Wyken Vineyards, Near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk
The Leaping Hare at Wyken Vineyards was voted Suffolk Restaurant of the Year in 2015. Housed in a stunning 400 year-old timber barn, it’s just one of the reasons why this is a must-visit foodie destination if you’re exploring Suffolk.
Eat lunch at The Leaping Hare restaurant at Wyken Vineyards or in the café
I visited Wyken Vineyards on a day in late September when the first autumn chill was in the air and the leaves were rustling on the ground.
A bowl of steaming roasted squash, cumin and honey soup garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and served with olive oil and rosemary focaccia bread, soon revived my spirits.
This is a thoughtful place. It has a gentleness and a relaxed elegance to it which make it feel warm and inviting.
With a vineyard restaurant and café, country store, gardens and a weekly Farmers’ Market, Wyken ticks every foodie box for me and deserves a glittering gold star.
I wish I lived closer to it. Don’t miss.
The Story of Wyken Vineyards
Wyken Vineyards and Wyken Hall, the Elizabethan manor house which is surrounded by four acres of garden, is the home of Carla and Kenneth Carlisle.
Originally from Mississippi, Carla came here in 1986 when she married and quickly set about diversifying the 1,200-acre estate.
Having previously lived in France and worked in Parisian restaurants, she wanted to create an authentic French vineyard.
In 1988, the first vines were planted and now Wyken Vineyards and the Leaping Hare Restaurant are firmly on the Suffolk foodie map.
Readers of Country Life magazine may already know Lady Carlise from her previous contributions to the weekly Spectator column. She has also written a book telling the story of Wyken Vineyards called ‘South Facing Slope’.
Wyken Vineyards Country Store
Wyken Bacchus won English Wine of the Year
Lunch at the Leaping Hare Restaurant
As you pull up the long tree-lined drive and spot the restaurant terrace with its espalier fig and café tables, it’s no surprise to learn that Lady Carlisle once worked at Alice Waters’ famed Californian restaurant – Chez Panisse.
There is a relaxed Californian charm here combined with a French elegance. The 400-year old timber barn and the waiting staff with their smart aprons, make dining here all the more appealing.
At the Leaping Hare restaurant, chef, Simon Woodrow, creates a fine-dining experience. He uses local Suffolk produce and vegetables from the kitchen garden, to create mouth-watering dishes such as smoked Gressingham duck breast served with a carrot puree and walnuts.
Make a reservation here and typical gastronomic delights on the menu may include Sutton Hoo chicken, Cromer crab cakes and the delightfully-named Dingley Dell Pork and Black Pudding Wellington.
It’s no surprise to learn that the Leaping Hare restaurant has been listed in The Good Food Guide for over 25 years and has been a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide for over 20 years.
Pleasingly, if you want a less formal but equally delicious lunch, you can eat in the café housed at the opposite end of the barn where a table reservation isn’t required.
Eat lunch outside on the terrace
Roasted butternut squash soup
Walk the Woodland Trail
Bring your wellies with you to walk the woodland trail. It’s a short walk across the fields but on the other side of the woods, you’ll be treated to a view of the estate’s vineyards.
Most probably where the Romans once cultivated vines, the south-facing seven acre vineyard is where they now grow four different grape varieties.
Taste Wyken Bacchus
There are no vineyard tours or tastings at Wyken Vineyards but you can buy wine in the shop and of course, enjoy it in the Leaping Hare restaurant. In an average year, the vineyards produce around 12,000 bottles of wine.
Bacchus grapes produce a Sauvignon Blanc style wine, (former winner of English Wine of the Year) and Madeleine Angevine grapes, Wyken’s citrusy dry white.
They grow Auxerrois and Pinot Noir for their magically-named sparkling white – Wyken Moonshine (winner East Anglian Wine of the Year in 2017).
Wyken Pink, their best-selling rosé, is made from Triomphe d’Alsace grapes and comes bottled with a saucy label of a nude lady, Dégas-style.
Take the woodland walk to see the vineyard
Smell The Roses in The Gardens at Wyken Hall
One of the pulls of Wyken vineyards are the formal gardens surrounding the Hall which itself dates back to 1570.
Open to visitors in the afternoon, take a stroll through the apple orchard and kitchen garden which supply the vineyard restaurant.
Smell the old roses in the rose garden, sit on one of the well-placed benches to enjoy a quiet moment of contemplation and next to a magnificent oak tree, ‘take time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows’.
At the front of the Hall admire the Quincunx – five equal interlocking circles inspired by Gertrude Jekyll and, on the terrace, the rocking chairs brought over from Mississippi.
Wyken garden’s Red Hot Border
One of the many garden seats
Shop at Wyken Farmers’ Market
Every Saturday morning, there’s a Farmers’ Market at Wyken so come for breakfast before stocking up on goodies for the weekend.
Browse food stalls selling fresh fish from Lowestoft, Suffolk lamb, rare breed pork, British cheeses, homemade cakes, seasonal fruit and vegetables, garden flowers and of course, wines from the vineyard.
Browse the Books in the Country Store
The Country Store is beautifully curated. It’s a celebration of English country life and ‘hygge’ with Scandinavian tableware and ceramics and colourful candles and throws.
You may linger even longer in the bookstore where you’ll find carefully chosen classics from Persephone Books and poetry along with inspiring travel titles and cookbooks.
- Bookings are required for the vineyard restaurant but not for the café
- RHS Members benefit from free entry to the gardens
- The gardens at Wyken Hall are closed to visitors on Saturdays
- In addition to Wyken wine, Good Dog Ale made using Wyken barley, is also available to buy in the Country Store
Inspired by Wyken Vineyards? Shop This Story
Places to Stay Near Wyken Vineyards
The nearest town to Wyken Vineyards is the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds. If you are planning a few nights away, one of the best hotels in Bury St Edmunds is The Northgate.
The Northgate is a beautifully appointed Georgian townhouse hotel offering 9 stylishly decorated bedrooms. Food lovers will appreciate the Chef’s Table and the hotel’s all day dining concept. There’s also a lovely south-facing terrace.
Ready to Start Planning a Weekend Break in Suffolk? See All: Best Places to Stay in Suffolk
They tell me that sadly, dogs are not allowed in the gardens. However, nice dogs on leads can go on the woodland walk.
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The Foodie Travel Guide
Sally is the founder and editor of The Foodie Travel Guide. She travels around the UK and beyond in search of the best foodie days out, tasting experiences and delicious places to stay. She loves a glass of English sparkling wine, afternoon tea with friends and escaping London for gastronomic adventures.