Five floating restaurants to visit in Suffolk

The Alan Gardiner passing under the Orwell Bridge Near Ipswich, Suffolk

The Alan Gardiner offers tours along the river Orwell - Credit: River Cruise Restaurants

Suffolk offers a host of floating restaurants, allowing diners to take a trip out on the county's rivers or just have a snack by the quay. 

The Mariners Restaurant, Ipswich

The Mariners floating restaurant can be found at the Ipswich waterfront in suffolk

The Mariners restaurant on the Ipswich waterfront is set inside a 120-year-old Belgian gunboat - Credit: Jazz Lines

The Mariners Restaurant is set on a 19th century Belgian gunboat whose history has seen her captured by the Germans twice, serve as a Red Cross hospital ship and even as a party ship in the 1970s.

The vessel arrived in Ipswich in 1990 where it began a new life as an Italian restaurant, later rebranded as the Mariners.

The current owner Juilien took it over in 2013, after working on the boat as a chef.

His food is an international mix, taking inspirations from his travels around South East Asia, his native France and the Suffolk coast. 

Where: Neptune Quay, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AX

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When: Lunch: Tuesday - Sunday 12.00 - 14.30, Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday 18.00 - 21.30, Closed Sunday Evening

Price: A two course dinner is £23.95, while a three course dinner will set you back £25.95

The Allen Gardiner, Ipswich 

The Alan Gardiner passing under the Orwell Bridge Near Ipswich, Suffolk

The Alan Gardiner offers tours along the river Orwell - Credit: River Cruise Restaurants

The Alan Gardiner was built in 1942 in Miami for the South African Air Force as a rescue launch.

The ship and her twenty sisters were used to rescue more than 600 survivors from ships sunk by German submarines off the coast of Africa during World War II.

She was brought to Ipswich from Durban by the current owners in 2013.

The Alan Gardiner now cruises the river Orwell serving food for up to 12 passengers, some of it with a slight South African slant. A fully stocked bar is available, including imported South African wine. 

The Allen Gardiner is available as a private charter, or people may book independently, sharing the restaurant with other passengers.

Where: Fox's Marina, The Strand, Ipswich IP2 8SA

When: Lunch cruises are from 12 noon to 3.00pm, Supper cruises are from 4.00pm to 7.00pm and dinner cruises are from 7.30pm to 10.30pm

Price: The cost of the three hour cruise itself is £23.50, with two courses from £19.95 or three courses from £22.95 

Haven Yacht Club's Lightship Restaurant, Levington 

Haven Ports Yatchclub at the lightship in levington, on the orwell, in suffolk

Haven Yatch Club operates out of a large red lightship dating from 1932. - Credit: Ian Benson

The Lightship, now at Levington, was launched in 1932, and stationed off the coast of Cromer.

Her original purpose involved being towed off shore to a sandbank or reef, where her light warned other ships of the danger.

Another vessel of a similar type was used as the base for the famous east coast pirate radio station, Radio Caroline.

She was bought by Haven Port Yacht club in 1974, for use as a clubhouse, and has been open to visiting yachtsmen ever since.

The club's chef Vincent, from Chef Noir catering, offers a wide variety of food including traditional pies, scampi, and fish and chips.

The Lightship also has a fully stocked bar, including local beer, and a range of wines, spirits and soft drinks. 

Where: Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP10 0LN

When: The Lightship is open from 12-3 pm and 6-10 pm Wednesday to Saturday, and 12-3pm on Sundays

Price: Mains start from £13.65

The HMS Vale, Melton 

The HMS Vale can be found on the river deben, in melton boat yard

The HMS Vale can be found at Melton Boatyard on the River Deben, near Woodbridge - Credit: Deben Cafe

The HMS Vale is a former Swedish Navy fast missile attack craft which served in the Baltic from 1978 to 1995.

In 2003 she started serving as the base for the Norwich sea cadets — swapped armaments for accommodation, kitchens and showers.

While based in Norwich, the ship was renamed the TS Lord Nelson.

She was sold to her current owners and returned to her previous name in 2019, and brought on her challenging journey around the coast and up the Deben by two tugboats.

Now the ship is open as a cafe at Melton Boatyard, offering food, barista coffee and Adnams ale.

Where: HMS Vale, Melton Boatyard, Dock Lane, Melton, IP12 1PE

When: 9.00-17.00 (Breakfast is available until 12)

Price: A fried breakfast will set you back £7, but you can get a toasted sandwich or soup of the day for only £5.50 or £4.50 respectively. 

The Lady Florence, Orford

The Lady Florence, out of Orford, Suffolk

The Lady Florence lives by the village of Orford, offering dinners in the protected harbour. - Credit: River Cruise Restaurants

The Lady Florence was built during WWII as a supply boat, one of 338 of her class ordered by the admiralty.

She remained in naval service until 1963, when she was transferred to the sea cadets. She was bought in 1983 by businessman from Woodbridge, who renamed her Lady Florence and started running the river cruise business. 

She was taken over by her current owners in 1992 and has been continuing to operate as a tour boat and floating restaurant.

The river restaurant has space for 12 passengers. 

As the vessel cruises the rivers Alde and Ore — protected from the sea by the long shingle spit of Orford Ness — freshly prepared food is served and passengers can choose from a fully stocked bar, with a small but comprehensive wine list. 

Where: Orford Quay, Orford, Suffolk IP12 9LU

When: Breakfast cruise: 9.30 – 11.30am all year Lunch cruise: 12 noon –3.00pm all year Supper cruise: 4.00pm – 7.00pm (March until October) Dinner cruise: 7.00pm – 9.30am (June and July)

Price: Breakfast cruise: includes two-hour cruise and 3-course breakfast at £33.50 per person. For lunch, supper and dinner cruises the cost of the cruise itself is £23.50 per person, payable at time of booking. Two courses costs £19.95, while three courses costs £22.95.

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