EATING ENGLAND: No 7: SUFFOLK Roam this rich rural county, home of barley fields and locally produced beer, smokehouses and salmon, apples and cider
SUFFOLK in full summer is an archetype of English beauty painted by Constable. Full, heavy trees, quiet fields and rivers still pattern parts of the land, yet to be erased into dull plains by the barley barons of East Anglia. The county has traditions of brewing, smoked foods and fishing that have their roots securely steeped in the landscape.

KENTWELL Hall, (01787 310207), Long Melford, has an its annual reconstruction of Tudor life which visitors can see at weekends until 5 July and bank holidays. This year they have reached 1600. Much of the food is recognisable (bread-and-butter puddings, thick vegetable soups, faggots, herby cheeses and sweet-and-sour flavourings) and the use of herbs, flowers and wood- fired bread ovens are at the height of contemporary culinary fashion.

The classic walk in Constable country is along the watermeadows of the River Stour around East Bergholt. East Anglia may not have dramatic mountains but it does have big skies. Sometimes you see three different kinds of weather around you.

Parts of the Suffolk coast are being eaten by the sea. The museum at Dunwich shows how the town changed from a great medieval port to a partially drowned town. BEER, one of England's living traditions, is strong in Suffolk. The Ship at Dunwich (01728 648219) is an old-fashioned pub that has not lost its charm through its popularity with visitors. This is Adnams country, with the brewery puffing away in Southwold, like a cross between a steam train and a cathedral. The whole town is in a time-warp, partly preserved by the land-owning brewery. The Crown (01502 722275) has a good back bar and food at the front. St Peter's Brewery and Hall (01986 782322) in South Elmham is a new brewery with an antique-decked pub/restaurant open Friday to Sunday. The range of beers includes elderberry and grapefruit. The excellent Nethergate Brewery (01787 277244) in Clare brews beers with ingredients like coriander seed, from old recipes hunted out by the brewer, Dr Ian Hornsey. You can try their beers on draft at the nearby Bell. The Low House at Laxfield (01986 798395) is one of the highlights of the county. You get your pint or a jug of beer in the tap room and sit in small rooms in old settles. The Ramsholt Arms (01394 411229) in Ramsholt has good food and is tucked away beside the River Deben. The Nutshell (01284 764867) in Bury St Edmunds is the smallest pub in Britain according to the Guinness Book of Records. Owned by the church, it is closed on Sundays.

THE FOX and Goose (01379 586688) in Fressingfield, also owned by the church, stays open seven days a week. It was built in 1509 as a guildhall, to stop people eating and drinking in the church itself and became a pub in 1799. The building has an old style, with worn, velvet chairs and curtains to cut out the draught, while the chairs in the bar are an apparent hotch potch that actually offer everything in pairs: straight- backed kitchen chairs, Fifties' wide armchairs, chairs for perchers, slouchers and ram rods, chairs for pre-dinner pints or confessions shared with a bottle of chardonnay. The menu will suit everyone with such dishes as haloumi with gremolata, prawns with lemon mayonnaise, marinated and deep- fried quail and smoked fish ravioli with a creamy mustard sauce. Their lemon curd tart is even nicer than a French lemon tart. The set price dinner costs pounds 17.50.

The Leaping Hare Restaurant (01359 250287) at Wyken Vineyards, Stanton, is a contemporary country idyll. The restaurant, in a lofty 400-year-old barn on a family farm, has an ancient beauty coupled with an American informality and verve. This comes from its originator, Carla Carlisle, who was influenced by her time working at the ground-breaking Californian restaurant, Chez Panisse, a place that takes ingredients and locality so seriously it has a full-time employee searching out excellent local supplies. A firm belief in freshness, place and quality shows in every dish on the menu of the Leaping Hare. Salmon is pan-smoked over vine prunings and served with a sorrel sauce; a warm salad of Wyken pigeon is complemented with pine nuts and walnut oil; the apple and honey ice-cream comes from nearby Alder Carr farm shop. Wyken's wines have mineral notes amid the fruit and it comes as no surprise that the vineyards are full of flints, which Carla says act as mini-storage heaters keeping the sun in the soil. You can walk around the beautiful gardens, through ancient woodland and into the vineyard. The farm has been in Carla's husband's family since 1920. The way they have diversified from arable farming exemplifies the way to keep rural traditions alive.

YOU CAN buy Wyken's excellent cider which is like liquid, alcoholic toffee apples. The Alder Carr ice cream served at the Leaping Hare is sold at a farm shop in Creeting St Mary (01449 720820) alongside other local products. Smokehouses worth visiting are Emmett's Stores in Peasenhall (01728 660250) and Richardson's (01394 450103) in Orford, next to the famous Butley Orford Oysterage (01394 450277), a restaurant and another smokehouse.

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