Review: Town Hall Tearoom in Ipswich is just our cup of tea
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
Positioned right in the centre of Ipswich, you couldn’t ask for a more convenient spot to grab a bite to eat than the Town Hall.
This beautiful historic building is home to the Town Hall Tearoom – a café which is run by Realise Futures, a community interest company which offers paid employment, training and work experience to people with disabilities or disadvantages who want to work in the catering, manufacturing, production, packing and horticulture industries.
The Town Hall Tearoom is one of seven such cafes run in the area by Realise Futures, with others at Felixstowe and Bury libraries, St Lawrence Church in Ipswich, Nowton Park Nursery in Bury, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village and The Rec in Stowmarket.
It opened last October and Steve Bruce has been the manager of the eatery from the beginning.
“We opened nearly a year ago and now it’s really starting to pick up,” he said.
“I think people like to come here because it’s not a chain coffee shop – we offer something different.”
All the food is made on site to order, meaning that you’re guaranteed fresh and quality ingredients, with as much as possible being sourced locally.
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The menu is simple and compact – but full enough to satisfy hungry lunchtime diners – and there’s a range of delicious cakes and scones for those with a sweet tooth.
We popped down to the tearoom on our lunch break on a sunny September day and it was nice to see the town bustling with life. Outside the Town Hall the café has placed a number of metal chairs and tables and a few visitors were making the most of the weather and enjoying a cup of tea in the sunshine.
Although there is renovation work currently going on in the Town Hall, once you get inside the café it feels as though you are entering an oasis of calm.
The room is light and airy, with calming colours and a beautiful glass dome providing an interesting focal point.
Local art adorns the wall and there is also furniture for sale from Betty Blue Hat (a local stockist of retro furniture).
“A man called Paul Fisk curates the walls and he changes the artwork every month or six weeks,” Steve explained. “It’s been really popular and he’s got people booked up to appear until next year now.”
The café attracts a range of different visitors – from friends and couples to workers wanting to make use of the free wifi. This all makes for a really welcoming atmosphere and we felt right at home here.
The menu – positioned on the wall behind the counter – shows visitors the different options available.
It’s somewhat of a ‘build-your-own’ lunch and individuals can choose their own bread, fillings and sides.
Breads on offer include the likes of white, wholemeal or granary bread, various rolls and baguettes.
Fillings range from classics such as tuna mayonnaise, free range chicken and locally sourced ham to more unusual combinations such as pear, walnut and goats cheese, hummus and roasted vegetables, and avocado, lime and balsamic.
And, you can also ask for additional sides.
As everything is made from fresh, staff are more than happy to amend your order as you wish. So, if you don’t like crusts on your bread, or you’d prefer not to have butter, just ask and they will listen to your requests.
On the drinks side of things, there’s a range of tea and coffee and cold drinks.
“The tea comes from Butterworth’s in Bury,” Steve explained. “They do a special Suffolk tea blend which we use and we also sell their coffee.”
I opted for a white roll filled with pear, walnuts and goats cheese, while Charlotte chose cheese, ham and mustard in granary bread.
They were served on a plate to us with a smattering of fresh salad and crisps.
Both of us were really impressed with the freshness of the ingredients. Our bread was deliciously soft and the fillings and side salad had clearly not been sitting in a fridge for a few days.
My pear, walnut and goats cheese worked really together – the sweetness of the slightly warm pears were balanced with the tanginess of the goats cheese and the fresh walnuts added a tasty crunch to the meal.
My friend’s sandwich was stuffed to the brim with fillings and the ever popular mix of ham, cheese and mustard didn’t disappoint.
Not ones to ignore the cakes on offer, we chose to end our lunch by sharing two slices of the home-made sweets on offer – coffee and walnut cake and chocolate cake. The scones looked equally tempting and had we been feeling particularly hungry, I think we could have munched one of these too!
The cakes were great and the servings were just the right size.
While my coffee-loving friend said she would have liked a dash more espresso in the coffee and walnut cake, I really liked the subtle flavour of the sponge. The walnuts were, again, really fresh and this made such a difference – lifting the cake far beyond the shop-bought varieties. And, the soft, sweet topping was delicious too.
The chocolate cake went down a storm. With just the right amount of richness, and topped with a gooey dark ganache, the slice soon disappeared.
In all, we had a wonderful lunchtime in the town centre – and it’s a place we would both recommend to try.