CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Downright delicious in Darsham

PUBLISHED: 12:40 22 September 2015 | UPDATED: 12:40 22 September 2015

The cafe at Darsham Nurseries.

The cafe at Darsham Nurseries.

Frances Hopewell Smith heads to the famed Darsham Nurseries cafe where there’s a bit more than a jacket potato on offer

The cafe at Darsham Nurseries.
Thomas Eagle and Lola DeMille.The cafe at Darsham Nurseries. Thomas Eagle and Lola DeMille.

When Darsham Nurseries cafe opened in 2014 word spread like wildfire about the exciting new venue with its exotic menu of tapas style, Middle-Eastern inspired food. Only open during the day, it was always heaving. Then, just before Christmas last the chef left for another venture and there was a huge gap in the local culinary map.

After a break of two months, it was back, so I nipped up the A12 to meet the owner and the new chef, and eat my way through as much of the menu as I could. And, just like old times, I’m taking friend Jules with me for the entertainment value.

The first thing everyone notices is the chic sign outside, so subtle and elegant. If you don’t know to look out for it you could find yourself in Lowestoft. (No, not really). Then the entrance to the cafe is through the chicest of chic garden shops, where single beautiful tools, eclectic ceramics, mouthwatering books and almost-too-good-to-use gardening gloves are displayed like an art installation.

Into the cafe itself where David Keleel, the owner, is waiting for us. We sit at one of the long tables to chat before lunch, looking out over the gardens. He is a softly spoken Californian who is a committed Anglophile and an enthusiastic bassoonist. Having trained in horticulture and garden design, he is just happy to have his nursery in sunny Suffolk – ten acres to grow his dream.

The cafe at Darsham Nurseries.
Katie Harper and Jasmine Eagle.The cafe at Darsham Nurseries. Katie Harper and Jasmine Eagle.

He supplies as many organic vegetables and herbs as he can to the restaurant and aims to crank up production so that there is always something fresh to hand.

“Of course,” he says, “Raymond Blanc has the finest example of a proper potager (kitchen garden), but I’m not quite there yet. But I think the use of wholesome, home-grown vegetables can’t be underestimated.”

We discuss the decor which is delightfully idiosyncratic and the result of a collaboration between David and his talented builder/carpenter, Charlie Hawkins. The centrepiece of the room is a half-wall made of recycled wood with a trough set into the top. Thus you are separated from some of the room by a regimental row of fresh flowers. Jules is definitely taken with this as an idea and I’m just waiting for it to appear in her kitchen.

It turns out that the cafe was not meant to be the focus of his venture, and although the concept isn’t new to customers, some still find it unusual that there are no jacket potatoes or the basic soup ‘n’ sandwich lunchtime specials. If you want something more adventurous and downright delicious, then Darsham is for you.

The cafe at Darsham Nurseries.The cafe at Darsham Nurseries.

The menu features a list of smallish dishes and the recommendation is to have three each. What joy. Remember that agony of choosing between three of your favourites? Now you can have them all. Just one snag though. Even with our combined knowledge of weird and wonderful ingredients, we’re stumped by a few things and need explanations from our waitress. Shakshuka, fregola, chicharrones, coolea, farinata, (even my auto-correct doesn’t get all of them).

Primed with our translations (eggs cooked in tomatoes, chillies and onions, cous cous, pork belly chunks, Irish cheese, chickpea flour pancake) we make our selections. Rabbit ragout, fried polenta, sorrel salsa verde. Jerusalem artichokes, confit fennel, stawley cheese. Chicharrones with cumin and lemon, and the Darsham mezze with yoghurt flatbread. But hang on, that’s only two each. We decide to see how we get on. We needn’t have worried – there was more than enough to eat. The mezze plate is a selection of seasonal vegetables, pickles and dips, largely from the potager, combining local ingredients with exotic flavours. It includes a walnut and harissa dip, baby beetroot, pickled turnips, carrots and cucumbers, chard and lemon sauté and a wild garlic and nigella seed flatbread.

The wonderful thing about this way of eating is that you legitimately get to try everything your companions have. Jules and I share nicely. The sheer variety of flavours, the spices and the mix of ingredients is so satisfying and earthily pleasing you just have to smile.

There was hardly anything left on the plates, and when we have our puddings I’m certainly glad we didn’t overdo it at the start. I have orange and almond cake with greek yoghurt and pistachios, and Jules goes for salted sourdough chocolate mousse with creme fraiche. She’s recently taken to making sourdough bread and seems addicted to it. They are fabulous – unusual and flavoursome and they complete the lunch with the perfect sweet finale.

The new chef is Lola De Mille, a bright, young woman from Norwich who, at 29, is the new star of this particular show. Self-taught, she has an admirable natural talent. She has worked in restaurants up and down the country, has travelled around Turkey and the near east, simply revelling in the food and cooking techniques there. It has stood her in good stead. When we talk to her she is self-effacing and slightly bemused by the attention she’s getting. “I just cook what I like,” she says, “working from what’s available from David and my local suppliers. I make 90% of the decisions and refine the menu all the time, but David trusts me because we both have the same attitude and taste in food.”

And very good taste it is too. Our conversation is cut short because she has to get back to the kitchen and create some more of her wonderful puddings, so I’m certainly not going to stand in her way.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Enjoy a festive tipple from the comfort of your own Suffolk home with these Christmassy cocktail recipes

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Cate Meadows, proud co-owner of HMS Vale, has bold plans for the retired Swedish attack vessel, starting a new life on the tranquil upper reaches of the River Deben | Words: Nick Cottam

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Are you more partial to a Bitter or a Mild? Do you know the difference between your Pale Ales and your IPA’s? If you consider yourself to be an ale aficionado then you’ll love this guide to some of our favourite real ale pubs in Suffolk

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cocktails with dinner? Tessa Allingham dines at The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds, where chef Greig Young says good food can be fun

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

We all love a good cup of coffee, whether it’s a latte, flat white or just plain black Suffolk is home to a multitude of wonderful local coffee shops. Here are 10 of our favourites with no chains in sight!

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

As the colder weather starts to creep in, there isn’t a better place to spend a chilly evening than a cosy pub. We pick 15 of the best places in Suffolk where you can warm up next to the fire while trying a pint of local real ale

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

If you’re stuck for ideas about where to get your Sunday roast fix this weekend, then give one of these 20 Suffolk pubs a try!

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

As we move towards Christmas Suffolk’s top pubs and restaurants are developing menus that perfectly complement the festive season. Here are 8 you should consider this winter

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Retired jockey Eva Moscrop is opening Cortado Espresso Bar on September 15th on Newmarket’s Exeter Road. The first 100 customers will also receive a free coffee!

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Suffolk is home to some of the nation’s most beautiful waterways - the River Waveney, the River Deben and the River Stour all offer stunning scenery that captures the heart of locals and visitors alike. There is nothing better than enjoying dinner and a drink by the water, so here are some of the county’s prettiest riverside pubs…

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search