Why you must visit Shillingfords at the Quay, Sudbury

This is a must-visit – a pop-up wild-food restaurant on the top floor of Sudbury’s Quay Theatre.

A real find in darkest Suffolk, Carl Shillingford, restaurateur, chef and forager opens his pop-up restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights only. During the rest of the week he is too busy foraging for ingredients!

The restaurant itself is fairly rustic – don’t expect plush furniture and fine cutlery. Fine dining, it isn’t. What you get however is a journey through the fields, hedges and coastline of Suffolk. It’s all about seasonality: the menus reflect Carl’s passion for wild food, so expect fresh fish and local meat dishes such as hare pate with pickled wild chervil shoots, spring beauty and rye sourdough bread. To follow you might want to eat the spring duo of lamb with hogweed and ground ivy sauce.

The dishes are large-starter sized – £5-£8 each – which means you can comfortably go through the card, as our party of four did! There’s also the option of board menus, each has three meat, three fish and three dessert options, with wines to match.

Carl’s wife Beth looks after the restaurant, explaining the menu and making recommendations, which you will need when it comes to what hop shoots and hedge garlic (no common wild garlic here) tastes like. The menu changes every three weeks, it’s not advertised so there is an element of surprise when you arrive, it really does depend on what Carl finds.

Carl also runs foraging courses on the saltmarsh. Expect to forage sea buckthorn and samphire, then on to mushroom hunting in the autumn. It’s a great experience and you might learn something. I did.

Ian Doughty
The author:

Passionate local-food lover Ian lives in the heart of Essex and works for Turpin Smale Catering Consultants.