EDitorial ± 27-Apr-2018

Light Lunches: Dedham Centre Tearoom

Once you stop obsessing about Suffolk as an entity, a concept, a county, life opens up and you soon realise that there's more to life. Namely, that is, the land of East Saxons. Down, down, deeper and down into deepest Essex and, folks, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Oh yes. Wilkommen zum Dedham.

Fortuitous start with a super convenient high street parking slot and a swift stroll to the Old Bakery where we spy a free table right by the window. Ideal! Except that both free tables are reserved and the joint is jumping. Never knowingly undereaten, zimmered Andy and spritely Ed sally past the Essex Rose and into Dedham Art & Craft Centre, a mecca of gifts and gewgaws, like Bakes & Blossoms over several floors.

Wipe-clean red tablecloths and shabbily chic and chicly shabby with a whatever the collective noun is for a glut of inspirational signs:

Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off.
It takes you by surprise at first but keeps you warm for a long time.

Still with us? Super. Special today is a two-scones-plus-two-teas deal which in the small print excludes jam and cream, hence not for us. Large choice -- though, like Dee Dee's, they're out of jackets -- with some blackboard specials that tempt the pair of us: most acceptable tomato and lentil soup for me, nicely spicy bean chilli (with dough sticks, note) for Andy, c/w a warning from the waitress about the jalapeno level.

Plenty of other folk dining in today on a dreich Dedham day. Hard to tell but wouldn't be at all surprised if quite a few are regulars. As per Campsea Ashe, Andy's taken on about as much as he can chew with that generous savoury dish, hence just YT back to the counter. Cakes this side, explains the lady, and desserts that side, pointing to a sizeable roulade and a titanic triple layer Vic sponge. Filter coffee for me, ta, and a slice of that unusual sounding blueberry & white choc cake. Dedyum.

If it was a car -- Vauxhall Antara.
If they were passing by -- Kirstie Allsopp.

EDitorial ± 19-Apr-2018

Light Lunches: Hobson's Deli & Cafe, Manningtree

First Stutton. Then Brantham. And now, like the inimitable Mick Squalor, I'm Going (to Manningtree). In that epochal song, Mick, aka Ben Brown, advises listeners to "bring something to burn." That turns out to be eerily prophetic. Now, read on.

Windows wound down, mercury in the 20s, and TOWIE. Under the railway bridge, left at the roundabout and grab a two hour parking slot on the edge of the town centre. In and out of a bakery with seating -- we shall return -- and 50m further where we find not one but two neighbouring eateries. Closest is Hobson's Deli & Cafe selling mahoosive bags of Lavazza and all the salami you can stomach. As appearling as the interior is with walls featuring fascinating photos of Ye Olde Manningtree -- tried and failed to spot the actual man in the actual tree -- it's out front for us in the Ice Cold In Alex heat.

Bit concerned that my refreshing glass of Folkingtons rhubard and apple is slowly drifting along the metal table top before engineer Andy deploys a folded up napkin under one of the legs. Top work, as are our upmarket plates with a memorably meaty roast chicken sandwich for yours truly and a brie & bacon ciabatta for the driver. Very, very good indeed.

Tell you what: Manningtree high street is busy-busy, one queue of cars pausing to let the other queue proceed, and while Andy's back inside ordering sweet stuff, I swap tables in search of shade. As Mick predicted, we're cookin' in CO11. Meantime here's Andy with a decent milkshake for him and an excellent double macchiato to cure my vapours. Kev'll be sorry he missed this one. This review shouldn't but inevitably will use the phrase "Hobson's choice" to conclude.

If it was a car -- Audi A3 Cabriolet.
If they were passing by -- Ben Ward.

EDitorial ± 13-Apr-2018

Light Lunches: Dee Dee's Family Cafe, The Range, Ipswich

In a Peaches and Herb stylee, we three are reunited and it feels so good. Well, it's alright. Don't want to get too mushy about the whole thing. Are we not men, after all? Blue Badge Andy's at the wheel, Kev's riding shotgun and I'm sitting pretty on the rear dog seats next to the partically chewed tennis ball. These trips are all about the glamour.

Talking of which, my suggestion is to head home, home on The Range, namely the new ex-B&Q mega-shed near Asda on the Anglia Retail Park. Deep within one of its many acres lies Dee Dee's Family Cafe, presumably the name now given to the in-house eatery from Aberdeen to York. Sign says that Double Dees was established 1989, insufficiently vintage for Kev. While the atmosphere is pure mid 1980s Woolworth's cafeteria, the goods on offer nod to modern tastes with mention of harissa, goat's cheese and flatbreads. Fancy.

There's one poor young lady operating the entire franchise -- her colleague's rung in sick today, she explains -- so credit to her for keeping a smile on her face. Uncleared trays are stacking up as she prepares my l-o-n-g panini with pulled pork and Mexican beans (with free side salad), not bad at all, and the lads' sandwiches of choice. Clean, bags of choice (though the jackets are sold out), and efficient.

Seven full years since me and Andy sampled the still extant cafe upstairs at The Range on Suffolk Retail Park. Think what you like about Dee Dee's but we've come a long way from curling prepacked sarnies. Quite a few other folk enjoying the atmospheric Happy Days booths. Not hard to imagine John Shuttleworth at one of these tables. Only me back for coffee, a pushbutton cappuccino, and to pick from the extensive choice of cakery. Passion fruit sponge? Cinnamon sticky bun? GF?! Salted caramel brownie, cheers me dear, and best eat it quick since Andy needs a new bin.

If it was a car -- Range Rover Evoque.
If they were passing by -- Steven Schub.

EDitorial ± 6-Apr-2018

Light Lunches: Bakes & Blossoms, Brantham

Couldn't quite do three Friday trips in succession 'cos of the movable feast that is Easter. Did, however, stroll with Kev to the ever reliable Mumma Jones and, with the darling family, pop in to the strengh-to-strength Honey & Harvey on a grey Good Friday. Quick shout out to the ladies providing top tea and cake at the 44th Annual Art Exhibition And Sale at Tate Needham.

Following Friday, supposedly the warmest day of the year, and Kev's somehow found yet more annual leave. Me and Andy the retiree, aka the usual suspects, venture forth. Why turn left at the Brantham Bull when you can stay on the windy road? Sharp left into Birch Drive and thither lies what planners term a "local centre", that being a small row of shops. Right to left, we spy a Co-op, Guys & Dolls hairdressers and, on the far left, Bakes & Blossoms. Curious that StreetView, not updated since 2009, doesn't have B&B but instead shows Acacia Carpets.

These days there's less shag and more sarnies and salads plus veg curry, chilli, ploughman's, et cetera. Quite the choice at our window table. If you had money on us ordering from the breakfast menu, you're quids in. Amused to see the normal brekky described as the single and the larger version as "double everything in the single". For me, the double egg with beans on granary, ta v. much, with Andy opting for a baguette with "the works". Fair wait, if we're honest, with tons of time to admire the various gifts for sale including kids' lunchboxes, umbrellas and other random items reminiscent of Wigglywoo's.

Class difference is evident with me (from Ipswich) handed my Frobishers cranberry while Andy (from Woodbridge) is offered a glass. Other tables are occupied and here comes our big old white plates laden with fried goodness. Faced with The Works, Andy's not exactly sure where to start. I suspect he didn't eat again that day. To tell the truth, neither of us could face what appeared to be stonking family size slabs of caramel shortbread or bread pudding eyeing us from under the counter. Settled for a very acceptable takeaway latte. Saw the bakes. Where's the blossoms?

If it was a car -- anything with a Febreze Blossom & Breeze air freshener.
If they were passing by -- Will Sharpe.