The 36 best restaurants in Suffolk according to the AA guide
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Two award-winning eateries in the county are celebrating once again being handed three AA Rosettes, having impressed inspectors with their culinary prowess.
The Bildeston Crown (run by Chris and Hayley Lee) and Tuddenham Mill near Bury St Edmunds (in the capable hands of chef-patron Lee Bye), can be counted amongst the best in the UK – with the AA only dishing out Rosettes (on a scale of one to five) to 2,000 destinations a year. Three and four Rosette accolades are announced twice annually, with three coveted roses awarded only to food businesses achieving standards demanding recognition beyond their local area.
The Bildeston Crown
Chris’ high standards, dedication to supporting small, high quality producers, passion for elevating young chefs in their careers, and no-nonsense, British food with a twist, have meant he’s held three AA Rosettes for many years.
He and wife Hayley (who manages the front of house operations) have created a true Suffolk gem. Somewhere that feels all at once both special and unstuffy. It’s the kind of spot you can visit with your dog for a really rather good burger and a pint after a walk, or course after course of playful, delicious dishes from the tasting menu with wine pairings on ‘date night’.
The sunny courtyard remains open for informal outside dining. And the hotel/restaurant boasts a Champagne bar, and private barbecue area too – where diners can cook their own lunch or supper over grills in the centre of the table.
“Hayley and I feel humbled that we’ve retained three AA Rosettes for so many years,” says Chris. “We’re incredibly proud of our staff including our newly promoted head chef Victoria Toffey and the kitchen team. Particularly as the last two inspections happened when I wasn’t there! I’m not sure why we’re so successful. If I was to guess, it’s down to my OCD attention to detail, which I get teased about quite a lot. I would rather serve 10 people well than 50 people less well. And that’s certainly not a criticism of others who don’t experience a chef scarcity like I am at the moment.”
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Chris’ recommendations from the current menu include asparagus tart with truffle hollandaise (which has been ordered by a regular customer at least eight times), grilled lobster with chilli, parsley and lime linguine, and belly of pork with scallops, sweetcorn and morteau sausage jus.
What the AA said: “Chef Chris Lee’s understanding of how flavours work together results in outstanding dishes, whether you go for something pubby from the Classics menu – a Red Poll cheese burger poshed up with foie gras and truffle mayo, say – or look to the Select menu and open with cumin-roasted scallop with cauliflower and apple. Main courses such as loin of local rabbit with duck liver, beetroot, fennel and endive, or hake fillet with curried mussels and coriander demonstrate mastery of both texture and taste. Flavours punch above their weight in deserts too, particularly when warm chocolate mousse is matched with ginger ice cream.”
A short drive from Suffolk’s ‘foodie capital’ Bury St Edmunds, swathed in far-reaching countryside, Tuddenham Mill is a dreamy escape. Boasting luxurious rooms, quirky ‘meadow nooks’ with private hot tubs, and an elegant upstairs dining suite, it’s one of the most stunning locations for eating out in the county – if not the country.
Chef-patron Lee Bye insists on sourcing the tastiest, most interesting (and as far as possible locally sourced) raw ingredients for his five and seven course tasting menus – be that sweet, plump Loch Fyne scallops prepared as a tartare with St Petroni, caviar, and blood orange, Orford lobster (with aioli, truffle salt fries, lemon and land cress) for the open-sided outdoor tipi restaurant, hand-picked home-grown vegetables, or milk and cream from ‘up the road’ for the kitchen’s own ice creams.
He and his kitchen and front of house team go out of their way to make each diner’s experience unforgettable. And, like Chris, Lee is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of cooks, championing young chefs and students.
What the AA said:
“With its framework of exposed beams, bare black tables, gauzy curtain partitions and bucolic views over the millpond, it's a classy setting for chef-patron Lee Bye’s confident cooking. As a local lad, he’s in touch with his East Anglian roots and has an instinctive feel for combining ingredients from the surrounding region to striking effect, thus a typical opener strikes a balance between no-nonsense gutsiness and contemporary refinement via meltingly tender pig’s cheek matched with Italian coppa, rhubarb and chard. Another clever construction might see barbecued heritage carrots topping the bill, supported by pheasant leg, lovage and seeds. Main courses owe their success to intricate detail and careful execution – hogget rump and kidney, say, partnered with parsley and pea sauce, penny leaf and golden ale, while fish dishes such as Gigha halibut with potato dauphinoise, sherry cream and black cabbage are equally well handled. Desserts are executed with memorable dexterity, bringing entertaining plays of flavour and texture in ideas such as croissant pudding with rum-soaked raisins, star anise, and vanilla ice cream, or bitter chocolate marquise counterpointed by flat white ice cream and sugared pistachios; for a savoury finish, there are fine British artisanal cheeses with Garibaldi biscuits and chutney. If you’re just passing by for a pitstop, set lunch menus offer cracking value.”
Two Rosette awards
The Fox and Goose, Fressingfield
The Angel, Bury St Edmunds
The Westleton Crown
Maison Bleue Bury St Edmunds
The Leaping Hare, Stanton
1921 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds
The Auberge, Yaxley
Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Ipswich
Sutherland House, Southwold
Milsoms Kesgrave Hall
The Crown, Stoke By Nayland
Pea Porridge, Bury St Edmunds (holder of Suffolk’s only Michelin Star)
The Sibton White Horse
The Packhorse Inn, Newmarket
The Unruly Pig, Bromeswell
The Black Lion, Long Melford
The Still Room Restaurant, Southwold
The Great House, Lavenham
The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds
The King’s Head, Newmarket
The View Restaurant, Bury St Edmunds
The Marquis, Layham
Seckford Hall Hotel, Woodbridge
One Rosette award
The Regatta, Aldeburgh
Bedford Hotel Hotel and Spa, Newmarket
The Ship at Dunwich
The White Horse, Bury St Edmunds
The Angel Inn, Stoke by Nayland
The Crown, Southwold
Best Western Priory Hotel, Bury St Edmunds
Best Western Brome Grange, Brome