Three Wise Monkeys, Ipswich: ‘The most family-friendly restaurant in town’
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
It’s so easy to feel bleak about our town centres at the moment. Lockdown hit retail and hospitality hard and fast, with some businesses unable to get back up again.
The only way to help in the recovery process is to vote with your feet, and support those who have survived. Which brings me to Ipswich. There are so many jewels to seek out in Suffolk’s county town. From fine foods and cheese at Wildgoose on St Stephen’s Lane, to Dial Lane Books, ardent Ipswich supporter Cathy Frost’s LoveOne on St Peter’s Street, and indy beer shop Hopsters nearby on St Nicholas Street.
When it comes to eating out, you might naturally aim for the Waterfront, but let me lure you right back into the heart of town, and up Lloyds Avenue to Three Wise Monkeys.
From the outside, it looks, I think, slightly unremarkable. Like a high street pub chain (which is not, it has a sister bar/brewery in Colchester). But step inside and it’s a different story. Above the basement (weekends-only) gin and cocktail bar, Three Wise Monkeys staggers over three storeys. A bar area, where blackboards are chalked up with more than 20 brews to sample. A large restaurant with open kitchen (which smelled tantalisingly like bacon from the smoker), and the mezzanine level – where we sat, peering out over the other diners.
It’s all rather industrial chic. High ceilings. Exposed brick. Chunky steel pipework. Rustic pallet wall planters filled with greenery.
The overall sense was of space. Lots of space. Above. Below. And in between the tables.
Mr J and I visited with teens in tow, both of whom said it was ‘vibing’ and ‘peng’ (the new vernacular for ‘cool’ apparently). And we were mightily impressed by the service from the outset as our kind waiter sprinted down three flights of stairs to bring Ethan a sealed bag of ice for his purpling hand – newly injured after a feisty session of football at Goals down the road.
You may also want to watch:
This friendly, can-do approach to front of house continued throughout our lunch, and we really were made to feel at home and comfortable.
Injury dealt with, and it was on with the glorious task of scanning the menu. And by God was it difficult to choose. Expect largely American diner-style classics, made with prime quality ingredients – from their own smoked meats, to towering burgers and wings. If you’ve watched Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on UK Food Network, this is the place for you.
- 1 Valley Ridge ski resort in jeopardy amid furious row over landfill site
- 2 Ipswich bar forced to close early after staff attacked
- 3 New restaurant set to open at former Little Waitrose store this year
- 4 Delays after car crashes into level crossing
- 5 Container ship that blocked Suez Canal due to arrive in Felixstowe
- 6 Man in his 80s seriously injured after crash near Copdock
- 7 A12 closed near Ipswich following serious collision
- 8 Celebrations as Starbucks opens its new Ipswich drive-thru
- 9 60 sausage dogs enjoy picnic in Ipswich's Christchurch Park
- 10 Woman injured after being struck by van near Morrisons in Ipswich
We chose a mash up of a bit of everything.
While waiting, we cooled down on what was a horrible humid day with drinks from what is a very extensive menu. As mentioned above, there are around two dozen craft beers to choose from, as well as cocktails, and an impressive ensemble of premium spirits. Being a tart for fruit beers, I had to go for a Belgian Fruli (£4.30). This white strawberry beer is basically dessert in a bottle, and I love the stuff.
Mr J went for Three Wise Monkeys’ own Great Journey Begins pale ale (£4.80), made in their Colchester micro-brewery. Hoppy, citrussy, and light, it tasted like it incorporated some of the more modern American hops – injecting every sip with a hint of mango and guava. A corker, and a match made in heaven with quite literally anything on the menu.
I have to point out you can get a sampler of a few beers for £7. And that, as well as pints and half pints, they offer 2/3 pints and 1/3 pints on cask beers. We’ve tried this concept in other bars and it’s a great way to try a few different options, without finishing the night wasted!
Food arrived promptly. And the feasting/sharing began.
The warm jumbo pretzel (£5) was toothsome and crunchy with a decent hand of salt, and came with a pot of velvety, malty beer cheese dip that we all agreed tasted like liquid Welsh Rarebit.
Wings, lightly smoked for two hours and dressed in anything from barbecue to jjerk seasoning, were, for us, glazed in an Other Monkey Brewing coating (£6.50). There are wings. And there are wings. Largely my kids don’t go for these, finding them too fiddly and slimy. Let me tell you, Three Wise Monkeys’ version were on the money. Plenty of meat, which slipped off the bone. Crispy nibbly bits on the edges. And that glaze. I can’t put my finger on it, but it was savoury, slightly brown-sugar-sweet, and oh so moreish. We wished we’d ordered more than four.
Our only let down was the salt and pepper squid (£6). Although the seafood hadn’t been cooked to rubber, the batter was crumbling off, and the seasoning was disappointingly lacking.
While Mr J tackled a burger, the kids and I shared a platter of three smoked meats, which come with a side of your choice (£22).
You can opt for several different meat and sides combos, but I suspected we’d over-ordered, and held myself back on this occasion.
The platter was a stonker, laden with our chosen smoked brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork, but also some little extras we hadn’t expected. A sliver of spicy jalapeno cornbread. Sweet dill pickles. A superb, light, mustardy slaw. And as for the beefy, meaty gravy dip. Come on!
Every single bite was a winner. The pork ribs tearing into shards, all sticky and unctuous. The brisket deeply rich with smoke, and the pulled pork falling apart. Nothing to fault.
We'd chosen their fries as a side and they were top notch. Not hand cut, but golden, oil-free and dashed with a seasoning that led to fighting over the final few bites.
As extras we ordered buttery corn ribs with jerk mayonnaise (£4), and beef cheek fries (£6). This bowl alone would do as a main course, combining a hearty pile of those fries with a huge melting, dense and gorgeous beef cheek, cheese and jalapenos. Just ask for a pot of gravy on the side and you’re good to go.
Mr J’s Tennessee Premium Burger (£15) had the self-confessed burger addict grinning childishly from ear-to-ear. Accompanied by fries and slaw, the bun sandwiched fried chicken, beer-battered pickle, thick slabs of grilled chorizo, Jack cheese, jerk mayo and charred sweetcorn salsa.
In the interests of reviewing, he allowed me (after some convincing) to take a bite. I can’t think of the last time I (or he for that matter) had a chicken burger that good.
Rather than being claggy with breadcrumbs, the chicken had a lighter coating, more reminiscent of Korean fried chicken. And every single mouthful was different. Either singing with spice from the mayo, salt from the chorizo, or juicy freshness from the sweetcorn salsa.
I rarely turn down dessert, but none of us, genuinely, could fit in another morsel. Instead it was a bag of Percy Pigs later on while watching England score 4-0 in the footie.
If you wanted to indulge, options include an New York cheesecake, banana parfait with honeycomb and salted caramel sauce, Belgian waffle, a Mad Monkey Sundae, warm brownie, or a fresh fruit salad.
All of us left with a (rather sleepy) spring in our step, having discovered another good reason to head into Ipswich. Somewhere we can all enjoy together pre or post cinema. Before a show at the Regent or Wolsey. Or simply, just because. If burgers, wings and smoke are your jam. If you love craft beer. Or if you have a think for gin, make this spot the next place you book for a night out.