Metfield Café, Snape Maltings, Snape, Suffolk

There's something of a food renaissance happening in Suffolk right now. Farmers' markets and food festivals are springing up around the county and local suppliers have their own media-friendly poster boy, in the form of TV farmer Jimmy Doherty, who has grown from Jamie Oliver's Mini-Me into a canny champion of the area's food culture.

On a recent visit to the Suffolk coast, I ate very well, particularly at the area's best gastropub, The Anchor in Walberswick, and the newish Suffolk Food Hall near Ipswich, a produce market and deli with a fine little café and restaurant attached. Both of these establishments regularly host their own food and drink events, and are part of a loose affiliation of passionate local producers and chefs, many of whom are involved in the annual Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival. A 10-day event showcasing local and national food heroes – our own Mark Hix will be appearing – it kicks off on 26 September at the Snape Maltings.

It's an odd place, the Maltings. A sprawling 19th-century malt-house and outbuildings, floating between huge skies and an infinite stretch of reed beds by the River Ore, it was reinvented in the 1960s by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears as a concert venue and music school. More recently, some serious investment has clearly gone into the place. From high-minded crucible of the arts, the Maltings has become a thoroughly modern retail and leisure experience, the concert venue now joined by various smart shops, galleries and cafés.

The newest of them is the Metfield Café, an offshoot of Metfield Bakery, fabled throughout the eastern counties for its artisan breads, cakes and savoury pies. Perched on a mezzanine gallery above a posh housewares shop, it's a great place to sample the best Suffolk produce, from Butley Creek oysters and Lowestoft kippers to fish smoked down the road by Pinney's of Orford.

Arriving for an early Friday supper, we found ourselves the only customers in the gallery space, looking down over the closed and darkened shop. Two chefs could be glimpsed in the kitchen, standing around with arms folded. The café is only open in the evenings when there's an event in the concert hall, and clearly, they weren't expecting a rush. "Is this a church?" whispered our three-year-old, as we were shown to one of the many available scrubbed oak tables.

You'd expect a bakery-owned restaurant to serve good bread. The springy wholemeal which arrived immediately was certainly that, with a malty tang that paid homage to the building's original purpose. Even better was the pliable toasted sourdough that came with a fluffy cloud of home-made taramasalata and green olives the size of plovers' eggs. Potted shrimps came with the same moreish sourdough, while rock oysters from nearby Butley Creek were partnered with a tomato relish with a horseradish kick – useful for further dipping when all other options had run out.

The carb-fest continued with a shared main course of rabbit, leek, prune and bacon pie, majestic beneath a glazed dome of perfect, buttery, short pastry, and left at the table on a wooden platter for us to help ourselves. I don't know that I've ever eaten a rabbit pie before, and I can't say I'd rush to eat another – the dense, savoury rabbit meat seemed to expand in the mouth to absorb every last atom of saliva. But there was enough good stuff going on in the rich broth around it to make it a decent dish. Cheeky, though, to charge £25 for it, considering the cheap-as-chips ingredients.

Our boys ordered off-menu, body-swerving the baked cod in a horseradish and herb crust for a battered version of the same with chips. Our sweet waitress didn't need to check with the kitchen before okaying the switch, and for that I'm giving the service four stars, even though, with no other customers present, it's rather hard to judge how they would have coped under pressure. I'm marking the atmosphere down for the same reason; a hushed and darkened expanse of sofas isn't really ever going to substitute for the buzz of a busy restaurant, though they tried their hardest by playing some jaunty Cuban music (far easier on the digestion than a Peter Pears sea shanty).

Another couple of pre-concert diners did eventually arrive, obviously regulars, who lamented the fact that more people hadn't discovered the Metfield Café. We didn't stay for puddings, though the list included damson jelly and cream, warm cherry clafoutis and lemon posset with shortbread. Instead we bought tubs of Alder Carr ice cream from the concert hall bar at the other end of the Maltings, and ate them looking out over the marshes. Big skies, big flavours, and – rather like the restaurant we'd just left – barely a person in sight. Let's hope the forthcoming Aldeburgh Food Festival brings the crowd the Café deserves.

Metfield Café, nape Maltings, Snape, Suffolk (01728 687980)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 2 stars
Service 4 stars

Around £20 a head. Tipping policy: "No service charge; all tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Super Suffolk

Fox & Goose

Fab food: starters here include pork belly with a crackling salad, squash and caper remoulade, chorizo mousse, and pineapple carpaccio.

Church Rd, Fressingfield (01379 586247)

Samford Restaurant

Located in Suffolk Food Hall, the food here includes a dressed Cromer Crab, with Broxtead new potatoes and Ardleigh leaf salad.

Peppers Lane, Ipswich (01473 786610)

Bildeston Crown

Roasted cod, confit cod cheek, brandade, Iberico ham and fennel typifies the exemplary food here; the 8-course tasting menu costs £65.

104 High St, Bildeston (01449 740 510)

A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman,; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith,
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup