If you share my view that, unless you have a reservation, getting a table in a restaurant in Bury St Edmunds on a Friday or Saturday night is well-nigh impossible, you’ll be pleased with the arrival of a new restaurant. Maria Crick runs Café del Mar in St John’s Street in Bury St Edmunds.
Last Friday Maria held a party to celebrate the opening of what she describes as a Mediterranean Café Restaurant. Authentic sangria complemented the various tapas on offer, from tiny onions and olives to substantial crevettes in garlic. The use of a lowered ceiling contributes to the atmosphere and once a few more guests had arrived (your correspondent arrived unfashionably early, as usual), the place had a bustling air about it. When you discover that Maria has a theatrical inclination you understand why food is served with such flair, although sadly the service has little in common with Maria’s last production, Calendar Girls (She played the Helen Mirren role, since you ask). Bury might not be quite ready for that. As well as working in politics, Maria also ran the delightfully named boutique Fatale, and All Eventualities, a firm organising weddings and corporate events. These experiences would seem to make Maria fully conversant with organisation, tact, budgeting (although one of her daughters does the books; another is front of house) and, above all, well-prepared and well-sourced food. She emphasises her belief in local food simply cooked; it’s plainly something about which she feels very strongly. On Sundays, she’ll be serving brunch, complete with the Sunday papers. A “Murder Mystery” evening is also planned, as well as cooking demonstrations in conjunction with Steamer Trading - mussels and homemade pasta get a mention.
There is a flavour of involvement in the community. Café del Mar’s evening opening times on Wednesday and Saturday are made with the presence of the market in mind; Maria has taken on an apprentice from West Suffolk College. Conveniently, he has recently spent a few months on the Mediterranean coast of France and brings an abundance of ideas with him.
Inside, the walls are uncluttered and painted a soothing light blue. Importantly for a tapas restaurant, where customers will typically make a number of small orders rather than the starter-main-wine ritual elsewhere, whether by accident or design – I suspect the latter - the bar is easily visible from every table in the restaurant. Ordering food should not involve imitating a bookmaker on the rails at Newmarket, and thanks to this arrangement, it won’t.
I talked for a while with Michelle who is one of Maria’s suppliers and learnt that, despite the name, Café del Mar will not be preoccupied with serving fish but rather a broader Mediterranean menu. Fish will feature, however, along with vegetarian and tapas dishes. Maria can guide you to gluten-free dishes and will accommodate any other needs, although advanced warning will help. As well as the lunchtime trade, Maria recognises the market for theatre suppers and the rapid service that these meals require. Much to my satisfaction, children are welcome; we discover that we share the Mediterranean culture of allowing children to join us at the table. She’ll do children’s portions and improvise with cold ham and fresh bread for them if necessary – but don’t expect fish fingers.
Café del Mar 7 St John’s Street BURY ST EDMUNDS IP33 1SQ Open: Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 16:30, extending to 22:00 on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday: 10:00 – 16:00
The wines and spirits licence has not yet been granted (although there seems little doubt that it will be) and so in the meantime you should bring your own and be prepared to pay corkage at £3.50.
Reservations: 01284 701313 www.cafedelmarltd.com
Member since: 1st February 2013
Born in the baby boomer years, John Urquhart was educated in London and Scotland including a year as a schoolmaster before studying Medicine at St Thomas' Hospital. This took him back to London and Surrey...