This 'hidden' restaurant is becoming a rising star on Suffolk's eating out scene
PUBLISHED: 19:00 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:38 18 September 2019
Chefs blend wild, foraged and local ingredients for a menu which sings with flavour - including Middle Eastern brunches..and sticky Persian love cake.
They say the best things are worth seeking out. And diners at one of Suffolk's most hidden away restaurants are inclined to agree. The Cooks Shed, tucked away off Woodbridge's Thoroughfare is easily missed, and unless you've been pointed in its direction by other sated diners or have stumbled across the unassuming signage pointing out its location, you could just pass it by.
But to do so would be a big mistake, because it appears the bijoux restaurant and café (seating just 30 to 40 inside and up to 20 out) is fast climbing the ladder on the local eating out scene as the latest hot spot - largely due to word of mouth.
Mates Matt Driver and Vlad Wills-Sokolov took on The Cooks Shed this year, focussing on breakfast, brunch and lunch, but the pair have recently started offering dinner too (Friday and Saturday nights), with booking practically essential now to land yourself a coveted seat for the menus of seasonally-driven, hyper-locally sourced food.
"The thing we try to do," says Matt, who grew up foraging and growing ingredients with his family, and appeared on Masterchef in 2011, "is to make a comfortable dining experience for people. It's not about rushing through service. It's about good quality food and talking to people, like we did at our pop-ups."
He refers to the pop-up dining events he started with Vlad not long after moving to Woodbridge. It was these that spurred on a more permanent location in Gobbitt's Yard. "People generally come here by surprise," Matt laughs. "But they leave really really pleased that they've found somewhere new and unique and with very innovative food, made with ingredients from around the area like Hodmedod's smoked quinoa and local meat. A key for us is foraging. We love to do that, particularly for the evening menus. It's what first brought me here. The river, the salt marsh. It's incredible to have things like sea aster and samphire on the doorstep and to be in a place where I can collect mushrooms. We've just started to get in some lovely Chicken of the Woods, and Parasols, which we're serving with mallard, and the hedgerows and woods are rich with plums, hawthorns, blackberries and sorrel - that's amazing. We serve it with some apple and pickled mackerel. It's just brilliant what we have access to here in in the wild."
The Cooks Shed is open from 9am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday, serving food until 3pm, with a 'lazy breakfast' on Sundays from 10am to 2pm. "Think bacon, sausages and eggs, pancakes with seasonal fruit, and our bubble and squeak cakes -they've become quite a hit for us."
Menus change almost day-in, day-out as nature offers up its changing bounty, with innovation and quirky twists setting apart the restaurant from others like it in the area. "We've had things like aubergine schnitzel which is split and stuffed and served with sauce and a polenta gnocchi, a brunch of feta burek with fava bean hummus, charred aubergine and red pepper, beetroot burani, labneh and focaccia, and lamb shwarma. As autumn sets in there will be more meaty dishes. Pork chops with beans, big sausages with our homemade sauerkraut on our homemade sourdough, pulled pomegranate lamb with our own yoghurt and flatbreads. Everything we can make in-house, we do."
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A recent hit with both vegans and those following a gluten-free diet, was a dish of char-grilled kohlrabi with courgette, pine nuts and smoked quinoa.
"And we make our own cakes. Our Persian love cake has been very popular. It's a spiced almond based cake with cardamom and cinnamon. It's very gooey and sticky and delicious."
Speaking of love, Matt and Vlad will host a pop-up menu for Film Feast this October, following a screening at Woodbridge Library of When Harry Met Sally. "We're sticking to the theme of the film. We're going to do a pastrami sandwich with our own salt beef, made from Suffolk Red Poll of course, and our own bread using Woodbridge Tide Mill flour. And we'll be doing apple pie because apples are around, and obviously pecan pie!"
You can find The Cooks Shed on Facebook.