Are you aware of the gentle rise of the farm shop and the spread of the garden centre cafe? We noticed it on a regular long car journey from London to Lowestoft. The easiest pit stop is Starbucks of course, and they have their place. If however you want a proper cup of coffee and Sunday lunch with a difference, then there is a far more interesting experience to be had, just off the main roads. Plus a little bit of non-mainstream shopping, which is always welcome.
Sunday Lunch and Jazz Elves
Just off the A11 (on the same turn off as Center Parcs but in the opposite direction) the Elveden Estate have developed a delightfully quirky farm shop and restaurant. We stopped off for Sunday lunch on our way back to London. It was packed, and they cleverly gave us a buzzer to let us know when our table would be ready – clever because it gave us time to spend some money in the shop. We said we would just browse and then found ourselves sitting down to lunch twenty minutes later with two bulging shopping bags.
The quality of the produce here is excellent and the pricing strategy is very smart indeed, a little bit more than you would pay on the high street but for quirky and artisan delights. A fair exchange we thought. We also noticed that the farm shop led through to a series of other rooms with home and cookware, arts and crafts and on this particular weekend a marquee for local producers. Superbly designed, Elveden, there’s some smart commercial and marketing minds at work here!
When we sat down for lunch, the menu offered a good selection of main meals and smaller plates but it was a Sunday and who can resist a traditional Sunday roast? A. went for the traditional top side of beef (£13.95), all the meat is locally sourced and he said his was perfectly cooked and simply delicious. I was trying to be healthy, although I’m not sure that the home-made nut roast (£10.95) really fell into that category. It was scrummy though, and I would love to have the recipe for their vegetarian gravy. It was all rather splendid, but my special award goes to the yorkshire puds which were spectacularly crusty.
You can see that A. couldn’t wait for me to take this photo before tucking in! We meant to take a photo of dessert – honestly – but it was sitting happily in our tummies before we remembered … sorry! In another stroke of genius, Elveden offer a couple of their puds as half size portions and throw in a cup of tea or coffee in the price (£5.95 since you ask). Why don’t more places offer this? We usually end up sharing a dessert and this way we could be trying different things. Actually we both chose the traditional bread and butter pudding, which didn’t disappoint.
And the jazz elves? We have no idea what was happening but a troupe of jazz playing elves wandered through the farm shop and the restaurant that lunchtime, which bizarrely didn’t seem at all out of place. A. was on water as he was driving and I only had a small glass of red, and I promise we’re not making this up!
Farm shops and garden centres are definitely on the rise and certainly worth hunting out. We’ll be on the lookout for more to share with you – let us know of any that you would recommend.
Yes, yes and yes again. We’re certainly going back, and hope that you are passing into East Anglia sometime soon so that you can try it too. If you have time, do explore the shop too. If you have even more time, the estate offers a nature trail, a Christmas experience, and activities like archery. There’s a pub too and you can even stay overnight. A real gem of a find.
Loo Review (PMC Rating): ★★★★☆ Not only sparkling clean, but with gorgeous hand wash and lotion that’s on sale in the shop – smart people!
The Courtyard, Brandon Road,Elveden, Suffolk,IP24 3TQ Sunday, November 19 2017