Restaurant Review: The Leaping Hare, Wyken Vineyards, Suffolk
Driving over an unsuspecting hill in rural Suffolk we spot something we’re not accustomed to beyond the agricultural English hedgerows; Wyken’s seven-acre pastoral vineyard. Flourishing on its south facing slope and found on one of the driest parts of the country, since 1988, seven varieties of grape have produced acclaimed wines that are the backbone of the estate’s rural restaurant – The Leaping Hare.
Across the way from the Estate’s woodland and within a refurbished barn, The Leaping Hare restaurant serves a collection of dishes that highlight the finest local qualities of Wyken’s unique wine varieties. Elegantly encapsulating the regional gastronomic concept as one, high ceilings are delicately framed by wooden beams and characterful artworks, whilst large sash windows open onto the rural views beyond.
We are seated in the centre of the dining space that is spotlighted by autumn’s low sun and promptly follows an introduction to Wyken’s wines. A proud accomplishment that showcases the Estate’s capabilities and achievements to date is the Wyken Pink. On the back of the recent growth of our taste for rosé here in the UK, Wyken Vineyards decided it was time for an English rosé to shine amongst its European counterparts. Made from Triomphe d’Alsace & Leon Millot grapes, the Estate has proved a breakthrough in discovering that these two varieties seem to create a finer rosé quality wine than red. An uncommon rosé creation, this blushing creation with tasting notes of summer fruits is one of their signature labels whilst not resulting in a finish that is too sweet.
At The Leaping Hare we begin with a seasonally fitting creamy pumpkin soup enriched with blue cheese and pickled mushrooms, a well-formed fillet of mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish, confit seatrout with watercress puree and further dose of their favoured pairing of horseradish and pickled onion. In agreement, the favoured starter was The Leaping Hare’s glamorous amalgamation of truffled goats cheese lifted with fresh fig and walnut. (Quickly prompting us that the food too can compete).
Another bottle of the Wyken Pink accompanies our table for the main course. These varied dishes mirror the delicate flavour combinations of their starter predecessors whilst continuing to work alongside the produce of the vineyard. A ‘Dingley Dell’ pork fillet and belly with broccoli and poached pear is a polite size and tender whilst the crispy duck eggs ooze a rich yolk centre and are served on top of spiced cauliflower, celeriac puree and toasted almonds. A bavette of Angus beef served (medium rare) how else? is another favourite. This steak is presented with Langham beans, crispy hand cut chips and a choice of peppercorn or béarnaise sauce; unless you’re the birthday boy and you get both, as my guest found out.
Unable to turn down any dessert that includes pistachio ice-cream I order a moelleux au chocolate which is essentially an extravagant Gu dessert; however no less indulgent and made all the more enjoyable with its ice-cream partner. For lemon lovers, there’s one for you too as another guest gushed over the glazed lemon tart with crème fraiche. To fill a smaller sweet spot is The Leaping Hare’s organic dark chocolate and sea salt truffles with a choice of coffee. This comes complete with a candle and sing-along (although only if happens to be your birthday too of course).
This estate tucked away corner in Suffolk has a lot up its sleeve. With awards for English and East Anglian Wine of the Year, Wyken Vineyards are pioneering the English wine industry whilst being the epitome of countryside cool with a restaurant that must be one of Suffolk’s most popular. Past the white table cloths and fine wines, the estate also features a neighbouring gift shop, weekend farmers market and picturesque walking routes to discover the hybrid English vines that are thriving on our home soil.
The Leaping Hare at Wyken Vineyards: Wyken Hall, Wyken Road, Stanton, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 2DW, 01359 250287, wykenvineyards.co.uk
For further information on all things Suffolk: www.visitsuffolk.com