23 of the best food and drink shops in Suffolk
- Credit: Daniel Nickells
Suffolk is one of the UK’s best destinations for the greedy. A cornucopia of food awaits anyone living in, moving to, or visiting the county. Fine dining restaurants. Authentic country pubs. Delightful little cafes serving up scones with lashings of cream and jam. Farms. Fishing huts sprawled along the coastline. And, as you’re about to discover, dozens of specialist food and drink shops. Join us on a culinary journey of some of the very best Suffolk has to offer.
Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich
A mecca for foodies, Suffolk Food Hall draws visitors from across the region and beyond, and has become synonymous with all things local and tasty.
Founded in 2007 by cousins Oliver and Rob Paul, the gourmet food store can be found in a converted farm building overlooking the river Orwell, and (of course) the bridge that crosses it. Over the years the offering has grown vastly, with Suffolk Food Hall boasting an on-site full carcass butchery, scratch bakery, deli, greengrocer, and fishmonger. It is also home to both The Cookhouse restaurant and the Food Hall café, as well as a number of on-site partner businesses such as a florist, beauty salon, cookery school, and gym.
“The Food Hall contains everything you would expect from an internationally-recognised farm shop - and the grocery department is also aligned with our goal of local, quality and uniqueness,” explains Suffolk Food Hall’s marketing and design coordinator Nick Punter.
So what are some of the must-tries on offer?
“I have to say, the first one that pops in my head is our sausage roll. Whether it be the traditional or caramelised onion ones - they are definitely a top-seller. Our Red Poll beef is also a Food Hall staple, and comes from our very own herd of Red Poll cows bred with Angus bulls.”
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Other favourites include the bakery’s freshly-made sourdough loaf, focaccia slices, and vegetable samosas from the deli. Customers wanting to indulge in the more luxurious side of things can get their hands on a ready-made hamper, jam-packed with an assortment of locally-sourced products including those from the likes of Adnams, Shotley Vineyard, and Tiptree Jam to name just a few.
Once you’ve had a mosey around the grocery departments, you can sit down for a bite to eat in either the café or restaurant.
The café offers a full barista service and light bites, as well as Harris & James gelato from the new gelato hut - while its restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea from Wednesday to Sunday.
“The Café allows our customers to enjoy the fantastic landscape that we’re so lucky to have nearby,” adds Nick. “There’s plenty of space in our paddocks and when the sun is out, it’s great to see so many enjoying coffees, cakes, and light bites in the sunshine. On the other hand, our restaurant with panoramic views is a chance to showcase our cuisine for what it is – honest, well-put together food. Our restaurant also features a lot of produce we sell in the Food Hall, ensuring we keep everything as seasonal and local as we can.”
Emmett’s of Peasonhall
Purveyor of quality meats galore, Peasenhall-based Emmett’s is your one-stop-shop for fine food.
Established in 1820, it is the oldest artisan ham and bacon producer in the UK – and still proudly operates from its original premises.
“We are not the oldest retailer in the country - but probably the most unique in that all of our ham and bacon production still takes place behind the shop,” explains owner Mark Thomas.
Customers who venture into Emmett’s will be met with a plethora of delicious ingredients and produce. Ham varieties range from the signature Suffolk Black and Suffolk Mild, to orange, peppercorn, and lime ham; as well as black pepper and fennel seed bacon.
“Many of my customers have their own favourites, but the product that most associate with us is our Suffolk Black ham and bacon."
So revered in fact, its Suffolk Black ham was actually a favourite of the Queen Mother and saw Emmett’s proudly boast a Royal Warrant for 36 years.
As well as being historic, Mark prides Emmett’s on using 100% free-range pork, locally-sourced from fellow Suffolk suppler Blythburgh Free Range. In addition, all of Emmett’s ham flavours are made solely from the rear leg of pig using natural ingredients, while its bacon is dry-cured with natural salt, with nothing artificial added.
Each ham takes around 10 weeks to prepare by hand – with the curing, marinading, smoking, maturing and cooking all taking place in the store’s original brick smokehouses.
This meticulous process results in a delicious ham covered in a dark mahogany skin that is also strong in depth and flavour.
Foodies who plan on taking a trip to Emmett’s can also treat themselves with the shop’s wide selection of cheeses, olives, wine, chocolate, crystallised fruits, organic bread and charcuterie. Everything you need to put on an amazing spread can all be found under one roof.
Snape Maltings Food Hall
What a destination! The setting here is simply stunning, the maltings (housing the world-renowned concert hall) perched along the riverbank, fields and meadows stretching out beyond.
The food offering was last revamped in 2008, with a fresh food mezzanine level opening. But, says buyer Becky Smith, much has changed over lockdown.
“Covid has forced us to make changes that we think, in many ways, are for the better. Basically, when the pandemic hit we decided to move a lot of our own shops into one space. So where we used to have things like books and cards – those all came into the main house and gardens building. It’s fantastic for customers to have everything under one roof.
“In terms of the food hall, we had to scale back the fresh food at the height of the pandemic, but that’s all starting to grow again. So we have Marsh Pig charcuterie, Pinneys fish, lovely fresh strawberries from Newbourne down the road, Fen Farm cheese. A lot of what we sell is ambient though. As buyer, my focus is on choosing local producers and looking further for things I know will excite our shoppers.
“From Suffolk we have the full range of Stokes, who are based close to us, we support several local beekeepers who provide us with fantastic honey. And Fishers Gin, who have their distillery on the seafront in Aldeburgh, sells really well for us. Then there are B Chocolates. They are just simply the best and are made down the road using lovely Suffolk honey to make caramels.”
Becky says it’s her mission to delight everyone who steps in the doors at Snape – where they’ll find lots of food and drink items they may not find elsewhere.
“I work with a family-run Italian company who source the very best Italian produce. Customers will come in and find authentic coloured pastas, pasta sauces and delicious pestos. I adore the truffle pasta sauce and their Calabrian sausage pasta sauce.
“We’ve got a fabulous chilli oil from South Africa, which we get from a guy based locally – that's really great.
“And one of my personal favourite things is our most delicious range of South East Asian curry sauces from Nonya Secrets. The lady behind them uses a traditional family recipe and they have so much flavour. The kind of thing I’d proudly cook and offer at a dinner party. That includes red curry, green curry, Rendang...those kinds of things.”
Becky’s other hot picks range from Fairtrade, organic Cocoa Loco chocolate, which comes in compostable packaging, to Crude coffee from Bury St Edmunds, Tosier bean-to-bar chocolate, Brown Bag crisps, and some very moreish cheese straws. “We’ve definitely noticed a trend for people popping in for nibbles and wine,” she adds, revealing more about the drink offerings.
“We use a local wine supplier, Orchard Lisle Wines. They’re able to source us some very unique bottles and they have direct relationships with the vineyards, so we have wine from Japan made at the foothills of Mount Fuji, and a wonderful French wine that’s produced in the most basic way, with no machinery, just a horse and cart. The man on the vineyard literally sings to his wine. We like to convey those stories to our customers and to make them feel like they’re getting something quite special when they come here.”
Jen and Greg Strolenberg and their team are revelling in the fact their already award-winning shop on Lavenham’s medieval high street has just been honoured with the title of Regional Champion Butcher for the East of England in the Countryside Alliance Awards – the Oscars of the food and farming world.
“We’d forgotten all about the awards because of Covid,” says Jen, who explains they were rushed off their feet during the pandemic, likening the whole of lockdown to preparing for the Christmas period. “When I found out we’d won I stumbled a bit. It’s just absolutely amazing and we’re so proud of everyone here. What the last 16 months have taught me is we’re more than a butcher’s shop. Some of the comments we had from customers for the awards were wonderful. They really have highlighted everything we’re about – which is supporting local farmers and being a part of the community.”
Jen and Greg now face the wait to find out whether they’ve won the national award, going up against the other regionally winning butchers.
What sets the shop apart, aside from the fact it stocks everything you might find in a village store (from milk and local juice to Suffolk honey) and then some (you can kit yourself out with hunting and countryside clothing), is Jen and Greg’s true dedication to only putting the finest meat on the counter.
In fact, it’s so good it transformed Jen from a plant-based diet! “I’m now a qualified deerstalker,” she laughs. “We work very closely with farmers and go out and look at the cows and the pigs to make sure everything is reared the way we want it to be.”
Suppliers include Phil Truin and Sutton Hoo for chicken, and Shimpling Park for organic lamb.
Lavenham Butchers makes all its own pies from scratch, alongside its very popular sausages, burgers and more, but the business is perhaps best known for its game, which comes from local shoots, with much of the venison stalked by Jen and Greg themselves on nearby farms and estates. And it’s an important job, Greg says: “Deer management is all part of the woodland management schemes with a view to bring back biodiversity to these areas, protecting species that were endangered. If a wood is overrun with deer, they start to eat out the under-canopy. So there’s nothing for the invertebrates to live in. You lose insect life and that goes along the chain, so you don’t see bats. The mice have nowhere to hide, then you lose the owls.
“You end up with a sterile wood. We’re now starting to see species like glow worms come back and a lot of that’s down to good deer management.”
Greg says there are six species of deer in the UK, only two or three of these classed as native, and wants people to know venison is a year-round product, not just available in the autumn months like other seasonal game. Being low in fat, low in cholesterol and a good source of Omega 3, he encourages everyone to make it part of their weekly diet, where it can easily take the place of beef in dishes such as bolognese, lasagne, braises, pies and stir fries.
“It’s an ethical meat and I know vegetarians who are quite happy to eat it because of that. There are plenty of deer in this country, and the food miles are very low.”
Greg’s favourite things to eat from the shop? “I do like a haunch of venison. And we make our own venison sausages which are great. Venison pastrami too. I’m also a fan of our steak and ale pie which we make with Broadside.”
And his thoughts on the award? “I’ve got to hand it to the staff. They’re an amazing group and everyone gets on really well. It’s like a little family here. They’re brilliant. All good at their jobs and everyone brings something to the table. The weeks working with them just fly by.”
Rafi’s Spicebox, Sudbury
An institution in the town, that’s been part of the community for decades. You’ll find absolutely everything in store to create the ultimate curry night in –from handmade roti and naans, to spices, chutneys and pickles. But the main reason to visit is for their famed curry kits. Ready to go, or made up to order (so they can adjust the heat for you), these blends need just a tin of tomatoes, maybe some water, or coconut milk added, alongside meat, fish or vegetables, and voila – dinner is ready. It’s as good, if not better, than your local curry house, with packs including madras, patia and korma. You can also order them online and find them in various delis and farm shops in Suffolk. Note...the curries taste even better the day after cooking.
Beautiful Beers, Bury St Edmunds
Anything they don’t know about beer in this shop, probably isn’t worth knowing. Specialising in Belgian brews (with some rare and unique varieties in stock), the entire space is floor-to-ceiling with cans, bottles and kegs, as well as associated glassware and some Belgian snacks. Staff are more than happy to have a chat and guide you in your choices, with tips on beer and food matching. And there really is something for every price range and palate – whether you like your beer fruity, sour, malty, creamy, bitter or hop-heavy. The collection of fruit and sour or naturally fermented beers is especially impressive. Picks include the 3 Fonteinen Oude Kreik, Moosehead Canadian lager, and New Zealand-made 8 Wired Flat White Coffee Milk Stout.
Two Magpies Bakery, Southwold, Aldeburgh, Darsham
Rebecca and Steve are setting the East Anglian bakery seen alight with their ever-growing chain of neighbourhood shops. What started with one petite café/bakery in Southwold has more than doubled, to include outlets in Aldeburgh, Darsham and various locations in Norfolk. All are consistently good, their counters overflowing with a bounty of sourdough bread, savouries and snacks. You won’t be able to resist the multi-layered chocolate stout cakes, piles of cloud-like Ottolenghi-style meringues or incredible doughnuts. Good coffee, interesting breakfasts, lunches, and even pizzas are available at most of the locations. It’s hard to leave without a bag of goodies....or two.
Hopsters, Ipswich, Felixstowe and Woodbridge
In a previous life Hopsters owner Ed Barnes was resident DJ at Ipswich’s Cock and Pye pub, and organised many a club night in the town that he loves to call home. Today, it’s all about the beer. In fact, he’s such a fanatic he brought back the annual beer festival to the town centre in 2019 with plans afoot for the next one. Such as been the success of craft beer shop (and bar) Hopsters, that he’s opened two further outlets- one in Chelmsford, the other at Beach Street in Felixstowe, with further ‘satellite’ fridges at Cuppa in Felixstowe and Saltpeter Wines in Woodbridge. Pop in to have a drink, buy a vessel to take home a bulk of beer for a party at home, or chat to the guys about what they’re loving at the moment for recommendations. There really is more choice than any beer lover could handle. We’ve liked San Francisco Skies from Alefarm Brewing, Brew York’s Katy Berry sour, and Black Iris Brewery’s Lost in the Cold Sun.
Pump Street Bakery, and Chocolate Shop, Orford
Delightful Orford in all its pastel-coloured prettiness, perfectly frames these sister shops in the centre of the village. It all began with father and daughter Chris and Jo, and Chris’ mission to bring real, slow bread to Suffolk. The bakery/cafe (you can’t miss it, it’s pink) not only dishes up a mean brunch and rather good coffee, but is the showroom for Pump Street’s award-winning products. Sourdough loaves made in the timeless tradition, using Marriage’s flour. Slightly boozy Eccles cakes speckled with sugar. Chocolate-dipped palmiers. Brownies. Moreish sausage rolls rich with garlic and fennel. And Canadian specialities – a nod to Jo’s birthplace. These include butter tarts, and bear claws – a crisp pastry filled with almond paste. Over the road Pump Street’s own bean-to-bar chocolate is on sale alongside products from other reputable craft chocolate companies. A must-try is the Rye Crumb Milk and Sea Salt, 60%.
You’ll see Pinney’s products in East of England Co-op stores , delis and farm shops across Suffolk and beyond. But it really is worth heading down to Orford Quay where you can watch the world go by, maybe try a spot of crabbing, and pop into their shop. As well as their full, delectable smoked range (from trout to mackerel, salmon and prawns), there’s a wet fish counter, deli items, their own pates, and gift ideas too.
Marimba, Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds
While the first outlet for Marimba was in Sudbury, the undeniable home of the family-run business is Bury St Edmunds, where the chocolate factory is based just a few minutes’ drive from the newly opened store.
Both are rammed with their own single estate chocolate in bar, button and novelty form – all made entirely from scratch. There’s a seasonally changing collection of filled chocolates and truffles in the counter too. You absolutely have to try the out-of-this-world-good giant buttons, available in multiple flavours and strengths/origins - with samples available on the counter. There’s the Glacier Colombia 35% white, Ghana 40% milk, Maconodo Colombia 60%, and so many more.. Every single one tastes different. And there are usually offers, such as three pots for £10. Sugar-free and dairy-free options are available.
The Box, Southwold
Johnny of The Pennybun Bakehouse is a bit of a star in the baking world. He’s worked for the likes of the Roux brothers, catered for Richard Branson on Necker Island, and has exclusively provided bread to the fancier restaurants at Chelsea Flower Show in past years. When he’s not at markets, or making bread for local restaurants, pubs and cafes, he’s conjuring up ideas for The Box – a pop-up bakery only open on Saturdays from 8am to 2pm. You really will not find anything else like it in Suffolk. He is the Willy Wonka of baked goods, using local produce (including his brother’s beef) to come up with some stonking treats. Recents have included chocolate bread, pork, pear, black pudding mustard and cheese sausage rolls, Thai curry puffs, a croque monsieur Danish, and milk chocolate and honeycomb cookies. A perennial favourite is the North Sea sourdough. You can pre-order online (by Tuesdays) for collection. Head for the Pennybun Bakehouse website.
Les Chocolats Belges, Woodbridge
Based for many years in the town’s Thoroughfare, the shop (which has had a shuffle around inside over lockdown), really does sell some of the freshest, best-kept Belgian chocolates around. It’s one of the county’s biggest selections, and they have lots of pretty boxes and bags ready so you can make up gifts for loved ones - or yourself, of course. Whether you’ve a hankering for smooth gianduja, a rose or coffee cream, a boozy truffle or a pate de fruit, they’ve probably got it in stock. The shelves are also bedecked in sweets and ready boxed chocolates and confectionary, with several dairy-free and sugar-free choices.
A newcomer that has made a significant impact since it opened at the height of lockdown. Justin Kett (our former Chef of the Year) and wife Kairi transformed a large empty shop in the middle of the high street into a place that’s got real verve and buzz. The deli counter groans under the weight of their homemade Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, cakes and doughnuts (which have become very very popular). You can buy well-kept cheeses that rotate regularly. Charcuterie. Their own ham. Elsewhere there are a few locally-sourced items, but what sets Fork apart is the fact pretty much everything is made in-house by the kitchen team. Granola. Jams. Pizzas. Fresh pasta. Sauces. Ice cream. Ready to bake cookie dough. Upstairs houses a cookery school and private dining area. Something quite unique for Suffolk.
Slate Cheeses, Southwold and Aldeburgh
Clare Jackson and dad John are self-confessed cheese addicts. Which led them to take over what was a much-loved deli in Aldeburgh. They’ve truly made it their own, and you can absolutely tell they have a passion for what they do. Everyone in the shops is versed in telling the story behind all the items on the ‘wall of cheese’ which showcases the very best of British farmhouse, alongside some stunning fromages from Europe. A firm, aged, nutty Comte, may sit alongside nobbly-rinded Caerphilly, or a pungent Double Barrel Poacher.
They have all the wherewithal to pull together a very good cheeseboard inside – crackers, pickles, their own chilli jam. Hampers can be ordered. And they even have a cheese club.
Nethergate Wines, Long Melford
This well-known merchant set up shop in Long Melford during lockdown, boasting an enviable collection of wines, spirits and beers – including many types of Champagne and prosecco from the finest houses. The owners met over 30 years ago working at Lay and Wheeler, taking over Nethergate in 2006 and going on to win Gold Awards from Wine Searcher for the quality and breadth of their lists. They love to help you pick. And what a choice, spanning New and Old World varieties, and including vegan, organic and biodynamic bottles – some from countries you may not have sampled wine from before...such as Moldova and Lebanon.
Procters Sausages, Ipswich
One of the town’s oldest specialist food shops – making award-winning bangers using the best cuts of free-range outdoor reared pork, presented in real casings. The array of flavours is remarkable. Hog and Hop (with beer), pork and stilton, gluten-free Bratwurst made to a traditional German recipe, garlicky Toulouse. There are non-pork varieties as well – such as chicken and wild mushroom. And there’s even been an Asian-style duck sausage – lovely tossed with hoi sin sauce in a salad. Condiments and other foodie things fill the shop as well.
Hank’s Deli and Supermarket, Ipswich
What started as one small shop has grown to become three Hank’s Dirty takeaways and eateries, a vegan pub, and this – a huge vegan supermarket. The specialist shop is probably one of the biggest of its kind in the east of England, maybe the UK, and now offers nationwide delivery from its online store.
Stepping inside you know that every single thing is plant-based, so you don’t have to check any labels. Whether you’re after one of their healthy vegan ready meals (made from scratch), vegan pastrami, plant-based blue cheese, or a few gelatine-free sweeties, they’ve got you covered.
Wooster's, Bardwell and Bury St Edmunds
Will Wooster, assisted by brother Joe, dad Simon and the rest of the team, makes and sells flipping brilliant, award-winning bread, bakes and pastries at both these shops and various markets – including Hadleigh every Friday, the monthly Bury St Edmunds Farmers’ Market, and at Wyken on Saturdays. The sourdough loaves are sensational - try the toasted seed variety. The white batch baked is all fluffy at the edges. They make the best malt loaf you will ever taste. And as for the pastries. Customers can’t get enough of the morning buns (cruffins filled with custard), or the almond croissants layered and topped with loads of frangipane. The shops tend to have even more than the market stalls – including specialities such as bostocks (sugary fruit-topped brioche), brownies and sometimes poubelles – puffy pastry filled with flavoured cream.
Palmers Bakery, Haughley
The flagship shop (there are others in East Suffolk fed by this one) is so much more than a bakery. It’s a part of the community, with every nook and cranny stuffed with something you want to take home. Bread is baked in the ancient brick ovens as the family, who have been here for generations, have done for years. This process lends the finished products a burnished bottom crust that just can’t be achieved in modern bread ovens. Their white loaves and cottage bread in particular are hard to beat. And they’re joined by handmade cakes and pastries, made with real butter. Real ingredients. We adore the blackcurrant sundaes - pastry case filled with jam and topped with buttercream and a dusting of icing sugar. The mince pies are legendary locally – and available all-year.
Emmerdale Farm Shop, near Darsham
An homage to meat. This enormous, rustic farm shop is really something. The offering just goes on and on and on. You’ll find your usual farm shop fare. Eggs. Milk. Jams. Bread. Logs for the fire and charcoal for the barbecue. But you’re really here for the gigantic butchery counter at the back stocked with everything you could ever need, including every single cut of their own beef. The shop is filled with freezers that stock game, poultry, various cuts of steak, their own made pies, sausages, sausage rolls, ready meals, burgers, bacon. You name it. Need a turkey out of the Christmas season? No problem – they've likely got them here. Head over with a bunch of cool bags and stock your freezer.
Hollow Trees Farm Shop, Semer
Where this farm shop led, others followed. It started out with Sally selling a few bits and bobs from the farm gate, taking them out to customers. Today – well – it's a whole experience, with a farm trail that kids adore, a much-loved café, garden centre selling their homegrown plants, and the expanded shop.
Inside is everything you could need to pull a meal, hamper or picnic together, from basics such as eggs, milk, oil and seasonings, to bread, and homegrown and local fruit and veg. The shop stocks Suffolk-made beers, wines, spirits, cakes, sauces, fish, ice creams, oils and more besides. Then there’s the butchery, which offers the farm’s own meat, and oven-ready meals. And a deli, with English cheeses, hams and charcuterie, hummus made down the road in Lindsey, and lots of items made in the café kitchen – from quiche and pizza to pies and Scotch eggs. A must-visit for food lovers in Suffolk.
Black Dog Deli, Walberswick
The duo here really did keep villagers in Walberswick and nearby going during lockdown with their ‘Dog Dinners’ (freshly prepared ready meals), and these are still available in the petite shop, which simply bursts at the seams with goodies from East Anglia, and their own cakes, savouries and salads. They even make their own fresh pasta! If you’re heading for the beach here, give them a call and get them to bring together a picnic pack to collect on your way through.