In Search of Sunday Lunch – The Lord Nelson, Ipswich

Isn’t Sunday lunch out great, especially now winter’s lurched into life?  My criteria?  It’s got to be better than I make myself but affordable and relaxed too.  I want to eat a bit too much and chat and linger and well… just one more glass of vino then, go on. We took our chances at the Nelson.  I wasn’t expecting much.  I imagined fusty carpets  clinging to our feet; dark oak panels full of history and festering secrets.  Nope.  It’s light and airy. There are beams, chattering locals and roaring fires though.  When a bus rumbles past the window it becomes super dark.  Seriously, why doesn’t everyone go here? We’d decided not to bother with starters but the cauliflower soup beckoned and oh, ok then, maybe just a few onion rings.
The soup was tasty but not too heavy, warming but not overly hearty.  The brown bread was lightly toasted which made a change from dreary old baguette.  The onion rings were slightly greasy but that’s half the point, isn’t it?  They’re not supposed to be a health food.  I licked my fingers, gazed at the fire and sipped my gin. Service?  Simple but friendly.  Order at the bar.  Oddly, we were asked – twice, in fact – whether we wanted our starters first, before the main course.  Um… yes?  Does anyone want their soup on the side to dunk their spuds in?  At least they asked, I guess.

So.  Beef, cooked rare.  Vibrant greens, roast spuds and parsnips plus a big ‘n’ crunchy but still chewy Yorkshire pudding soaking up the decent enough gravy… I was defeated.

We only managed one pudding between us so it had to be the pear and ginger crumble with custard which was just like my mother used to make (that’s a good thing) but I bet the baked chocolate tart would have been good.

039f1428-d866-48da-bbd0-cddb4684b665-2 With a G&T, a pint, a bottle of quaffable Bordeaux and a cheeky something else after pudding, our bill for two came to around £65.  Our cheeks glowing from the fire and our buttons bursting at the seams, we left the Nelson feeling very happy.  And, oddly, I’m still thinking about that soup.   Lovely.  An absolute hidden gem.

Suffolk Farmers Market

At long last, there’ll be a farmers market in Ipswich.  Saturday 13th October, 10 ’til 4, is the date you need for your diary – and Trinity Park is where you need to be.

There’ll be all sort of goodies – fantastic bread from Woosters (their sourdough brings tears of joy to fully grown men and you seriously have to try their croissants), the multi-award winning Truly Traceable with their venison & game pies (field to fork, just as it should be) as well as The English Spirit Company whose Old Salt Rum is a thing of absolute glory, as well as street food – you’ll need to keep your strength up after all! – and beekeeping talks.  Entry is free… all you need is a big bag and, possibly, an elasticated waistband.

Have a look at their website to whet your appetite and get this in your diary… you’ll find lots of the producers you missed at the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival too (or that Aldeburgh missed out on!  Did I mention that entry is free??!

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Stowmarket Food & Drink Festival

So July started with a brand new event – the first ever food & drink festival in Stowmarket.  Not the first place you think of as a hub of culinary delights, perhaps, but it absolutely has the makings of a great event.

Despite being about a billion degrees in the shade, the people of Suffolk turned out in force.  It was actually quite moving to see so many there supporting a little, unknown event.  The sky was blue and the Union Jacks were fluttering in the slight breeze as the Stowmarket Concert Band belted out some cracking tunes.  Fantastic idea booking them, whoever came up with that idea.  It set the tone perfectly (no pun intended).

And, yes, there was food,  Food to scoff straightaway, food to take away.  My favourite was the dinkiest little prosecco van I’ve ever seen.  If, like me, you’d never tried a Pimmsecco then you’ve been missing out.  Hic.  We all need prosecco on tap, right?  A similar set-up selling craft beer or cider would have been good though.

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The street food was varied with something for everyone – pizza, Cypriot souvlaki made with local produce, Brazilian pastels and cakes (general raving about Caipira Brazilian Flavours another time), Goan curries and TFI Vegan among others.  Yes, I pretty much ate it all.

Powters Sausages were doing a roaring trade, as were Peterborough-based Yaus Food who are new to me.  Chef demos inside (including Chris Lee from the Bildeston Crown) and buskers outside…  just fabulous.

A great first event; definitely worth sticking in your diary next year.

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Floc de Gascogne

Ooh la la.  Floc de Gascogne.  I bloody love French stuff.   Just saying ‘Floc de Gascogne’ is making me woozy.  Le sigh.

You know when you go to a food festival and feel obliged to try absolutely everything?  Then you promise each stallholder that you’ll be back in a bit and they never see you again?  Reader, I went back!

This was my fave find at the Colchester Food & Drink Festival last weekend.  It’s a sweet-ish liqueur made by blending two thirds barely-fermented grape juice with the other third young Armagnac brandy.  The recipe’s been going strong in Gascogny since the 16th century and oh, mon dieu, it’s delicious.  I’m loving it straight and super-chilled (the Floc, not me!) but it’s also good mixed with fruit and lemonade, Pimms-style.

It’s matured in barrels for nine months (but way more fun than a  baby!) for scientiffical reasons that I won’t go into here.

The rosé (my preference) is a glorious colour, bursting with raspberries.  The white – a bit more grape-y and not my personal cuppa – is light and refreshing.  If you like Pineau then you’ll love this.

You can buy it online here – but they will be at the Essex Food & Drink Festival mid-July too and that’s always good for a mooch.

I really like this – can you tell??  The only downside?  I should have bought more than one bottle.  Ouf, comme ils disent en français.

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The Grazing Sheep, Ipswich Waterfront

I confess, I’m not big fan of the whole ‘going out for coffee and cake’ kinda thing.  Mainly – second confession of the day – because I’m a skinflint and can rustle up a sarnie & mug of tea without any trouble and it doesn’t really cost me any money.  See?  Skinflint.  And quite grumpy, since you ask.

But life is cruel and I don’t always get to call the shots so The Grazing Sheep it was.  I eyed up the smoked salmon bagels languishing in the chiller.  Meh.  Whatevs.  I was spared the dreaded cuppa though.  The wine list isn’t extensive but it’s good – something for everyone, in fact.  The bagel arrived, no longer cold and chewy but toasted with its smooth, cool filling – including some cheeky capers – oozing out.  Him indoors (well, we were outdoors actually because who wouldn’t be with those views?) had the cubanito.  Strips of pork belly in hot, crispy bread were wolfed down at a rate of knots accompanied by a bit of man-grunting.

I may have eaten my words but being a cake-hater I definitely didn’t succumb to the pistachio and polenta cake.   Well, ahem, just a nibble then… and fabulous it was too, in its deliciously gritty way.  (Cakes from The Hopewell Bakery – lots of gluten/dairy free goodies, find them on Instagram.)

The Grazing Sheep, Regatta Quay, Ipswich.    Tapas on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 too.  Can’t wait to try it.  Ipswich is upping its game at the mo.  This place deserves to flourish.

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Sunday Best – The Cambridge Chop House

I’m always in two minds about Sunday lunch out. It’s a bit of a cop-out; doing a roast at home is easy, isn’t it? And there’s all the lovely leftovers to cook with for a few days after. A cheeky chicken risotto or a lamb biryani. Re-roasted spuds dunked in a fried egg. It’s all even better a few days on.

But then there’s the washing up. The fridge full of stinky chicken that even the dog doesn’t fancy when there hasn’t been time to use it up. Those are the moments I toy with embarking on a mission to find the Best Sunday Lunch Out.

The Cambridge Chop House set the bar pretty high. A stone’s throw from King’s College Chapel, it has a great view (unless you’re in the basement, as we were, but didn’t even care) and means you can also have a sharpener at The Eagle on Benet Street round the corner beforehand. (A pretty decent roast to be had there but that’s another story.)

Between the four of us, we pretty much had a bit of everything. Me? I had the Roquefort, glazed fig & cranberry salad (it didn’t blow my mind, to be fair) before perfectly rare roast sirloin (amazing horseradish and vibrant greens) with a perfectly crisp yet gooey Yorkshire pud. In some sort of pork-ordering calamity, we also ended up with a pint mug stuffed with crackling – currently on the menu as a starter and hideously moreish. Go, just for that!

I don’t eat pudding (I’d rather have a jug of cracking crackling all to myself instead ta) but somehow devoured an Advocaat crème brûlée complete with a dinky gingerbread dude. Wonderfully sweet but with the brandy cutting through, it was so unctuous I couldn’t help scooping out every last molecule with my finger. I don’t know who thought of putting Advocaat into an already-creamy desert but I truly love that person. I actually do.

Ok, so Sunday lunch out is a treat. An indulgence. But I can’t cook roast beef like the Cambridge Chop House. Or do their puddings. And apart from that, the atmosphere is just so great. People watching at its best. The ideal place to while away a few hours – preferably with a pint of crackling. Did I mention the crackling?

Not cheap but worth taking a punt on. Ho ho. See what I did there?

The Sunday lunch bar’s set high.  Where’s your fave Sunday eat-out treat?

Mizu Noodle Bar, Ipswich

I felt a bit sorry for Mizu when Wagamama announced they were opening in Ipswich.  I steadfastly ignored the new kid on the block until one weak moment on New Year’s Eve, when we decided Wagamama would be ‘nicer’.  And yes, she’s the bigger, shinier sister at the pan-Asian party but I tell you what:  the food’s not a patch on lovely little Mizu.

Last week, Mizu had put on an extra slick of lippy.  A bit of a makeover but nothing flash.   A couple of pictures on the walls; a fresh coat of paint.  Open a few more hours now, it’s perfect for a quick bite.

Between the three of us we scoffed our way through roast duck with noodles – wonderfully simple with the tender duck in a rich, glistening salty soy sauce; the combo curry, in all its unphotographable glory, a mixture of chicken, beef, prawns and pork with rice, onion and peas that induced a serious amount of happy man-grunting.  Let’s not forget the crunchy little chicken & coriander gyoza and my beloved chilli & pepper squid.  I swear I dream about their squid.  The Chicken Laksa Lomein was apparently so delicious I wasn’t even allowed a taste.

The thing with Mizu is that the food’s bloody good and there’s an alarmingly huge amount of it – neither fancy nor elegant but rather like something you could knock up at home, if only you had the energy.  The long tables are friendly but not intrusive.  It’s quick and buzzy but, ok, not remotely romantic.  The ever-so-slightly disdainful service is part of its slightly tawdry charm.  Who needs big and brash when you’ve got small and honest?

I’m glad they’re holding their own in the big, glitzy world around them.  Long live the independents!