Restaurant review: The Artisan Smokehouse, Falkenham – ‘One of the best-kept secrets near Felixstowe’
PUBLISHED: 21:12 05 March 2019
Our food editor CHARLOTTE SMITH-JARVIS visited The Artisan Smokehouse at Falkenham, just outside Felixstowe, and enjoyed a smokin’ lunch at this cafe which is definitely out of the ordinary.
You have to keep your eyes peeled to find The Artisan Smokehouse café. It’s found in one of the tiniest places in Suffolk – within hopping distance of Kirton – but if you miss the sign and your sat nav’s not playing ball…you could find yourself scratching your head in a field wondering where it is.
Thankfully, we’d just been sussing out boring things like fence posts and the like at B&M Concrete up the road, which is a useful landmark to guide you to the café. Just keep heading north on that road and you’ll find it, behind a large gate, on your right hand side.
The barn-style café was, amazingly, built by the owners, who shipped it up from the south of England and put it back together piece by piece. And what a great job they’ve done.
On the day we visited it was unseasonably bright and warm, and the little outside seating area looked almost Mediterranean! Inside there are shelves brimming with deli produce, including their own smoked chillies, oils, cured meats, cheeses and more, and the design has a kind of industrial Scandi feel. “I wouldn’t mind that wallpaper for our living room,” I pointed out to my hubby, noticing an Orla Kiely style print.
The menu almost made me salivate – and that’s after I’d already swooned over the ginormous sausage rolls at the counter. Nice.
Basically everything on the menu is formed around Tim’s smoked goodies. A carpaccio of award-winning smoked beef fillet. Platters of smoked meats or cheeses. Salads. Gutsy sandwiches. Now you’re talking.
Because it was just shy of lunch time we were able to try a mix of items from the breakfast, lunch and specials menus.
First we’ll turn attentions to the leek and potato soup served with a chunky wedge of local bread. Neither an insipid broth nor a babyfood-like mush, this big bowl of veggies was warming, silky smooth and abundant in flavour. Care had obviously been taken to check the seasoning and consistency and it was just right.
From the breakfast menu, the waffle with smoked bacon and maple syrup drew mixed opinions. We thought it would be a freshly-made, savoury waffle, but what actually arrived was a thick, sugary Belgian waffle (albeit a pretty decent one). While the delicious crispy bacon went some way to dampen the sweetness, with the maple syrup it was just a bit too much.
After a lot of deliberation and too-ing and fro-ing I chose the smoked free-range duck breast salad. They like to feed you up here – this really was a plateful and was nicely composed too. It comprised of crisp, fresh leaves (no wilting), nuggets of tender, sliced duck which wasn’t too smoky, sprinkles of house-smoked stilton, crushed walnuts and a dressing of beetroot preserve. It hit every note in terms of taste and texture. A little bit crunchy. A little bit salty. Smoky. Refreshing. Sweet. Not unlike something I’d happily rustle up myself in the kitchen of a sunny weekend, to devour in the garden.
Our last savoury plate was the special of an open sandwich of home-smoked pastrami and spicy mayonnaise. For a sarnie the price is higher than you’d expect to pay in many cafes, but the work behind the plate and the clear quality of ingredients made the price tag of nearly a tenner more than worth it in my opinion. The bread was excellent, the mayo on the right side of fiery, and the pastrami briny and succulent.
What I felt really stood out though, giving it an edge, was the added extras. Thin, tangy slices of ‘bread and butter’ pickles garnished the sandwich itself, taking the salinity out of the meat. And there was a pot of almost curry spiced pickles on the side too. A very welcome addition.
We were stuffed after, but took home some of the cakes to try out. I don’t think they’re made at the café but they were nice enough. The maple and pecan tiffin was a tad too sucrosy even for me, but the brownie was as chewy and chocolatey as you like. It was available warm with ice cream on the menu to eat-in and I think I could definitely be tempted next time.
It was way too early to try out the craft beers or wines, but there was a decent selection on offer – a step above what you’d probably expect from a café. We gave ourselves a late morning boost with tea and coffee. The mocha was rich and not too sweet. And it was great to find a really decent decaf latte too. Both were served at the right temperature and came in pretty cool insulated see-through glasses which might seem overly idiosyncratic, but they really did keep our coffee warm – for at least 20 minutes or so. In fact, we were tempted to buy some (they had them for sale in the shop).
It was surprisingly busy when we arrived at just after 11.30 and many of the tables had ‘reserved’ signs on them. I suspect, being where it is, this place is quite a hub for the community.
Despite not booking and it clearly being busy, we were made to feel welcome and they found us a table but did say it needed to be vacated an hour later, which was fair enough. We weren’t rushed though and staff were pleasant and friendly. The wrong topping came out on the sandwich but this was quickly rectified without any fuss.
Wheelchair users shouldn’t struggle and there’s a disabled-friendly toilet too with wide doors etc.
There is a free car park just in front of the café. It isn’t huge but seems about the right size for the amount of customers they can take. If you are in a group travelling separately you may struggle but could park on the side of the road.
Four lunch dishes, two cakes and five drinks came to just under £50. There’s a set lunch menu at £14 for two or £17 for three courses.
3 things to try
1 Cheese and meat platter; 2 Smoked beef carpaccio; 3 Smoked stilton and walnut pate.
I think the style of the menu is the highlight for me. There are lots of ‘picky’ things to try and many tasty accompaniments with the dishes. But if I was pushed I’m going to say the open sandwich.
I think it’s a case of once found, never forgotten for this place. The food’s tasty. The setting’s cool without being pretentious. And you can tell a lot of hard work goes into what they do here. If you’re looking for a lunch that isn’t all ham sandwiches, scones and jacket potatoes, this place definitely fits the bill.