As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Suffolk Coast and Heaths, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of farmers' markets, festivals and restaurants to find the best local food and drink in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in south east England.
With a mixture of freshly caught seafood, a rich agricultural tradition and fine artisanal products, the Suffolk Coast & Heaths has plenty to offer keen foodies.
There is an abundance of enthusiastic food producers in the area who are only too keen to share their knowledge and tell the stories behind their food, whether it’s Sutton Hoo chickens, Orford Oysters, Dingly Dell Pork, Aspall Suffolk Cider or Adnams beer.
Below is our top pick of restaurants, cafes and delicatessens that showcase the best of what this region has to offer, or try and time your visit to coincide with one of the many farmers’ markets and food festivals that are bursting with mouth-watering local produce.
White Lion Hotel Brasserie
The menu here is inspired by a ‘back to basics’ approach, serving freshly prepared dishes in informal surroundings with great service. Head Chef Jason Shaw seeks out the freshest local produce with which to create his dishes, whether it’s fresh fish bought from Dean's Shed, situated on the beach opposite, or smoked kippers from Pinney's of Orford. Jason also loves to differentiate his cooking from other restaurants in Aldeburgh by adding a subtle French twist to his menu, so expect to find moules mariniere, beef bourguignon and Mediterranean vegetable tart amongst the more traditional Suffolk fare such as Sutton Hoo roast chicken and the local cheese platter. whitelion.co.uk
Trinity Restaurant at the Crown and Castle
With two AA rosettes and countless excellent write ups in the major food guides, it’s not surprising that guests often cite The Trinity Restaurant as one of the major reason they come to stay at The Crown and Castle. The co-proprietor and executive chef here is none other than Ruth Watson (food writer and presenter of Country House Rescue and The Hotel Inspector), and she feels passionately about creating a relaxed, convivial atmosphere whilst maintaining an impeccable level of service. At the Trinity they have been using the best local produce for years, long before it became fashionable, and offer elegantly served but robustedly flavoured dishes such as slow roast Lane Farm pork belly, Orford landed skate, and deep dish steak and kidney pie made to order. crownandcastle.co.uk
Pinney's of Orford
Owned by the very same family that run the Butley Orford Oysterage, Pinney's of Orford is famous for selling a wide range of fresh fish and produce smoked in their own warehouses at nearby Butley Creek. Many of the fish sold are cought by their very own fishing boats, while daily landings include cod, bass, sole, skate, lobster and crabs depending on the season. Having been involved in fishing, smoking and cultivating oysters for over 50 years, Pinney's of Orford (and the nearby Butley Orford Oysterage) should be your first stop for delicious local seafood. pinneysoforford.co.uk
The Boardwalk Restaurant
Having recently been renovated, the Boardwalk restaurant on Southwold Pier now offers a fantastic family-friendly dining experience wher ethe emphasis is firmly placed on showcasing local food and producers. You can expect some delicious seafood specials, such mussles, salt cod and crab paté, not to mention the traditional Adnams beer battered cod, plaice or haddock that has to be a real contender for your main course. Local producers also supply eggs, vegetables, jams and chutneys - see the website for a full list of their suppliers. southwoldpier.co.uk
Adnams Eco Cafe
You’ll find this intimate, timber framed eco café inside the newly refurbished Adnams Cellar and Kitchen store in Southwold. The store now features a living sedum roof and rainwater recycling system, and in the café itself you can snuggle up with a latte in one of their cosy seating snugs. These were created from old copper-lined brewing vessels, salvaged from the recent refurbishment of the Adnams brewery. If you’re looking to pick up a bottle for dinner then browse the adjacent, air-conditioned fine wine area, or if you’re planning a slap-up weekend meal then don’t miss the weekly Farmers' Market in the courtyard each Friday morning, which features some of the very best local produce. adnams.co.uk
Sutherland House Fish Restaurant
Part of the Sutherland House Hotel, this award winning restaurant is located in a beautiful historical building dating back to 1455. It’s not just Southwolds’ only fish restaurant, but also a truly neighbourhood restaurant which serves local food for local people. Guests are welcome to drop in for a glass of wine and a plate of tapas in front of the fire or a more substantial meal to sample the catch of the day or some of their prize winning black pudding fritters. Head Chef Jed Tejada borders on the fanatical about the provenance of his ingredients, insisting he would rather sell out than serve something that isn’t local or has been frozen. He believes that all the food tells a story, and can even tell you where the venison for that evening’s menu was shot and by whom. This level of attention to detail is clearly worth it, with Sutherland House winning a string of prizes, including two AA Rosettes and for their pork based products including their innovative Pork Pie with Piccalilli. sutherlandhouse.co.uk
This multi-award winning delicatessen is famous for its Suffolk produce, all carefully chosen and sourced from local artisan producers. Owned and run by Richard Lawson and Claire Bruce-Clayton, they run the shop with the simple philosophy of offering the best local fare served by high knowledgeable staff in a friendly and welcoming environment. If you want to pick up something for dinner, they sell freshly prepared meals made with seasonal ingredients, from Suffolk ham terrines to delicious tarts and brownies, and if you’re a bit stuck for ideas then the helpful staff will happily recommend a favourite cheese or a newly stocked salami that you absolutely must try. slatecheese.co.uk
Snape Farmers' Market
This highly successful monthly market at Snape Maltings features the very best of locally produced food and drink. Here you’ll find the freshest seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs that Suffolk has to offer, as well as a huge range of produce including Suffolk Gold cheese, freshly baked bread from Pump Street Bakery, aromatic honey, free range meat and poultry, and mouth-watering, homemade cakes and desserts. Afterwards why not put down your shopping bags and grab a bite to eat at the café, tea room or traditional pub, then burn it all off with a guided walk along the tidal Alde estuary. snapemaltings.co.uk
Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival
This Festival is a two week celebration of the abundance of excellent local food and drink to be found in this part of Suffolk. It features over 90 exhibitors showcasing organic vegetables, fresh and smoked fish, rare breed meat and game, cheeses, frozen yoghurt, jams, beer, wine and lager. Virtually all the exhibitors’ businesses are based in East Suffolk, reflecting the high quality and tremendous variety of food and drink in the region. The main festival weekend is always an impressive two day programme of talks, workshops and cookery demonstrations from top chefs which in the past have included Valentine Warner, Thomasina Miers, Sarah Raven, Henry Harris as well as many great local Suffolk Chefs.
There is also a packed programme of Fringe Events running from 28th September to 13 October, giving you the chance to go behind-the-scenes at some of their favourite food and drink producers, take part in cookery workshops, join farm walks or enjoy special lunches and dinners. aldeburghfoodanddrink.co.uk
High House Fruit Farm
If you like to know the exact provenance of your ingredients, then you can’t get much closer than having picked them yourself. At High House Fruit Farm they grow a wide variety of seasonal fruits for ‘Pick Your Own’, starting off in the spring with rhubarb and asparagus, followed by cherries, apricots and plums in summer and a main crop of apples in autumn which they also turn into delicious juices. There's also a small campsite which allows visitors to enjoy the quiet and unspoilt surroundings of the farm, which looks out over the marshes of the River Alde and the shingle spit of Orford Ness. The family has been farming here for almost half a century and care deeply about the land, managing it carefully for wildlife, and a survey in 2002 by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) recorded an impressive 70 species of birds in residence. high-house.co.uk
With almost 70 pubs dotted around East Anglia, Adnams beers are almost synonymous with Suffolk. They brew a distinctive range of authentic beers, each one with its own unique character. A tour of the Adnams brewery will explain the beer making process from choosing the malted barley and hop varieties through to tasting the delicious finished product. You will see parts of the brewery that are normally not open to the general public, and see the sheer scale of the brewing equipment and the buildings in which it is housed. The tour takes about an hour and is followed by a half hour of tutored beer tasting. You will then be accompanied to the Adnams Cellar & Kitchen store where there’s an opportunity to meet the wine team and taste a selection of wines as well as collect that all important bottle of Adnams Beer to take home with you. adnams.co.uk
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our