Ladies Who Lunch

marsh larder, Shotford Hall, Harleston

After a little bit of unplanned sight-seeing we located this café down a minor road just outside Harleston. It is situated opposite Shotford Hall Farm in a new, purpose-built addition to the farm complex, and very nice it is too. Light and airy, fresh and cheery were my first impressions, and as the meal progressed my instincts proved to be right. There were tables inside and out, and I had phoned ahead to make sure there would be a table for us: arriving at 12 noon we discovered the place to be comfortably busy, and it filled up quite soon after our arrival. We said we were gasping for a drink, and I was delighted when my black coffee came with a little jug of cold water to reduce its temperature.

This is a week-end only café, open from 9 till 4 on Saturday and Sunday, and is staffed by energetic and charming individuals: sadly not licenced but offering a range of hot and cold drinks. The menu offers snacks, breakfasts and sandwiches, and a range of tempting dishes, but ‘proper gravy dinners’ are not offered; nor are hot puddings with custard. It specialises in light lunches – and excels at it.

I chose the Mackerel Pâté with toast and salad, and it was lovely comprising a very good sized portion of pâté, wholemeal toast and mixed salad without raw onion as, for once, I remembered to ask for it to be omitted. My friend dithered between Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and Eggs Royale, but plumped for the Royale version with poached eggs, smoked salmon and the most dreamy Hollandaise sauce. Both meals were excellent; not too large but satisfying and refreshing.

Having being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I have not eaten cake – in any form – since the beginning of April. Now I discover that I am not very diabetic (if that is possible) and certainly not on the danger list, so I determined to have some sort of sweet, gooey afters. There were several gateau type cakes to choose from, and to compound my transgression I asked for a scoop of Suffolk Meadow ice cream to accompany my lemon drizzle cake. Let me tell you, after four months without cake it was pure heaven, and was zingy with lemon, and squishily moist. My friend chose the coffee and walnut cake which looked divine, and according to her was fabulous. There is also a gluten free cake option, and fruit cake, and all are very reasonably priced.

I really enjoyed being at this place; the staff were cheery and welcoming, and our waitress explained that I could have had something more diabetically suitable for afters – like an apple and cheese – if I had wanted. Next time perhaps. We both found the room a bit noisy, and I think curtains might address that problem.

They also hire out the venue for special groups, and it is well worth looking at their website for further details of farm visits, educational facilities, and conference catering. They are very versatile and flexible.

The bill came to £21.80 which is one of the cheapest ladies who lunches I have done. I suppose that is due to the lack of alcoholic drinks.

marsh larder
c/o Autumn Cottage
Mendham Low Road
IP20 9QU
01379 854714
07767 708106

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