25 of the best cafes for outdoor dining in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
With sunnier summer days stretching out on the horizon, eating outside can now be a pleasure (rather than a lockdown-forced necessity). Our food and drink editor picks out what she thinks are some of the very best spots for lounging around with cake and coffee in Suffolk’s great outdoors. Lockdown restrictions and their effects may have an impact on opening times so if you’re making a special visit far from home, call ahead first.
The Grazing Sheep
Where: Regatta Quay, Ipswich Waterfront
Open: From 8am Tuesday to Sunday
A petite, modern café on Ipswich’s Waterfront, with a slick upstairs dining room. But the most coveted seats are outside overlooking the marina – especially on a sunny day (even pop star Peter Andre has been known to visit for a bite by the water). The Spanish owners are passionate about three things – coffee, serving high quality, fresh food, and tapas. Everything is made on the premises, from the signature high-stacked breakfast muffins, to inventive salad bowls, and Catalan-style bread filled with spicy falafel, avocado puree, sun blush tomato and salads. There’s a range of changing cakes worth checking out too. The head chef was named Breakfast Chef of the Year in 2020. A former staff member at Tickets in Barcelona (part of the El Bulli empire) his tapas nights here have proved a huge success in Ipswich. Look out for future dates as lockdown restrictions lift.
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Open: From 9am Monday to Saturday and from 10am Sunday
Owners Faye and Rob opened Cobblers just before the 2020 spring lockdown – to great success. With a long list of wines and spirits, sharing plates of food, and live music, it quickly became a go-to for locals. Thankfully the new business has survived, even spawning a little sister company around the corner, specialising in waffles and pancakes. Found smack bang in the centre of the market town, Cobblers is spread over two floors and built a lovely patio terrace during lockdown, which is streamed with sunlight in the mornings and early afternoon. It’s dog-friendly. And there’s plenty of space to park your bike out back too. Pop in for breakfast or brunch, iced coffees, locally made cakes, or maybe lunch over a frosty limoncello spritz. Tapas-style dishes and sharing plates (including a ploughman’s) are available at lunch and dinner.
From 3pm to 5pm daily a hot drink and cake are less than £5 when bought together.
Where: Street Farm House, The St, Brent Eleigh
Open: 9.30am to 12.30am Thursday, 9am to 1pm Friday to Sunday
If you’re travelling on the stretch of road between Semer and Lavenham, you’ll encounter loads of cyclists – the twists and turns and largely smooth surfaces are a biker’s dream. When you get to Brent Eleigh, perhaps you’ll notice them nip off into a side turn en masse. Where are they going? Likely this converted barn café, inspired by the owner’s decade or so in Italy, and her husband’s passion for cycling. There’s loads of outdoor space, and it’s geared up for walkers and cyclists – with racks and spare tyres usually at hand. Sit out in the sun with great coffee, and something to sustain you from the small but perfectly formed menu. Perhaps a sausage roll sourced from Lavenham Butchers? Or a flapjack energy bar?
G&Ts Café and Kitchen
Where: The Old Post Office, High Street, Yoxford
Open: From 10.30am Monday to Sunday (not Wednesdays)
Former winner of Best Café/Tea Room in Suffolk, Gina and Thalia’s café, set in a former Post Office, feels like a little slice of home. The inside dining area is nestled into the double fronted entrance space, with shelves offering up games, books and other things to keep you occupied. And there’s a garden to the back for outside eating. On the way you’ll have to pass the cake counter, which is probably one of the best-stocked in Suffolk, with usually over a dozen or more baked goods to choose from – be it sticky ginger loaf, a brownie or lemon polenta cake. They make a cracking breakfast (especially pancakes). And tea is served in pots with a proper cup and saucer. Gina and Thalia are also eminent hosts. Everyone is made to feel very welcome.
Where: The Old Post House, Dennington
Open: 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Saturday
The village of Dennington is lucky to have this delightful tearoom on the doorstep. Not only do the small team sell lots of essentials (cheese, milk, bread) and some of the best sausage rolls around, but they make a really rather good afternoon tea – which has been available to takeaway in lockdown. It’s best enjoyed in the lovely garden and needs to be booked 48 hours in advance. For £16.95 you’ll get a feast (largely using suppliers from within 30 miles), including sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiche, Scotch egg, mixed fruit scones (made to an old family recipe), and usually a generous four pieces of cake – per person!
Where: Well Lane, Clare
Open: From 10am Tuesday to Thursday and from 9am Friday and Saturday
A small but perfectly formed village eatery that makes for a delightful refreshment stop on a trip to Clare while you’re antiquing, or before or after a walk in the historic country park. Sit in the courtyard in the morning with a full breakfast brimming with local ingredients, or maybe something a bit lighter – scrambled eggs and ham with a buttered crumpet. Cakes and savouries, loose leaf teas, good coffee and local juices are available throughout the day. And from lunchtime onwards you can sip on beer, wine or cider from the menu with a plate of ploughman’s, or special salad, sandwich or soup of the day. Takeaways are available. And children are catered for with their own picnic bags filled with goodies.
Dingle Hill Tearooms
Where: Dunwich, IP17 3DZ
Open: 9am to 5pm seven days a week (in summer)
The family who own this tea room are rather proud of its location. Not only is it a mere few minutes from the beach, but it’s perched on the edge of the forest...so you really do get the best of both worlds. The outside dining area is enormous (seating around 160 with plenty of space) but parking has been a bit of an issue in the past, with some customers having to leave their cars on a grassy verge. No more! The parking area has been extended, which is excellent news. Expect generous portions of well-made homely food, all prepared on site. From slices of cake and traybakes, to scones, cream teas, sandwiches and quiches.
The Tea Hut
Where: River Wall, Woodbridge
Open: From 10am Wednesday to Friday and from 9am Saturday and Sunday
The Tea Hut (which is so much more than a hut) sits in a leafy enclave just over the railway line on the outskirts of Woodbridge town centre. On one side, Kingston Fields with its open space, fab play area and tennis courts. On the other, the river, and a nice, meandering waterside walk into town. Just opposite the hut is Woodbridge’s model boating lake. The family and dog-friendly (there are treats and water bowls) spot has access ramps up to a large decked space which forms the main dining area. Here you can expect café food that’s a cut above, using produce from Woodbridge itself and then from wider Suffolk. We recommend the breakfasts and the excellent burgers, served in semi-brioche buns with relish, salad, twice-cooked hand-cut chips and their own slaw. Look out for music events here when restrictions allow.
Hollow Trees Farm
Where: A1141, Semer
Open: From 8.30am Monday to Saturday and from 9am Sunday
This place is built for families. Children will adore the farm trail with its slides, tyre swings – and mini tractors. While grown-ups should find plenty to whet their appetites in the farm shop, which positively bursts with homemade, locally sourced and homegrown produce – including their own beef and veg. There’s a deli, a butchery, and a weekly visiting fishmonger. But one of the best-loved features of the shop is its café, which has outdoor seating immediately outside, and in a field near the car park. The kitchen team use farm produce to make everything from scratch – be it pies, Sunday roasts, salads or the stonkingly good breakfasts. Smaller diners have their own menu to suit littler appetites – and they adore the animal-shaped shortbreads from the cake counter too. We recommend the quiches, the ploughman’s, the homemade haddock goujons, and their own steak, charred and tucked into a ciabatta with crispy onions.
Box River Café
Where: Broad Street, Boxford
Open: From 8.45am Monday to Saturday
I love the fact you can find little gems like this if you drive into and explore Suffolk’s smaller villages. Box River Café doesn’t have a large outdoor space (it’s just a few tables on the pavement) but what a place to sit, overlooking the church, a cup of their excellent coffee or creamy hot chocolate in hand. The breakfasts here are superb – they make a delicious eggs Benedict. But for me it’s all about the cake. The selection changes almost every day, and includes anything from coffee and walnut to millionaire’s flapjacks. They sometimes even make their own fudge. Look out for the café's (which has a wine shop attached) wine and charcuterie nights, every Friday from early July, 6pm to 10pm. Booking is advised.
The Secret Garden Café
Where: Friars Street, Sudbury
Open: From 9am Monday to Saturday, dinner served Friday and Saturday
Previously two venues (with the original café further along Friars Street), the restaurant and café have combined at magnificent Buzzard’s Hall, which has seating with cover at the back. Owned by Frenchmen Alain and Stephane, the café-restaurant has long been revered for its exquisite cakes, pastries, breads and simple, classic lunches. It’s one of the only places in Suffolk (outside of our high end bakeries) where you’ll find patisserie baked from scratch. Saturdays are the only day you can get your hands on a pain aux raisins or pain au chocolat (to go with something from the interesting loose leaf tea menu, or a good coffee). The lemon tart is to die for as well. At lunch I highly recommend their dish of smoked mackerel, horseradish, cream and Parmesan, grilled over sourdough with simple dressed leaves. They know their wine here, so let them help you choose something excellent to drink on the side.
No 5 Angel Hill
Where: Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds
Open: From 8.30am daily
The Athornes have transformed what was an already much-loved café (the Scandinavian Coffee House) on Bury St Edmunds’ Angel Hill, into something even better than it was before (in my opinion). As well as a few tables and chairs directly outside, in recent weeks they’ve been allotted space directly on Angel Hill alongside another business, so more people than ever can enjoy what they do. Their sausage rolls and scones are phenomenal. Specials board lunches original and delicious, and they make some of the best cakes in town. Favourites include their coffee and walnut, chocolate praline cake, and family recipe honey cake. A visit here feels like a real treat. And if you can’t get a table outside, grab a takeaway – because where could be better to eat al fresco than the flower-adorned Abbey Gardens opposite?
Earsham Street Café
Where: Earsham Street, Bungay
Open: 10am to 4.30pm every day
This vibrant café provided excellent takeaways during lockdown, but now’s the time to head along and sit inside (or in the covered garden) where you can fully appreciate the setting...and full menu. The eatery is open for breakfast, lunches, cakes (and a monthly themed supper club), and is good at catering for special diets, so call ahead if you’re vegan or Coeliac. We’ve enjoyed their tart of the day, pate with local sourdough, their own chutney and salad, and a platter of Marsh Pig charcuterie with ham, cheese, pickles, salads, olives and bread – excellent for sharing.
Children are very welcome, with toys and colouring available for them, and the café is also dog-friendly. If you arrive by bike there’s cycle parking in the garden.
The Wild Blackberry Cafe
Where: Swann’s Nursery, Eyke Road, Bromeswell
Open: From 9am Monday to Saturday and Sunday from 10am
If you enjoy The Wild Strawberry on Woodbridge’s Market Hill, have you yet tried their sister business here in Bromeswell? If we’re travelling to the coast via this road, or over to Orford for crabbing, we often stop in here for a bite to eat on the way. The cabin-style café has a terrace (with shades) surrounded by plants, and puts out some very good food. Their cheese scones are some of the cheesiest I’ve tried anywhere, coming with butter and relish. And the sandwiches and salads are a cut above what you might expect. An example is the toasted halloumi salad with hummus, cumin roasted sweet potato and red peppers, leaves, pitta and house dressing. The brownies are spot-on too and you have to try them if you visit.
Where; Gainsborough Street, Sudbury
Open: From 9am Tuesday to Sunday
A brightly decorated, cheery café in a 17th century building, directly opposite Gainsborough’s House. Visit for all-day breakfasts, interesting lunches, afternoon teas, or just for a slice of really very good cake. Booking is highly advised, as this place gets busy. There’s a sunny courtyard garden if you’d like to sit outside. And well-behaved dogs are welcome – they might even get a homemade doggy treat. Cyclists are free to use the new bike rack at the back. We love the fact breakfast is served all day – from a full English to eggs how you like them. You can also build your own salad, sandwich or jacket potato. The afternoon teas are scrumptious but need booking a day or two in advance.
Honey + Harvey
Where: Riduna Park, Melton
Open: 8am to 3pm
Another favourite pit stop on the way to or from the Suffolk Heritage Coast. You might think it’s not very glamorous having lunch in the car park of a business park – but you’d be wrong. All the ‘beautiful people’ make their way here at the weekend for the divine cakes and bakes, all day breakfasts and buddha bowls.
We love the Honeys Breakfast (sliced avocado, Pinneys smoked salmon, poached eggs, salsa verde, spinach and seeds over sourdough) and the ‘epic’ brioche eggy bread, dished up with Nutella mascarpone, strawberries and chunks of chocolate cornflakes!
The afternoon teas are worth trying too – book these in advance to eat in or take away.
Where: St Peter’s Street, Ipswich
Open: From 8.30am Monday to Saturday
Sisters Beth and Hannah brought café culture back to Ipswich when they opened this place on St Peter’s Street, and they’ve gone on to be named the best café in Suffolk multiple times. It’s not hard to see why. All staff at the front are properly trained baristas (coffee is a big deal here, and done well). The menu is concise and simple. And the setting, with local artwork dotted about inside, and vines and flowers festooning the walled courtyard garden, is lovely. You have to try the sausage rolls and herby cheese scones. The cakes are brilliant (especially the weekend’s cinnamon rolls if they have them). And the lunchtime offering is reliably good – from fresh salads to toasties. At the moment you can try a mixed salad bowl with leaves, potato salad, red cabbage and walnut slaw, and pea and mint dip. The afternoon teas are a steal and one of our favourites in the county
Where: Fornham Business Court, The Drift, Fornham St Martin
Open: From 8.30am Monday to Saturday
A foodie treasure, a short drive from Bury St Edmunds. Sit out on one of the benches on the lawn, or on the patio, where you can enjoy what is some very good food indeed. It’s all made with the best ingredients, many of them local – including award-winning Woosters bread. And it’s pretty creative too – you won’t find some of the dishes anywhere else. All day breakfasts promise the usual fry-ups alongside their house granola with yoghurt, poached rhubarb and blood orange, or porridge with sticky caramelised banana, their own cacao nut butter and salted caramel. While lunch could be a brioche bun with harissa prawn cocktail and French fries, or a Hall Farm asparagus turnover with gruyere and prosciutto. The cakes are lovely. The hot chocolate (70% Island brand with the option of a Yaffle House marshmallow) one of the finest in Suffolk. And the café sells a small range of gifty, crafty, foodie bits to peruse too.
Where: Thoroughfare, Woodbridge
Open: From 9am Monday to Saturday
Suzanne’s pastel-shaded cakery on Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare hides a ‘secret garden’ - and you’ll have to squeeze past the jaw-droppingly good cakes (from salted caramel flapjacks to coconut brownies and chocolate and peanut butter tart) and new sweet and chocolate shop at the back of the building to get there. This is such a pretty café, and Suzanne caters for most diets (from vegan to gluten-free) with a snazzy menu of delicious plates and bowls. Be that a veggie Moroccan roll, coronation chicken pitta, buddha bowl, or lovely fresh salad. Soups, salads and quiches change weekly. And there’s a unique selection of coffee-free lattes to sample including beetroot and cacao, and turmeric. These sit alongside regular coffee, speciality teas and milk, white and dark hot chocolates.
Where: Exchange Square, Beccles
Open: From 8am Monday to Saturday
Walk through the door here and instantly your appetite will be piqued by the delectable handmade chocolates, cakes and treats that greet you. They take the average café up a notch at Twyfords – after all, they do also own H&J, roasting their own coffee and making their own chocolate from scratch. There’s also a craft bakery and smokery in the mix.
Food ranges from the classic (locally sourced full English breakfasts included) through to something a bit more next level – think beef brisket with chipotle barbecue sauce, tumbleweed onions and skin-on fries. All available to enjoy in the garden terrace at the back in this lovely riverside town.
Where: Hadleigh Road, Springvale Studios, Sproughton
Open: From 9am Wednesday to Sunday
Newly arrived at Sproughton (so a good stopping point for anyone heading into or out of Ipswich), The Milkshed invites you to indulge in the Scandinavian tradition of Fika. Essentially this means to slow down, take stock and give yourself a little break and breathing space – with cake and coffee of course. There’s a courtyard area for outside dining, where you can sample filled bagels from Bagel Club, gourmet Paris-Brest pastries from Vlad’s Patisserie and Brownie and the Bean brownies alongside Crude coffee.
Open: From 7am Monday to Saturday and from 8am Sunday
There’s a large garden for dining at this roadside café and farm shop on the main tourist route along the A12 on the Heritage Coast. It’s a glorious place to sit outside on a warm day, looking out over the fields before heading on to Aldeburgh, Walberswick or maybe Southwold. They make a stonking English breakfast, freshly cut sandwiches, generous lunches and a range of cakes, from towering chocolate sponges, to giant scones. A must-visit if you’re in this neck of the woods. Very family-friendly.
Where: Mill Road, Newbourne
Open From 9am Tuesday to Saturday
Set in a renovated cow shed, Nourish has been sustaining local people with cute afternoon tea boxes and even barbecue food during lockdown. But now’s the time to visit, sitting outside on one of the benches in this quiet part of Suffolk, a short drive from Woodbridge, Ipswich and Felixstowe. The menu is a real celebration of Suffolk produce, and has a wholesome feel, incorporating plenty for vegetarians and those following a gluten-free diet. In the mornings they dish up their own lime and coconut granola with tropical fruit compote, and stacks of pancakes adorned with berrries, biscuits and meringues. Then there are lunchtime seafood platters of house smoked fish pate, tempura cod, salmon, salad, and tartare sauce, or ‘snaffle boards’ - their take on a ploughman's fixed with salad, antipasti, pickles, toast or crackers with a sausage roll, Scotch egg or falafels. Sunday brunch is very popular and served from 9am to 1pm.
Willow Tree Farm Shop
Where: Lower Road, Glemsford
Open: From 9am Tuesday to Sunday
A gem of a farm shop on the route that travels between Long Melford, Cavendish and Clare. This is a true family operation, with everyone joining forces to bring the best of Suffolk onto customers’ plates. In addition to the well-stocked shop, there is a bright café, financed largely by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Eat inside or out on the terrace. They begin the day with a variety of classic breakfasts, leading into jacket potatoes, sandwiches, open sandwiches (such as pink tenderloin of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, crispy onions and radish slices), and cakes (tropical carrot cake and Tia Maria fruit cake amongst them). The daily specials are more akin to the type of food you’d find in a bistro, taking a global influence. And desserts include their own homemade ice cream – you don’t see that every day. Sunday lunches (booking recommended) cost £24.95 for three courses. The café is licensed – and has a very big range of local spirits to try.
Assington Country Kitchen
Where: The Street, Assington
Open: From 9am daily
This lofty converted barn, with a wall of glass looking out over the dining patio and garden, has long been a popular location for the lunching crowd. Sharing space on the site with a hair salon, farm shop, interiors/gift store and even a doggy grooming parlour, the café and restaurant has a feel of refinement about it. If you’re treating someone special, and want a meal that’s not all jacket potatoes and sandwiches, head here for homemade salads, homemade burgers, and specials such as field mushrooms and vegetables tucked under a puff pastry lattice with a tomato and garlic sauce. The puddings, cakes and scones are all very good indeed.