'Tis the season for chunky knits, wellies and walks in the countryside and along the beaches of The Suffolk Coast - finished up with a steaming cup of delicious hot chocolate of course!
Whether yours is with cream, marshmallows and a flake, or you prefer a mug of classic cocoa, check out our pick of these hot chocolate serving establishments!
1. View Point Cafe, Felixstowe
For a truly nautical experience head to Felixstowe and take a refreshing stroll along the beach at the Landguard Peninsular, keeping your eyes peeled for starfish and maybe even a seal. Visit the Felixstowe Museum to uncover mammoth tusks, cannonballs and Victorian and Edwardian artefacts.
After all that exploring there is no better place for a snack and a sit down than the aptly named View Point Café; a truly unique place to take in the amazing views over the water while watching some of the world’s largest vessels making their way in and out of the port. The menu contains a range of very reasonably priced food and drink, from comforting ‘butties’ and big breakfasts to the lighter quiche of the day served with salad or chips and peas. There is also a lovely children’s menu and a range of cakes and pastries too. Don’t forget to pop next door to the visitor centre to identify the ships you have seen come and go that day.
2. Pump Street Bakery, Orford
If you like artisanal produce, take a trip to the picturesque little village of Orford, where you can work up an appetite by taking a walk around the Orford Ness Nature Reserve, and delve into history with an interactive audio tour of Orford castle, commissioned by Henry II.
Afterwards make your way to Pump Street Bakery, which offers artisan bread, pastries and cakes, all freshly made that day by the highly skilled family bakers. Look out for the doughnuts, filled with raspberry, rhubarb or redcurrant jam and the most indulgent Eccles cake you’ll have ever eaten. The place is so much more than a bakery though; the intimate café serves an all day breakfast menu including delights such as a brioche bacon roll and the legendary sourdough toast with locally churned butter and homemade preserves. There is a lunch menu too which offers a range of sandwiches and baguettes with seasonal fillings. Before you leave you must visit the shop where you can take home some of the small batch chocolate or hot chocolate, handmade in the family’s own chocolate factory.
3. RSPB Minsmere
For a café experience set amongst nature, visit RSPB Minsmere Nature Reserve where you can wander in the wetlands and wood, venture onto the beach and possibly spot one the many rare birds such as Bitterns and Avocets. If you are really lucky you could even spy an otter or a red deer. The reserve offers a range of guided tours of the reserve, including a daring 4x4 safari taking small groups to areas of the reserve that are usually inaccessible.
The rustic café provides the perfect place to warm up with a hot chocolate and one of the many homemade cakes. For a more substantial snack you can get a bacon roll or a sandwich before heading back out into the wilderness for more exploring.
4. Cafe 1885 at Snape Maltings
At Snape Maltings you can choose from a range of inspiring walks amongst the marches and heath or through the reeds that line the river Alde Valley. Visitors can take their time pottering in a selection of little shops, many of which sell locally hand made items or can stroll through several galleries taking in the paintings, ceramics and sculptures in this cultured village.
Punctuate your visit with a stop at Café 1885, overlooking a beautiful house and gardens, where you can sample the carefully designed menu of tantalizing dishes such as fillet of plaice with crab and mussel mousse and salt beef hash with a duck’s egg and mustard sauce. If you have more of a sweet tooth the café offers a cake of the day and even a cheesecake of the day to go alongside your tea or coffee.
5. The Hatfield Hotel, Lowestoft
The Hatfield Hotel is an institution; a well-known fixture of Lowestoft’s seafront. The Hotel's bar, cafe and restaurant combines traditional and contemporary design creating an atmosphere of relaxing ambience by the sea. After a bracing walk along the golden sands of Lowestoft beach, settle down in one of the terrace bar’s comfy booths and indulge in a delicious, warm homemade scone to accompany your hot chocolate with cream, marshmallows and a flake or opt for one of the many meals available including fish and chips, jacket potatoes or ciabattas as you watch the waves roll and crash outside.
6. Southwold Pier
Further along the coast, visitors to Southwold will be utterly charmed by a nostalgic seaside experience. The beach hut-lined shore is perfect for a stroll along to the pier, lined with shops and quirky automaton amusements and several places to stop for a bite to eat.
If you arrive in the morning a great place to for breakfast is the family friendly Beach Bistro for a good old fry up, they also offer a range of burgers and traditional fish and chips as well as tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Further along the pier, The Boardwalk Restaurant is a special place to enjoy locally sourced food cooked by talented and passionate chefs. Take your time and enjoy a starter, main and dessert from the delectable menu, all while the waves crash around you. Highlights include swordfish curry, the homemade fish pie and Adnams beer battered cod. If you don’t quite have the time or appetite for a full meal, pop into The Clockhouse for sandwiches and paninis with interesting fillings such as chedder and fig chutney and roasted red pepper with pomodoro sauce, buffalo mozzarella and pesto. They also serve sausage rolls and scones as well as freshly baked cakes and other sweet treats and of course steaming cups of hot chocolate!
7. Southwold Boating Lake and Tea Room
Set back just behind the pier is a hidden gem - the Boating Lake Tearoom which as the name suggests is an enchanting 1940’s tearoom, complete with veranda, on the edge of a little boating lake. Birds and other wildlife abound and there are blankets for extra warmth if you decide to sit outside and take in the views of the sea to the front or the lake to the back.
The locally sourced and homemade food is traditional British fayre; sandwiches, jacket potatoes and sausage rolls, as well as a range of hot and cold drinks. If you are celebrating a special occasion (or even if you’re not!) you might choose to indulge in an afternoon tea, which arrives on a vintage, tiered stand and includes a sandwich, scrummy scones and a pot of tea.
In the winter months, snuggle up with one of the blankets available, sip your cocoa and watch the world go by...
8. The Tea Hut, Woodbridge
Nestled alongside the bank of the River Deben in Woodbridge you will find the The Tea Hut, an oasis of calm for families, friends and dog walkers alike, it is the perfect place to rest up and warm up with a hot chocolate after a walk along the river. They have a menu of comforting meals such as quiche, jacket potatoes and falafel burgers as well as an extensive kids menu. While away the hours on the outdoor decking, watch the boats go by.
9. Blue Rabbit Cafe & Smallholding, Shottisham
For ethically produced food that can be traced from farm to fork, eco conscious folks should head to The Blue Rabbit Café in Shottisham.
Claire the chef creates everything she sells in the café from produce grown and raised on her own smallholding. A vibrant farm surrounds the café and visitors have the rare privilege of visiting the animals and seeing the very produce that they will go on to eat. Everything from the sausages, eggs, fruit, vegetables and even the honey have been lovingly grown and reared on site. The menu is simple and delicious, offering breakfast options such as heritage tomatoes and eggs on toast or French toast with seasonal fruit compote. There are also toasties, daily specials and a rotating menu of cakes all of course made by Claire herself.