Early risers have had Suffolk’s Farmcafe to themselves for far too long. There are, for those of us sodden with appetite, few more depressing sights than the British hotel breakfast buffet. On the one hand there is the theoretical promise of largesse, of piggy products without borders. You can always hide another slice of bacon under the other two, bury a sausage under the bacon, build something architectural on the plate in crisped fat and shiny, burnished protein. On the other hand is the reality: the cheapest of cheap bacon slices, cooked to a pale pink numbness. Cut the sausage and it’s a riot of ground-down snout, eyelid and nipple. Scrambled eggs suppurate and fried eggs wallow in fat. They call it the Great British Breakfast but, by God, it so often isn’t.
True, you can get the real thing, but only in those grand hotels. So the establishment which delivers on the promise at a cost that doesn’t make your eyes bleed deserves not just to be celebrated but sanctified. The Farmcafé and Foodmarket on the A12 near Woodbridge in Suffolk is just such a place. Not that this is exactly news to all Observer readers; in recent years you have voted it the best place for breakfast in East Anglia, in our food awards. I always knew you had good taste.
The low-slung building in which it is housed, all black slat board and salmon-pink plasterwork, is filled with sturdy, golden-varnished wooden furniture and there is a stone-tiled floor. And here really is a great breakfast, British or otherwise. The dense-textured, dry-cured bacon speaks of an animal that lived a happy life, as it should do here on the dark rutted earth of the Suffolk Wolds, which supports so many of them. The sausages are a victory of properly seasoned meat over crumbly filler, and they know exactly how to sauté a button mushroom.
Better still are the rare joys of the British breakfast. There is a local kipper from one of the great smoke houses that dot the Suffolk shore, properly grilled and with a light, balanced cure. There are even, praise be, devilled kidneys. The grain mustard-boosted sauce is rich and powerful and soaks into the toasted granary in a way that makes it a profound pleasure. Most importantly, the dainty organs are not overcooked to a grotesque rubberiness.
What is really striking is the attention to detail. A summer fruits smoothie is simply the best of the recent crop, frozen and blitzed in a mixer. The jams are local and include an uncompromising dark marmalade, full of bitter peel, made in nearby Yoxford. If you love marmalade, you will want to sit at the table for hours, staring at it, sighing happily and muttering about eternal verities. (And then go buy some from the food shop on site.) When it comes to service, it was the kids who received their food first. It is such a simple thing to do. Settle the children and the parents will be yours for ever.
Any criticisms? Only that the fried eggs, while soft of yolk and impeccable of provenance, did have those shiny, plasticky whites which come with the use of the hot plate rather than the pan. It’s the worst I can say, and it’s not much. At lunchtime the menu moves on to the likes of wild rabbit pie, pot-roasted partridge and braised oxtail, all at £8.90, which, like the breakfast options, is thrilling value.
There are many reasons for going to Suffolk. The Farmcafe surely has to be one of them.