How many of these 11 award-winning Suffolk food businesses do you know?
- Credit: Saragh Lucy Brown
It’s been a tumultuous 14 months...especially for anyone involved with hospitality and retail. As we prepare to launch the 2021 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards, we shine a light on our 2020 winners, who have been through so much in the past year, but still managed to reach customers, help communities, and put smiles on the faces of Suffolk people through a shared love of food and drink.
Restaurant of the Year - The Leaping Hare, Wyken Vineyards
Re-opening from May 19 (while continuing to serve pizzas at lunchtimes from Wednesday to Saturday), The Leaping Hare at Stanton plans to take its ethos of wild, sustainable and local to the next level, with the restaurant now in the hands of Lord and Lady Carlisle’s son Sam.
“Thankfully, having at one point been down to just two chefs, we are now back to a full strength team and we’re raring to get re-opened,” says Sam. “At the end of a brutal year, positivity, imagination and creativity are all flowing again at Wyken and while we’ve hosted customers throughout at our new outdoor pizza café, there is nothing quite like the symphony of clinking glasses and cutlery in a full restaurant.”
Customers revisiting The Leaping Hare will find a concise new wine list curated by front of house manager Evelyn, including tipples from Wyken and other vineyards which share its values, and with a much longer ‘by the glass’ list.
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Excitingly, during lockdown Sam reveals the ancient art of ‘pannage’ has been practised in the Wyken woodlands, with the first cuts of pork appearing on menus within a month of re-opening.
“And we’re re-opening at the height of asparagus season which is always a big event here as we have a few acres growing at the bottom of the drive, just a few hundred yards from the restaurant. The opening menu will very much be a celebration of this short-lived speciality. Over the weeks we’ve been closed our chefs have also been busy preserving the wild garlic that grows in our woods, which will accompany meats such as the first batch of our own rare breed lamb.”
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Young Chef of the Year, sponsored by BIdfood – Harvey Thompson of Tuddenham Mill
The outdoor tipi restaurant continues to operate at award-winning Tuddenham Mill, and chef patron Lee Bye is excited to re-open to customers inside, as is young chef winner Harvey, who was over-the-moon to win in our competition last autumn.
“Winning felt great. It was nice to prove myself and get my name out there. I can’t wait to re-open the indoor restaurant now. With most of last year a write-off it’s good to have a level of certainty again. We’ve had some fantastic hand-dived scallops on in the tipi so I’m looking forward to putting them in the dining room and playing around with some different flavours. We’ve also hooked up with some fantastic local suppliers for re-opening, including Mike Malloy who supplies us with the most amazing ex-dairy cow steaks.”
Best Newcomer and Chef of the Year – Sam Sturman at The Brewers, Rattlesden
This smart country inn has fast become a destination pub, known for its consistently brilliant food and faultless service. In the past few weeks a new terrace has allowed diners to once again enjoy everything The Brewers has to offer, but award-winning head chef Sam can’t wait to get back inside.
“There’s some very exciting times ahead for myself and the team at the Brewers which will all be out very soon – so keep an eye out! In regards to re-opening, I can’t wait to go back to our full menu and tasting menu, and being able to give the most professional, intimate service here, as that’s what it’s all about. The menu will be based around really fresh, light, refined summer dishes and will be perfect when the sunshine is out.”
Re-opening dishes will include lamb tartare with peas, mint and nori, beef with barbecued tomato, asparagus, morels and wild garlic, and rhubarb and custard tart with fraise de bois and orange.
Indoor dining resumes from Wednesday, May 19.
Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer, sponsored by the East of England Co-op – Two Magpies Bakery
Ambitious baker and foodie entrepreneur Rebecca Bishop started Two Magpies in 2012, with sourdough, and a whole lot of heart. By the end of 2021, the rapidly expanding business will include that original shop, the bakery school and café at Darsham, and café/shops in Aldeburgh, Norwich, Halesworth, Holt and Blakeney. The popularity of Two Magpies is unsurprising. A peek in the window of any of the stores reveals golden-crusted breads, billowing meringues, decadent slices of beautifully decorated cakes and fancies, flaky pastries and so much more. Customers are especially fond of the doughnuts. Breakfast and lunch (based around good bread of course) are available at most sites to take away (and eat-in when available), with proper pizza at Darsham, Southwold and Aldeburgh.
Pub of the Year, The Greyhound & TwentyOne
A truly friendly and welcoming pub that has always gone above and beyond for the local community. In prime walking country, The Greyhound at Wickhambrook is well worth seeking out for a spot of lunch before or after a ramble – and it’s dog-friendly too. Indoor dining will re-open once restrictions lift, but for now there is a simple garden menu produced with locally-sourced ingredients, offering handmade burgers, ham, egg and chips, classic steaks and more. All to be enjoyed in one of the two spacious beer gardens with countryside views. Sunday lunches (12.30 to 4pm) are especially popular and worth booking in advance. When they re-open look out for the pie nights!
Pride of Suffolk, sponsored by Marketplace amp - Lane Farm Country Foods / Suffolk Salami
A true family affair this. Ian and Sue Whitehead’s high welfare pork farm is the beating heart of everything they produce. You’ll find it transformed into fantastic dry-cured bacon, sausages and hams at farm and food shops across the county (as well as in East of England Co-op stores). The Suffolk Farmhouse sausages especially are not to be missed. Seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and herbs, they’re made to Sue’s grandmother’s recipe and lend themselves perfectly to toad in the hole. And the bacon (cured for two weeks and lightly smoked over oak and beech wood chips) crisps beautifully – perfect for those weekend bacon sarnies.
Ian and Sue’s daughters Sarah and Rebecca, alongside cousin Harry, carry the torch for the next generation, producing full-flavoured salamis and chorizo.
Field to Fork, sponsored by Ashtons Legal – Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes
You cannot miss the monumental Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes greenhouses at Bramford – they're enormous. And they house one of the county’s most ambitiously green food businesses. The sweet, juicy toms are grown in coconut fibre, nurtured with rain and condensation water in a closed-loop system, pollinated by British bees, and kept pest-free naturally. Even the packaging is recyclable. Look for the Suffolk Sweet Tomatoes sign in a shop near you. You’ll find them in East of England Co-op stores and at Hollow Trees Farm in Semer.
Best Coffee/Tea Shop, sponsored by Castlemeadow - Cortado Espresso Bar
The team is gearing up to re-open indoors, but continues to offer takeaways Monday to Saturday, 7.30am to 2.30pm. True coffee specialists, you’ll find an extensive range of expertly made drinks at the Newmarket café - from the eponymous cortado, to ristretto and even organic matcha lattes. The team say: "The win of Best Coffee Shop was important for us. It really gave us a boost of confidence and we feel it pushed us to try even harder to maintain our high standards.
"For this year we are hoping to extend our food offering to an even higher level and push the boundaries of what people expect from a coffee shop food menu. Our sushi poke bowls have started well and we are looking into adding more items like this as well as venturing into a more exciting vegan options. We are also looking forward to offering the shop to more local chefs as a pop up evening venue."
Outstanding Front of House, sponsored by Prosper Hospitality - Coach and Horses
Judges were impressed by the level of service at this Melton pub. Nothing is too much trouble, and customers are made to feel very much at home. While staff wait to open indoors, the flower-filled garden space is open from 12noon to 9pm for food. It’s very dog-friendly, so a nice place to nip by on your way to Rendlesham Forest or Shingle Street nearby. Food is simple but well cooked, from fritto misto, to the Coach burger and hand cut chargrilled gammon steak with trimmings.
Best Afternoon Tea, sponsored by The Suffolk Shutter Company – The Neathouse
The village of Dennington is lucky to have this delightful tearoom on the doorstep. Not only do the small team sell lots of essentials (cheese, milk, bread) and some of the best sausage rolls around, but they make a really rather good afternoon tea – which has been available to takeaway in lockdown. It’s best enjoyed in the lovely garden and needs to be booked 48 hours in advance. For £16.95 you’ll get a feast (largely using suppliers from within 30 miles), including sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiche, Scotch egg, mixed fruit scones (made to an old family recipe), and usually a generous four pieces of cake – per person! The cafe is open 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Saturday for takeaways and outdoor dining
Suffolk Food and Drink Hero, sponsored by Cory Brothers Shipping Agency – Bill Pinney
Following on in the footsteps of founder Richard Pinney, Bill and his family harness the magic of the coast in every product they sell. Be it oysters cultivated in beds at Butley Creek, fresh landed fish caught off the Orford shoreline, or smoked fish and meat, prepared over whole oak logs. You’ll find Pinney’s goods on menus all over Suffolk, in farm shops and delis and East of England Co-op stores. A real highlight is the melting, rich, umami savoury smoked mackerel. All it needs is a twist of lemon and a hunk of bread.