Where to eat and drink in Bury St Edmunds
Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk is the perfect town for a food and drink tour. It’s pretty, compact, historic and packed with excellent independent pubs, restaurants and cafés. There’s even a brewpub – and it’s nothing to do with Greene King, the UK’s biggest brewer and pub operator, which is headquartered in the town.
We meandered through Bury’s streets last week looking for gems. This cathedral town (it has an abbey, too) is clearly well supported by a passionate community of food lovers. When we put the word out on social media that we were coming, we were inundated with tweets pointing us in the right direction. That really helped us – so thanks!
Stop 1: The Nutshell
Our first stop was The Nutshell, long regarded as Britain’s smallest pub*. It comprises a single room with bar measuring 15ft by 7ft, and it’s been a pub for 150 years. We simply had to visit.
The Nutshell is a Greene King pub in the town centre and feels pleasingly timeworn inside, a bit like a weird old antique gnome you can’t help but love. The walls and ceiling are plastered with ephemera, from bank notes and school ties to an ancient mummified cat (I kid you not) that hangs above your head like a horrific sprig of mistletoe.
There’s not much beer choice but you can forgive them given the size of the bar. There are standard fonts of keg lager and Guinness, plus two casks lines – Greene King IPA and the stronger Abbot. We went for the IPA (3.6% ABV). IPA is a beer I haven’t tried for years – you can get it in your local JD Wetherspoon for something like £1.50 a pint, so it’s become the beer equivalent of Tesco Basics Baked Beans. However, when in perfect condition – and it was here – it’s actually a lovely pint: light, refreshing and floral.
*Upstart hostelry The Little Prince in Margate claims to be even smaller at 11ft by 6.6ft
Stop 2: The One Bull
A three-minute stroll past Abbey Gate took us to The One Bull, a pub/restaurant that’s the polar opposite of The Nutshell. This place is spacious, modern, bright and contains no dead felines.
We didn’t eat here but it has a good reputation for food and we found it welcoming. We also enjoyed its beer line-up. It’s the brewery tap for Brewshed Brewery, which is located five miles north in Ingham. The American Blonde went down a treat.
Stop 3: 1921 Angel Hill
Next door to The One Bull is 1921 Angel Hill. This new restaurant’s home is an attractive, ancient timber-framed building, and this was to be our lunch stop.
This was a good decision. Wow. The food here is outstanding. Chef-patron Zack Deakins’ cooking is skilful and refined, using carefully chosen flavours and putting the icing on the cake with delicate, attractive presentation.
We went for the set lunch menu, enjoyed three courses each, two canapés each and a drink each, and paid £35 a head including tip – incredible value for the quality of the cooking. We started with a gruyere and mustard croissant and a pork rib spring roll & cauliflower from an intriguing and unusual canapé menu. Perfect.
Next, I went for white onion and thyme veloute with Baron Bigod cheese (from Suffolk’s Fen Farm Dairy) and pickled potato. The smooth, silky, comforting veloute contrasted beautifully with the acidic pickled potato and set me up nicely for the main course.
Next out of the kitchen was tender, moist Suffolk chicken wrapped in wild garlic leaves and served with parsley root. Pretty to look at, even better to eat – nothing overly fussy but just wonderful local, seasonal ingredients, brilliantly prepared.
We also had the smoked coley with leek, confit egg yolk and cockles (pictured at the top of this feature).
This was the best lunch we’ve had in a very long time. Zack and his team are talented indeed.
Stop 4: The Old Cannon Brewery
After a 10-minute stroll north we found our next target: The Old Cannon Brewery – a microbrewery, brewpub and hotel that calls itself a “gastro brewery”.
Steam rising from a grate in the pavement was a telltale sign we’d found it and as we walked in our eyes were drawn to the shiny brewing vessels next to the bar. It’s fantastic for any town to have a brewpub, and this is a particularly nice example.
Stop 5: Pea Porridge Restaurant
For our evening meal, it had to be Pea Porridge, situated opposite The Old Cannon Brewery. Pea Porridge had been almost universally recommended to us on social media by those in the know.
It’s a cosy neighbourhood restaurant that was originally two cottages. The team here are keen on sustainability and nose-to-tail cooking, utilising their “Bertha” charcoal oven as much as possible. We found the recommendations to be accurate: Pea Porridge really delivers on flavour, serving up big, bold gutsy dishes. The rose veal chop was excellent, and the tarte tatin was probably the best we’ve eaten this side of the Channel!
Other independents to check out in Bury St Edmunds
Ben’s Restaurant is one we’ve recommended for a while. It prides itself on using high quality ingredients from Suffolk producers, and featured in many of the tweets we received.
Ben Hutton, the well-respected chef behind Ben’s, also runs Queens Bar & Grill. His new venture offers an American-themed grill menu featuring burgers and slow-cooked meats. The bar serves cocktails, wines, craft beers and real ales.
Maison Bleue was recommended to us by a local journalist. It offers French fine dining and professional service. Here are some more tips from Twitter…
Casa is a tapas and meze restaurant on Risbygate Street. Well worth a visit, according to several sources.
Abbeygate Cinema’s dining room – No.4 Restaurant & Bar – was recommended to us. “The poutine is a must,” she said. Here’s another fan of No.4 Restaurant…
Another tip was the buck rarebit at “all-day-and-night café”, Gastrono-Me.
Finally, for something cheap, cheerful and tasty, try Bury Fish & Chip Shop.
NB. We were not given any freebies and turned up to all places mentioned unannounced. The above article mentions places we liked that met our criteria – “independents we’d happily recommend to a close friend”.