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 Foodie Travel Guide
- Leaping Hare Vineyard Restaurant and Café
- Weekly Farmers’ Market
- Country Store
- Woodland Trail
The Story of Wyken Vineyards
Wyken Hall, an Elizabethan manor house 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 1,000-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. At the Leaping Hare restaurant, chef, Simon Woodrow, creates a fine-dining experience. He uses local produce for dishes such as smoked Gressingham duck breast with carrot puree and walnuts, and Sutton Hoo chicken with a smoked bacon terrine. The 400-year old timber barn and the waiting staff with their smart aprons make it all the more appealing. For a less formal but equally delicious lunch, 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 grape varieties. Bacchus grapes produce a Sauvignon Blanc style wine and Madeleine Angevine, Wyken’s citrusy dry white. They grow Auxerrois and Pinot Noir for their magically-named sparkling white – Wyken Moonshine. 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. There are no vineyard tours or tastings here but you can buy wine in the shop and of course, enjoy it in the restaurant.
Take the woodland walk to see the vineyard
Take Time to Smell The Roses
One of the pulls of Wyken are the 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 the Weekly 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 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 are closed to visitors on Saturdays
- Wyken wine is available to buy in the Country Store but also Good Dog Ale which is made using Wyken barley
Shop This Story
Where to Stay in Suffolk
Between Bury St. Edmunds and Sudbury, this beautiful 15th-century building offers 4-star accommodation.
Rooms from £88 a night.
With panoramic views of the Suffolk Coast, The Brudenell is just metres from Aldeburgh Beach.
Rooms from £98 a night.
This converted watermill offers chic and elegant and stylish accommodation in an idyllic 12-acre countryside setting.
Rooms from £115 a night.
They tell me that sadly, dogs are not allowed in the gardens. However, nice dogs on leads can go on the woodland walk.