around the country all the time, or for me to be away from home. We were looking for a change of lifestyle.”

They discussed the idea of a café. “Tony’s an ex-chef. He’d worked for David Lloyd developing the menus for the whole group around Europe. He knew what we needed to do. I, on the other hand,” laughs Sam, “had no idea. I’m a creative. I run another business, a music school in Norwich. I’ve been doing that since I was 21 – my sister and I have that together. On top of my creative life I love houseplants and said ‘why don’t we have a plant shop?’

“It was such a massive trend in lockdown.”

The couple liked the idea of combining great food with a ‘houseplant haven’. “We wanted to have plants for sale, but also for our business to share knowledge. For customers to be able to bring their plants to us for advice, or for houseplant holidays. If they were going away for a week or two, they wouldn’t have to trust their neighbour or a friend not to kill their plants – they could bring them to us.

“Complementing that the idea was to have a food offering, but also some Mediterranean produce for sale – fancy pasta and olives, that kind of thing. We’ve definitely grown our original idea into something much, much bigger.”

Sam and Tony found their ideal location in Metfield, near Harleston.

The look and feel of The Suffolk Jungle Room is, says Sam, down to her. “I said to Tony I just wanted it to be beautiful. When I go to coffee shops I want the coffee to be really good, but I also want to feel really welcome, for there to be a warm vibe, and to be surrounded by things I love. I’m hoping I’ve done that with the houseplants. There’s definitely a jungle theme going on.”

Sam has echoed the terracotta tiles of the building, and the big blue skies surrounding it, in her colour scheme, and even designed an enormous rattan lampshade for the café/shop herself.

It’s open for coffee, light lunches and cakes, with the possibility that breakfast could be on the cards at weekends soon too. “We’ll expand what we offer over time but for now we have wonderful, really tasty lunches. Flatbreads, and nice sourdough sandwiches and baguettes to take away or eat in. We have a very good selection of amazing low gluten and vegan cakes as well.”

Sam's favourite item from Tony’s menu is a chicken and chorizo flatbread with feta and pine nuts. She’s also happy to have a local baker on board, supplying freshly made scones and handmade cakes, and to be selling sausage rolls made by Filo & Twine.

Alongside are locally sourced coffee made with Brazilian beans, tea, and good hot chocolate.

Sam says the business is super family-friendly, and dog-friendly, with lots of excellent walks right on the doorstep.

Visitors looking to expand their collection of greenery will find an interesting array of plants at the shop, from cheese plants, which remind Sam of her mum’s house in the 70s, to “cute and interesting foliage plants and succulents at quite low cost.

“Tony and I are both into rare plants as well. We’re propagating some right now and hope to be able to develop that side of the business.”

Everything you need to nurture your plants is also in stock, from pots, to food, and there are plant-themed gifts and accessories too. “I’m working with some really lovely independent designers, and I’m always looking for things you can’t find anywhere else, which is key.”

In the lead up to the opening Sam said she was excited, but also overwhelmed.

“We’ve had so much support already and the village has welcomed us with open arms – we're so grateful. We hope people will come along to try our fantastic coffee and cakes, and will buy houseplants – which we can help them keep alive!”