Snape Maltings launches two new restaurants with far-reaching river views
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Snape Maltings must surely have one of the most enviable locations in Suffolk.
The ancient brick buildings, home to a world-renowned concert hall, clutch of fabulous shops, and the birthplace of The Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, look out towards the solitude and serenity of the river Alde. Nothing but calm waters, towering reed beds, blue skies and twisted, centuries-old trees for as far as the eye can see.
This prime spot makes it, says Jon Gay, head of hospitality and events, ideal for destination dining. And with that in mind, the venue has had a complete overhaul of its operations during lockdown, recently launching the River View Café and, last Friday, the upstairs the River View Restaurant- both admiring vistas over the surrounding countryside.
“We’re the host of the food and drink festival. A world-class music venue. Why aren’t we renowned for our food offering too?” says Jon, who previously headed up the kitchens of Erpingham House in Norwich, and Jimmy’s Farm at Wherstead.
“Lots of people know about us, but possibly not for the catering side. Previously you might have come for a meal before a concert, or after a bit of shopping, but I really want customers to visit us specifically for our food offering and think ‘oh, I didn’t realise you could shop here?’, or ‘what concert could I come and see next time?’. We want the food to speak for itself and stand out alone.”
During lockdown both the Granary tea shop and Café 1885, despite having performed well, were shut down as restrictions on space meant they were no longer feasible to run.
The café and restaurant at the concert end of the site were only used seasonally and for events, but, with ‘those views’ to make the most of, Jon said it made sense to, for a trial period last summer, move everything foodie across. And they haven’t looked back.
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“We thought it would just be a one-off but people have loved eating over there. During the January lockdown period we took a couple of weeks to refurbish, but that turned into a few months and we’re now pleased to have a whole new café and bar, and the restaurant, which has just opened.”
The River View Café and River View Restaurant are open every day, with later evening dining in the restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays, and on concert nights.
“In the café we have some fantastic breakfast and brunch dishes, then hot main courses, sandwiches, cakes and lots of other things,” says Jon, adding that local is king. “We’ve really worked hard to use local producers, so you’ll find Cromer crab on the menu, and Pinneys seafood, local cheese. In season there will be asparagus from down the road. It’s a nice, varied menu and the café is really relaxed and informal. It’s lovely if you’ve been for a walk and need a decent lunch. Or for stopping by when you’ve been shopping for cake and a glass of wine. The café opens out to the terrace too, which customers really like.”
Dishes include sausage and bacon baps made with meat sourced from Salter & King in Aldeburgh, scrambled Havensfield eggs on toast with smoked salmon, Malt Coast Brewery rarebit with poached egg and cheese, and a Sutton Hoo Caesar salad.
“As everyone else did last year, we invested in some tipis too, which we’re using for coffee and cake and sandwiches during the day, and then pizza in the evenings.
“We’re working with D’Hotel Patisserie in Leiston for our cakes and they are absolutely superb. I think if you can find a producer who makes something so brilliantly well, you have to support them. Our selection will change very regularly, but includes things like a classic coffee and walnut cake, some lovely vegan and gluten-free brownies, cherry Bakewell and lemon and poppyseed cake.”
If you’re after a slightly fancier affair the River View Restaurant is open for lunch and into dinner service. “For the two years I’ve been here I’ve dreamt of making this a destination restaurant,” says Jon. “There really is a demand for it here and I just had this vision of somewhere like Darsham Nurseries. With interesting food and good variety. We decided this summer to run the restaurant for six weeks as a pop-up to see what customers want, and how it works our side. Then we’ll take what we’ve learnt and put it into action – it will be something special. I’m really pleased that we’re joined by Michael Holland who was actually general manager at Darsham Nurseries.”
Like the café, River View Restaurant will focus on showcasing seasonal Suffolk produce, but with a touch more formality. “This is food that will be cooked slightly more delicately, with a touch of finesse but without getting too complicated. We want to let the ingredients speak for themselves,” adds Jon.
“So we have a starter of pea and shallot tortellini with confit fennel, smoked tomatoes and red onions which is a lovely, light, vegan dish. There’s a main course of Dingley Dell pork belly with Fruit Pig black pudding, which I think is incredible. And for dessert things like Norfolk Dapple cheese with Eccles cake, or dark chocolate and olive oil mousse.”
Meals in the restaurant have a set price of £22.50 for two courses or £28.50 for three at lunchtime. In the evenings it’s £30 or £35, including canapes, bread and chocolates afterwards.
Drinkswise Jon says he’s scoured East Anglia and beyond to put together a menu of exciting finds.
“We’ve found some new favourites in the process. Our wine list now boasts seven organic varieties and three brilliant English bottles too. From our house rose from Maldon in Essex, to our bold swap from French Champagne to organic English sparkling wine from Davenport Vineyards, we’ve tried to find some really great options. It’s important, I think, to highlight we’ve not chosen local or different for local or different sake. We’ve only picked drinks (and food) we think are the best.
“On the beer side we’ve found a pocket of breweries in Norfolk, with wild ales and fresh beer from Duration Brewery, an incredible amber ale from Malt Coast Brewery just outside Wells, and a best bitter from Tindalls Brewery. We also hunted to find a small, independent sparkling cider producer and via The Norfolk Hub, were introduced to the hand-picked, organic cider made by Drove Orchards. One sip and we knew it had to be on our menu!”
Soft drinks come from the Artisan Drinks Co, there are favourites from Karma Drinks including the Lemony Lemonade, and coffee is roasted in Halesworth, less than 20 miles from Snape, using single origin beans. “We think it’s one of the best cups of coffee around,” adds Jon.
“We can’t wait to hear what people think of all the changes we’ve made this year!”
Find out more at snapemaltings.co.uk