11 of the best places to eat outside by the water in Suffolk

The Tea Hut sits closeby the River Deben path

The Tea Hut sits closeby the River Deben path - Credit: Archant

As we take our tentative steps out into the ‘real world’ again, the next big milestone is outdoor dining being allowed.  Restaurants, pubs and cafes across the UK have been busily working on spring menus and jazzing up their al fresco areas, ready to welcome you with open arms. Here are some of my favourite picks from our coasts, lakes and rivers. Unless stated otherwise, the majority of them open from April 12 for tables of up to six, or two households per group.

The Tea Hut, Woodbridge 

This is a rather cutesy little informal place we like, close to the river and overlooking the town’s model boating lake. Tucked into a grassy spot, the pretty shed has lots of outdoor seating, and  a concise but tasty menu, filled with local ingredients – from the bread used for sandwiches and burgers, to the meat inside. If you’re after a light bite, or cake and coffee away from it all, this is a good bet. It’s dog-friendly too. Pop by (it’s first-come first-serve) from April 14. Also opening on April 14 for outdoor bookings in Woodbridge is The Boathouse – a brand new restaurant that has only been able to sell takeaways since it launched. The coffee/cocktail space looks a good spot to nab with friends. 

The Henny Swan, Great Henny near Sudbury 

This pub’s flower-filled terrace dining area has a dreamy outlook, over meadows and scenery, the likes of which has been immortalised by Gainsborough and Constable. The lawns run right up to the edge of the river Stour, and (when operating) there are boat trips along here operated by the River Stour Trust, while the pub hires out paddleboards and rowing boats. It really is a lovely spot for a glass of chilled vino, accompanied by temptations such as hot smoked salmon with beetroot hummus, fennel and orange, tenderloin of pork with quince puree, black pudding and potato terrine, or rum and raisin cheesecake. 

The Butt and Oyster at Pin Mill in Suffolk

The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill in Chelmondiston - Credit: Archant

The Butt and Oyster, Pin Mill

A short drive out of Ipswich, this is a family favourite of ours – we love the woodland walk tucked behind the pub, or hiking past the boat yard along the water’s edge, where rope swings hang for the kids (and big kids) to play on. The Butt and Oyster’s outside dining area looks right out over the Orwell – perfect for boat and bird watching – and the menu has something for everyone, from burgers and light bites, to fritto misto, curries, and several vegan and vegetarian options. Tables are available on a first-come first-serve basis. 

A plate of seafood pasta at Alba Chiara, Felixstowe

Handmade pasta and Roman style pinsa pizzas can be taken away from Alba Chiara in Felixstowe to eat on the beach - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

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Alba Chiara, Felixstowe 

Takeaways from this authentic Italian restaurant really made our summer last year (when we were allowed to venture out). Alba Chiara is smack bang in the centre of town’s beachfront – so your dining room is, well, the sand and shingle. All the pasta is handmade, and the pinsa pizzas are Roman-style, with an ethereally light crust. Recommendations include the silky pasta with king prawns, saffron and double cream, and the signature pinsa with Dedham Vale salt beef, aubergine and onion, cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic oil. Group sharing platters to takeaway start at £18.50 per person. Order and pay online and you’ll be given a collection time.  

The Dolphin, Thorpeness 

Dog-friendly, and minutes away from the beach, The Dolphin has a delightful enclosed lawn for dining, with benches, a terrace, and some undercover spaces. The kitchen grows some of its ingredients in amongst the beds. And local suppliers fill a lot of the menu. The pub is open for breakfast (9am to 12pm), lunch and dinner, with a varied offering, including really interesting vegan/vegetarian food. The new menu includes spicy slow braised rabbit with peppers, onions, carrot, radish, spring onions and soy sauce, tempura calamari with sriracha aioli and tonic pickled cucumber, and (in the mornings) American pancakes. 

The Harbour Inn, Southwold 

Whenever we eat at this pub, against the river Blyth and overlooking the marshes, it feels like we’re on holiday. Bookings are now being taken for the terrace and patio every day from 12noon to 6pm on April 12. Fish is definitely the dish of the day – with much of the seafood landed by local boats or sourced from Lowestoft. I’m quite happy with a smoked fish platter, a pint and some crusty bread, but the menu also includes Suffolk Smokies (smoked haddock flaked in cheese sauce on granary toast), truffled Cheddar and Baron Bigod mac and cheese, and a chargrilled Suffolk steak burger. 

The Eel’s Foot, Eastbridge 

Perched at the edge of RSPB Minsmere, this is the perfect stop off for birders, or families looking to explore the great outdoors. It’s dog friendly. And the large lawned garden has a fantastic Adnams Ghost Ship play area. There’s plenty of al fresco dining space, and the pub is set to launch its new burger grill from April 12, running alongside pizza. I am partial to their signature rarebits, but could be swayed by a porchetta and stuffing burger with apple chutney, or the hot smoked salmon pizza with roasted fennel and caper dressing. 

The Marquis, Upper Layham 

Formerly a country pub, this is now a smart hotel/restaurant that, handily, is within walking distance of my house! On warm days, the large, staggered terrace is one of my favourite places to be with my girlfriends. The lawn slopes down to the river, framed by ancient trees, giving a gorgeous outlook. As well as terraces with patio heaters, there’s a small covered area, and outdoor bookings are open now for April 12. The cocktails are excellent and the food, while pricy, is top notch, from brunch with a difference (confit duck leg waffle with bacon and maple syrup), to Alaskan king crab claw with black olive and truffle fregola, skinny fries and house salad. 

Dingle Hill Tearooms, Dunwich 

They’re not short of space at this friendly family-run tearoom, which is just a few hundred yards from Dunwich beach. The garden seats around 160 people, with room to spare, and they’re open for dining every day from April 12. Expect traditional café fare done well. Homemade cakes.  Quiche of the day. Sweet or savoury cream teas. It’s always a pleasure to eat here. 

The orangery and dining pods by the river at The Anchor Inn, Nayland, Suffolk

The Anchor Inn at Nayland sits right next to the river and is taking bookings for outdoor dining from April 12, with the pods, orangery and indoor dining set to reopen in May - Credit: The Anchor Inn

The Anchor, Nayland 

The location of this pub is pretty much picture perfect. A meandering river. A bridge. Trees weeping their branches into the water – this stretch is brilliant for kayaking and paddleboarding. While the glasshouse and dining pods aren’t opening quite yet, you can book tables on the lawn or terrace area from April 12. Must-tries are the meats from the pub’s smokehouse, with platters available. Very popular with families. 

The terrace at The Brudenell Hotel in Aldeburgh

Lunch with a view from The Brudenell in Aldeburgh - Credit: Nick Smith Photography

The Brudenell, Aldeburgh 

My husband and I are quite partial to a glass of bubbly on the terrace at this beachside hotel, where you can literally step straight out onto the pebbles. Outdoor dining commences from April 12 on a first-come first-serve basis only, and the menu looks superb. There’s tapas (think crispy pork fingers with celeriac remoulade), breakfasts, snacks, catch of the day with lemon herb butter, seafood platters, and (my favourite) the Bur Buckets. Available to eat on the terrace or takeaway (daily until 7pm), these loaded fries come with toppings such as tandoori chicken, curry sauce, coriander and crispy chickpeas. Food is available from 9am to 5pm daily.