Monday, 13 June 2016

Review: The Leaping Hare, Wyken Vineyards

Tucked away in lush Suffolk countryside just outside Bury St Edmunds is the delightful rural estate of Wyken. Complete with idyllic gardens, meadows, and row upon row of impeccably kept vines neatly spanning seven acres of gently sloping south facing vineyards, Wyken is the kind of place you imagine being forever bathed in dappled sunshine with the hum of summer in the air. This is how we found it on our visit to the vineyard's restaurant, The Leaping Hare, for a spot of lunch and a taste of the vineyard's award-winning English wines. We didn't want to leave. 


The Leaping Hare is a restaurant with much to shout about. The menu is an impressive list of local, seasonal ingredients, presented on a single unassuming sheet of paper, making subtle reference to slow food and including a teeny footnote on provenance. Perhaps they don't need to boast or name-check; sourcing all ingredients locally - some from the Wyken estate itself or within 5 miles of it - to me sounds like a delicious achievement to be shouted from the rooftops, but here it seems entirely the norm. It was a delightful menu to choose from. The wine list, too, sticks to what they know, showcasing the vineyard's own wines - some still whites, a vibrant Wyken Pink rose, and an elegant fizz called Wyken Moonshine - by the glass as well as a succinct smattering of wines from elsewhere. Service is friendly, smiley, polite, and with an air that everything here is ticking along smoothly - out front, and behind the scenes.

To begin, with great difficulty we bypassed tempting dishes like a local goats cheese with baby veg and pistachio aioli, and a Wyken venison carpaccio with white truffle oil, and settled for exactly what we fancied on a glorious early summer's day. A simple plate of Suffolk asparagus (£7.95) with a poached egg and a luscious, light hollandaise sauce was spot-on: super fresh and beaming with colour. The grilled mackerel (£7.95) with smoked mackerel pate and pretty chargrilled cucumber was a delicate arrangement that packed a punch. Both were excellent partners for the Wyken Moonshine, an incredibly delicious English fizz with the complexity and sparkle of a good Champagne. 

The menu's main courses were just as alluring: well-composed dishes incorporating local ingredients such as Suffolk chicken, beef cheek, Suffolk lamb rump, and Blythburgh pork, and superb seasonal vegetable elements. The Suffolk chicken breast (£17.95) with braised bacon arrived atop a glorious bed of braised gem lettuce surrounded by a broth-like sauce of new potatoes, peas and broad beans. It was ALL about the freshness of the veg, the perfect kick of fresh mint, the seasoning and shine of the sauce, and the decadent, salty hunk of braised bacon. Yet, the tender and tasty chicken still shone through as the star of the show. Heavenly. The lamb rump (£20.95) matched up (a hard task), and proved to be a delightfully honest plate of food. The Wyken lamb was superbly plump and cooked to a delicious pink inside, paired with yet more lovingly treated vegetables (the star anise carrots were a hit).     

With no room for dessert (a decision bitterly regretted when a bowl of Wyken salted caramel ice cream made its way past to another table), we scooted off to the shop next door to purchase a few bottles of the vineyard's wine. There we found an absolute treasure trove of food gifts, homeware, and a whole annex dedicated to books, and left with a few more treats than we'd bargained for... A perfect pit stop in the Suffolk countryside. 

The Leaping Hare
Wyken Vineyards
Wyken Road
Bury St Edmunds
IP31 2DW            

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