The Marlesford Farmcafe
It's worth making the journey to this gem of a cafe for its great, home-made produce, says Sarah Brealey
Pie and mighty
As we sat down for lunch, an early-rising barn owl fluttered on to the fence post outside. It seemed like a good omen for a meal in a place that is about the best of the Suffolk countryside.We were at the Farmcaf� in Marlesford, near Woodbridge, a caf� which attracts a loyal and devoted audience for its breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas. It has previously been voted best breakfast in East Anglia, and has had a rave review in a national newspaper. So this is not your average caf�. Kippers are from Pinneys in Orford, tagliatelle carbonara is made with Suffolk ham, marmalade is from Yoxford and the honey and jams also from Suffolk. Should you feel the need of a condiment there are three types of ketchup and three brown sauces – one from Suffolk, one from Norfolk, and one Heinz (or HP sauce). Choosing a mayonnaise has never previously been a dilemma for me, but there are seven different flavours, all from Stokes of Rendlesham. (I opted for garlic and chive, which was a good choice).
The drinks list has much to delight, whatever your tastes. Smoothies are homemade and come in a huge glass. I had the smoothie of the week (�3.40), which was pear, ginger and yoghurt. It had a real fiery kick and was worth savouring. Other highlights are the Suffolk apple juice, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a choice of hot chocolates from Belgian white chocolate to African 70pc dark chocolate. Beer drinkers can have Victoria bitter from Earl Soham or bottled St Peter’s best bitter. We started with a home-made cauliflower cheese soup (�4.90), which arrived a bit cold, but once reheated was delicious. It came with a selection of locally made bread. I could not resist the brilliantly-named “squashed goat pie”, whose name can be explained by its filling of butternut squash, goats’ cheese, and sweet potato. It was really good, the sweetness of the squash set off by the tangy goats’ cheese. Home-made pies are a speciality, and there is always a steak and mushroom pie on the menu for those who prefer it more traditional. My companion had one of the specials, a pheasant, leek and bacon pie (�8.90). It was stuffed with juicy bits of meat, and the only complaint he could come up with was that he would have preferred the gravy not to be poured over the pie, making it harder to really appreciate the pastry. You can have your pie the traditional way, with mash and mushy peas, but we went for the fresh vegetables (Savoy cabbage and carrots), which were nicely cooked, plus new potatoes for him and chips for me.Other lunch options are handmade burgers and fishcakes, sandwiches, or bangers and mash. The famous breakfasts have local sausages, dry cure back bacon, and free range eggs, plus, if you wish, lambs’ kidneys and black pudding, or vegetarian sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms.We were not exactly in need of more food by this point, but could not resist the home-made cakes and pudding. The carrot cake (�2.90) was really moist, with a sweet and creamy icing, while the chocolate pudding (�4.90) disappeared in double-quick time. The caf� is popular with families, who can get child-size portions. And if you have enjoyed the pies, salad dressings or bread, you can buy these and more to take home in the adjoining farm shop.The Farmcaf� is right on the A12, but in a large conservatory at the back you can look across a field and watch the birds, perhaps even that barn owl. There are picnic tables outside, and a log burner inside for colder days. The decor is simple but pleasant, with wooden tables and paintings on the wall. I could happily arrive for breakfast, stay for lunch, and – who knows? – perhaps squeeze in a scone for afternoon tea.
Farmcaf� and Foodmarket, Main Road, Marlesford, Woodbridge, 01728 747717.