Love Local: Food and Drink
In this month’s instalment of Love Local - Velvet’s 12-month celebration of our area’s high streets - Bury-based food writer Nicola Miller spotlights her favourite foodie places
West Suffolk food is having its time in the sun and deservedly so. Our gently rolling landscapes of farmland and lush pasture bisected by rivers and patchworked with woods and forest estates have blessed us with abundant resources which in turn attract skilled producers and growers to the region. Shopping for - and eating - locally-produced food is becoming more accessible and we're once again discovering how important and meaningful it can be to support our wonderful local food producers. Here are some of my favourites.
Woosters Bakery, Bardwell
A bakery and deli with its own windmill in Bardwell, Woosters Bakery is an exquisite place to visit and that's before you even taste their ravishing bread, cakes, and pastries which are - in my opinion - the best in East Anglia. Fabulous customer service, a weekly stall on Bury Market and a regular pitch at various farmers’ markets and festivals means more opportunities to feast on their justifiably popular malt loaf, morning buns (think doughnut crossed with croissant, filled to bursting with orange-flavoured pastry cream), sourdough and superb rye loaves. Visit the bakery to stock up on other local produce such as the award-winning Baron Bigod cheese from Fen Farm Dairy.
Suffolk Farmers’ Markets
We are so fortunate to have Justine Paul and her award-winning farmers’ markets here in West Suffolk, because they showcase the very best local and seasonal produce; many of the producers are award-winners in themselves. Everything that is sold at the Bury St Edmunds, Lavenham and Sudbury farmers' markets has been produced by the vendor and nothing will have travelled further than 30 miles to reach market. Shopping here is not just about the food though. A visit to any of these markets offers a proper day out, set as they are in picturesque and historic locations where you get the chance to meet and chat with the people who grow and produce your food.
This is the place to come if you crave really great Indian food that combines tradition with modernity and you don't live close to a large city. It's much loved by local chefs who know a good thing when they see it. Dine here and you'll eat superior versions of the familiar - popadoms, pakoras, naans - but you'll also get to eat the less familiar, both in name and what it’s served with (asparagus being a vegetable you don't often see in Indian restaurants). I recommend booking one of their regular supper clubs: Alleppey fish with green mango sauce, kid goat shami kebab, mackerel recheado with green apple chutney, and the splendidly-named Shalgam Ghost were all on the menu at recent ones.
Cavendish Cake Club
Held at The George pub in Cavendish on the second Friday of every month, 1-3pm, Cake Club is filled with deliciousness made by Fiona, owner of Moo Moo Cakes, based in the same village. There's a choice of innovative cakes that taste as good as they look, baked with local and seasonal produce, and a chance to meet with other cake-minded people in the delightful surroundings of The George, conveniently located in one of Suffolk's loveliest villages. Come along to enjoy free samples, signature Moo Moo Cakes bakes, and awe-inspiring show-cakes to buy by the slice; recent offerings have been a lemon and thyme cake with Tiptree lemon curd, a gluten-free coconut and passion fruit cake, organic chocolate cake with Fiona's own salted caramel, and, my absolute favourite, the Suffolk Root Cake.
Forage Kitchen, Rougham
Exploration and fun underpin everything they do at the Forage Kitchen and Cookery School, set on the picturesque Rougham Estate. Come to one of their chefs’ nights and there’s no need to worry about not knowing the proper culinary terms and names of ingredients because the ethos for both staff and guests is ‘find out and have fun doing so’. A lot of the ingredients they use are seasonal and local and if you want to know more about what they do as they are doing it, the chefs are happy to chat with you. Check out their website for times and dates of day-long foraging courses and to book a table.
Oakes Barn, Bury St Edmunds
This award-winning community pub is one of the friendliest places in Suffolk, with a carefully thought out range of drinks including beautifully kept ales, many of them from regional breweries such as Nethergate near Sudbury, and Shortts Farm in Eye, plus a small - but expanding - food menu. Street food nights are planned for the summer, there's a new movie night (the last one served up a menu of burritos and Bohemian Rhapsody), Sunday sharing roasts, delicious bar snacks including cakes made on the premises, and regular specials. There's a small outside space, an upstairs room where local clubs and groups meet, and it's child and dog-friendly, too.
Ice cream would be my Mastermind subject, so imagine my joy when I first tried Hadley's ice cream, sold from their tiny parlour on Lavenham High Street. It's a perfectly-situated pitstop on a hot summer's day. The ice cream and gelato is made on their farm at Colne Engaine and the only problem is choosing from such delights as chocolate ice cream with Pump Street chocolate, rhubarb and vanilla, cherry ripple or stem ginger and brown bread. There's also fruit sorbets, Monmouth coffee, Canton tea and hot chocolate made with Pump Street chocolate, plus a range of freshly-baked cakes.
ICE Cafe, Rougham
A recent visit to the newly refurbished ICE Cafe on Rougham Industrial Estate for Sunday brunch led to a menu crisis. It all sounded so good and as other people's orders wafted past, it became really hard to know what to order. We'll just have to return and work our way through it. If you're as hungry as a bear going through a bin, then order the Rougham Tower burger stacked high with beef, pulled pork, salt beef and bacon, or any one of the waffles which are basically life rafts for the ravenous (No4 - gelato, caramel sauce and toffee apple - is scandalous). The menu has both small and large plates, there's a lovely bar, plenty of space for the kids and live music is coming soon.
Nicola Miller is a food columnist and contributing editor Locavore Magazine. Follow her on social and see nicmillerstales.com for more.