Review: The Waterfront Bistro, Ipswich ‘Creative, quality dishes in a very pretty setting’

PUBLISHED: 18:30 30 October 2019

A white chocololate panna cotta

A white chocololate panna cotta


Our reviewer Emily Cashen made her way down to the Waterfront Bistro in Ipswich for a three-course dinner. Here’s what she made of it…

Inside the Waterfront Bistro on Ipswich WaterfrontInside the Waterfront Bistro on Ipswich Waterfront

I arrived home from holiday on a dark and gloomy Sunday evening only to realise that - horror of horrors - the cupboards were bare and my fridge, barren. With the shops shut, I was left with no other choice. I simply HAD to treat myself to a three course meal at The Waterfront Bistro. What can I say, my hands were tied!

I booked a table for 7.15pm (the kitchen closes early on a Sunday so this was the latest dinner slot available), and brought my mum along for a post-holiday catch up and a spot of reviewing. When we arrived, the downstairs bar area was humming gently as a handful of patrons happily sipped away at drinks. We were shown to the dining area upstairs which was much quieter, with just one other table busy. Still, this is probably to be expected at the end of service on a Sunday evening.

A chicory, pear and blue cheese saladA chicory, pear and blue cheese salad

We took a seat beside the window so as to make the most of the restaurant's waterfront setting. With lights twinkling on the marina outside, the restaurant had a very cosy atmosphere. So, having adequately admired our surroundings, we turned our attention to the food on offer.

Scanning the menu, everything sounded very appetising, but there was only one vegetarian option among the starters and main courses. By default, I went for the chicory, pear and blue cheese salad to start, and the olive oil braised cannellini beans as my second course. As I was giving my order, the waitress helpfully clocked that she had a vegetarian in her midst, and asked whether I'd like to take a look at the veggie and vegan menu. Hurrah! I wasn't aware that such a menu existed, so this was a very pleasant surprise. After perusing the veggie menu, I ended up sticking with my original order (I know, how contrary of me), but I was still glad to have a few more options to choose from. Over on the carnivorous side of the table, my mum went for beer battered cod cheeks, followed by the pan fried hake, and we ordered a portion of buttered greens to share.

Beer battered cod cheeksBeer battered cod cheeks

We had a bit of time to catch up and chew the fat before our starters arrived, which I certainly appreciated. It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine when food arrives at my table almost as soon as I've ordered it, as it always makes a meal feel slightly rushed. That said, we weren't waiting too long, and when the dishes did arrive, what a treat they were. Both plates were nicely presented and we tucked in with gusto. My salad was packed with flavour, from the bitter, almost spicy chicory leaves to the complex saltiness of the blue cheese dressing. Roasted grapes and sliced pear added a burst of sweetness, and the walnuts gave the dish a satisfying crunch. The dish was also the perfect size for a starter in my eyes, satisfying but not spoiling my appetite before the main course. Two thumbs up from me. As for the cod cheeks, these were also getting a rave review. The batter was perfectly crispy, with succulent nuggets of soft, melt in the mouth cod inside. They were accompanied by a delicate curried aioli, which enhanced the nuggets and never overpowered.

A great start, which left us with high hopes for the mains. I'm pleased to say that we weren't disappointed. My cannellini bean main was served as a kind of bruschetta, with a generous helping of olive oil braised beans and roasted butternut squash sitting atop a thick slice of grilled bread. I've never eaten anything similar, and when looking down the menu, I was quite pleased to see a dish that put cannellini beans front and centre. They are a tragically underused ingredient, I feel, and this dish showed just how delightful they can be. Earthy and flavourful, they worked very well as a bruschetta topping and went very well with the chunks of tender butternut squash. I could have done with maybe a dash more balsamic vinegar, but that's just personal preference - I can't get enough of the punchy, sweet-tart flavour of balsamic.

Olive oil braised cannellini beansOlive oil braised cannellini beans

The pan fried hake, meanwhile, was cooked well, without being dry. The accompanying caponata introduced some interesting textures and flavours to the dish, and the sautéed potatoes were simple yet satisfying. I didn't even need to ask if my mum enjoyed her meal - the clean plate spoke for itself!

Now, the big question: anything from the dessert menu? The answer was of course, a resounding yes. A white chocolate panna cotta for me and a spiced bread and butter pudding for my mum. When it arrived, I had to give my dessert the wobble test - and wobble it did. Deliciously so. White chocolate desserts can, at times, be overly sweet, but this wasn't the case here. Creamy, and indulgent, this delectable little dish came with a couple of ripe blackberries to deliver a bit of tartness, and a crunchy dark chocolate 'aero' which gave some nice texture variety. The bread and butter pudding was tasty and delicately spiced, but elevated to the next level by a finger-licking salted caramel sauce. More of this sauce, please!

Pan fried hakePan fried hake


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Friendly and attentive throughout the meal. Nothing was too much trouble at all, and we didn't feel rushed out of the restaurant, despite being the last patrons in there.

A spiced bread and butter puddingA spiced bread and butter pudding


Clean and pleasant smelling, with an upmarket hand soap and hand cream. Fancy!


There's no parking onsite, but there are plenty of car parks near the waterfront, so this shouldn't be a bother.


Two courses cost £18.50, and three courses are £21.50. Our bill came to £51.40 in total, including two soft drinks and a side dish. Rather reasonable for the quality of the food and the pleasant ambiance.


It might have to be the desserts, which were a deliciously good way to end a lovely meal.

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