Suffolk

Whilst holidaying in Suffolk last week I enjoyed eating my way through this beautiful county and discovered a number of restaurants that I would recommend…

The Leaping Hare, Bury St Edmunds

July 2021

The Leaping Hare is one of the jewels of Suffolk’s crown. Owned by Wyken Vineyards, who produce award-winning wines, it has a wonderful setting on a 1200-acre farm surrounded by quintessential Suffolk countryside; country lanes, hedgerows, patchwork fields and woodlands. Our lunch coincided with the most beautiful day of the year, summer had finally arrived in the UK and the Suffolk countryside was looking particularly spectacular – just driving out to the restaurant was a joy! The restaurant is housed in a converted 400 year old barn, its high beamed ceilings and airy space are quite striking; it was the perfect place to enjoy a long lunch with friends on a sweltering afternoon…

The menu is a blend of modern and traditional European dishes, the emphasis is on seasonal, thus flavoursome, food, they often use locally sourced ingredients (these are noted on the menu). We started with a refreshing glass of Wyken Elderflower & Lemon Aperitif, which was pretty much the perfect summer spritz. Then, of course, we had to order some of the Wyken wine (we opted for the ‘Madeline Angevine’ which was light and smooth – easy drinking on a summers day). With our drinks ordered we moved onto our starters which included, ‘Green Vegetable Minestrone with Wyken Garlic’, it was deliciously light, yet full of the flavour of summer vegetables, with the faint hint of fresh garlic, whilst ‘Cromer Crab, Mozzarella, Suffolk Tomato Consommé’, was equally light and delicious, with just the right amount of creamy mozzarella and tomato so that the tasty crab was not overwhelmed. For my main course, I chose ‘Roast Cod, Clams, Charred Courgette & Broad Beans’, the fish was perfectly cooked, but the stand out ingredients in this dish were the courgettes and broad beans – they were extremely fresh as if just picked. Nick chose ‘Suffolk Pork Loin, Peas, Broad Beans, Jersey Royals, Mustard & Caper Sauce’, it was a plate that literally sung with colour and flavour – once again garden-fresh. Finally, desserts… well how could I not chose the ‘Chocolate Ganache, Sour Cherry Sorbet, Kirsch Cherries & Hazelnut’?….it did not disappoint, the cherries with the rich chocolate were a superb combination. I also shared the ‘Iced Pavlova, Wyken Gooseberries & Elderflower’, a wonderful, seasonal dessert; not surprisingly, it was the sharp yet sweet gooseberries which particularly performed here – although the meringue was of course fantastic!

Our lunch was not only delicious but the atmosphere in the restaurant was friendly and relaxed – the service was excellent, we were given time to digest our courses at our own pace yet the staff were always on hand when we needed them. Afterwards, I had planned to discover the Wyken’s gardens and woodland walk, but it was rather too hot on this particular day (especially after a glass or two of their wine!), so I will have to return when it is cooler to experience them, and of course another long lunch!

If you’re in Suffolk, The Leaping Hare is a restaurant worth a detour. I was particularly impressed with how, in every dish, it was possible to taste each individual ingredient and how incredibly fresh and flavoursome they were. They do not overcomplicate their dishes they simply interpret the ingredients and cook them well, what more could you ask for?…

Butley Orford Oysterage

July 2021

The Butley Orford Oysterage has been run by the Pinney family since the 1960s, indeed, with its formica tables and green and white paintwork, it is rather like stepping back in time. There is nothing fancy about the interior but don’t be fooled by this lack of refinement, this is its charm and the important thing is that they know exactly how to serve the local fish and shellfish…

On our recent visit with friends, we began by sharing a few starters… ‘Griddled Squid,’ was a joy – fresh and not at all ‘rubbery’, exactly how squid should be and very often isn’t. ‘Garlic & Chilli Prawns’, were very moreish and delicious with bread to dip into the garlicky oil, and ‘Taramasalata’, was fresh and creamy. We also had a plate of smoked fish, which was a great way to try their locally fished and smoked produce, plus a couple of their famed oysters – it was all fantastic. For main courses we had their ‘Wing of Skate’ and  ‘Grilled Dover Sole’, these were extremely good and served exactly how the freshest of fish should be – simply, there was just a little caper butter for the skate and a wedge of lemon with the Dover sole (new potatoes were served on the side – they don’t do chips!). Desserts were a ‘Strawberry Meringue’ and a warm, very moist ‘Chocolate Almond Cake’, they were simple in a home-cooked way and very tasty.

It goes without saying that I would recommend the Butley Orford Oysterage, not only was the quality of the fish excellent, but I also loved the ‘no frills’, relaxed atmosphere and the friendly, professional service; we sat in the front room (I would request a table here as the back room looked a little dingy).

Afterwards, we took a late summer evening stroll around the picturesque village of Orford down to its quay. Orford is now one of my favourite Suffolk villages, not only does it have a castle and pretty cottages, but it is also home to the Butely Orford Oysterage plus the ‘Pump Street’ Bakery and Chocolate Shop – what more could any village wish for?…fish, bread and chocolate!!…

Sole Bay Fish Co, Southwold

July 2021

Set on the working harbour at Southwold, overlooking the River Blyth towards Walberswick, ‘The Sole Bay Fish Co’ serves up their daily catch fresh from the sea. The restaurant isn’t much to look at, it’s literally a few ramshackle fisherman’s shacks, which include a stall that sells wet fish and shellfish. You can eat outside, however, you can only order from a limited takeaway menu, so for the ‘real deal’ it’s best to eat inside where you can enjoy the full restaurant menu which includes their incredible lobster and crab platters.

The Southwold to Walberswick foot ferry is just beside the restaurant, so before our lunchtime visit, we took the 2-minute boat ride over to Walberswick for a quick stroll before returning, totally charmed by the surrounding area, for a well-earnt lunch!… We started with a selection of oysters, these were not only served traditionally with red wine vinaigrette but were also beer-battered and pan-fried with garlic – they were superb. We also shared ‘Chargrilled Crevettes’ in a lemon and garlic butter served with lemon mayonnaise, I could have eaten these all day, they were that good! For our main course we had ‘Pan-Fried Sea Bass Fillet’ and ‘Half Chargrilled Lobster with Garlic Butter Sauce’; the lobster was the winning dish, it was sweet and the flesh was tender, really delicious. Both dishes were served with chips which were the ‘proper homemade’ type, it’s worth coming here just for these! Unfortunately, they don’t serve desserts, actually, I admire them for sticking to what they know best – fish. So, on this particularly sunny afternoon, we decided to saunter down into Southwold for an ice-cream. It was only as we were leaving the restaurant that I noticed their fresh rollmop herrings on a neighbouring table, I have a soft spot for these – how could I have missed them on the menu?! Naturally, I will now have to return to try them… What a great excuse to revisit… See you there!

The Station Hotel, Framlingham

July 2021

From the outside the Station Hotel looks rather unconvincing as a gastropub, it has a rather dilapidated exterior and hasn’t got the best location. However, the owners of our Airbnb recommended it, and so last Saturday we decided to pop in for an impromptu lunch – it was so good that we decided to return for supper the following evening!…

Inside, the pub has retained its traditional charm with simple rustic wooden tables whilst outside there is a small, rather higgledy-piggledy courtyard garden. On our first lunchtime visit, we sat outside – making the most of the long-awaited sunshine – and ordered two main course dishes. I enjoyed, ‘Mackerel, Gooseberry, Samphire & New Potatoes’, the skin of the mackerel was beautifully chargrilled and the combination of the sharp gooseberries, fresh cucumber and salty samphire worked well. Nick chose ‘Chicken Milanese with Mash & Spinach’ (apparently Ed Sheeran is a local here and according to the waitress, this is one of his favourites!). I was a little sceptical that this dish would pass Nicks critique as this is one of his home-cooked favourites and he likes it ‘just so’…but this dish passed with flying colours, even the mashed potatoes, which he was unsure would work alongside the dish, was applauded!… So after the success of this quick lunch, we returned the following evening for supper, this time we had a ‘Panzanella Salad’ (fresh and well balanced with just a touch of saltiness from the anchovies) and ‘Confit of Duck with Baby Gem & Peas and Sauté Potatoes’ (the duck was crisp, moist and well balanced by the sweet peas). This time we tried desserts, two classic choices: a ‘Lemon Posset’ and ‘Strawberry Eton Mess’, both well done.

The Station Hotel is a great example of how a good gastropub should be, the menu was inspiring and the quality of the food was outstanding whilst the pub itself has a relaxed, ‘no frills’, friendly atmosphere. If I lived nearby, this would be my go-to eatery. So, if you’re in the vicinity I would definitely recommend a visit to The Station Hotel which is the star of Framlingham’s restaurant scene! …

Watson & Walpole, Framlingham

July 2021

We were very happy to discover that Watson & Walpole, was just down the road from our Airbnb. One of Watson & Walpole’s co-owners is Ruth Watson, who has been in the restaurant business for around forty years and is well known for being the presenter of TV’s ‘The Hotel Inspector’. Consequently, she knows a thing or two about the successful running of a restaurant, even so, opening a restaurant in 2020 at the height of Covid is an admirable feat. Despite its rather English name, Watson & Walpole is an Italian restaurant, since its opening, its authentic menu has attracted a loyal local following…

We dined there on the first evening of our holiday and it was a great start to our week. The interior of Watson and Walpole is simple and modern, suited for a neighbourhood Italian, although I did find it a little sterile. The menu was uncomplicated; a choice of seven starters and seven mains, including pasta, meat and fish; my one gripe was that they didn’t offer the option of gluten free pasta. We started by sharing ‘Frittura of Brown Shrimps and Lemon Slices’, I have tasted quite a few ‘Frito Misto’ in Italy and I have to say that this was every bit as good – the wafer-thin fried lemon slices, were a revelation, really delicious! Afterwards, we enjoyed our starters, ‘Chargrilled Octopus, Celery, Potato, Caper & Parsley Salad’ which was very fresh, the ingredients beautifully complemented each other, and ‘Coppa with Young Broad Bean Pods & Pecorino Saracena’, was a simple dish, but with quality ingredients – the Coppa was excellent and the broad beans, cooked in their pods were sweet and meaty. For our main courses we chose, ‘Wood Roasted Lamb with Fresh Borlotti Beans & Salsa Rossa’, the slow-cooked lamb was particularly flavoursome, whilst the ‘Vitello Tonnato Caldo’ was an interesting take on the traditional ‘Vitello Tonnato’ (wafer-thin slices of veal served cold) here the wood-roasted veal was served warm, in thicker medallions with a tuna salsa – I really enjoyed this subtly salty dish. Finally, desserts; Nick went for a classic end to his meal with ‘Tiramasu’ (can that ever be a bad decision?!) and I chose ‘Ricciarelli with Gooseberry Compote & Mascarpone’, the almond biscuit was perfect with the gooseberry compote.

It was a great meal, unpretentious with quality ingredients, and the service was professional yet friendly – it is exactly what you would expect from a restaurant co-owned by Watson and exactly what any town needs as its neighbourhood eating spot!

Also worth a try…

The Easton White Horse, Easton

July 2021

This recently refurbished gastro pub is housed in a rustic 16th century hostelry which has a picturesque setting in the quaint village of Easton. We enjoyed a good meal here, the menu of classic British pub classics focuses on local, seasonal produce, it is well thought out and executed. I was particularly impressed at how accommodating they were – there were no gluten free desserts on the menu but the chef managed to rustle me up some chargrilled peaches, meringue and cream with a passionfruit coulis, it was delicious!…