Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Subscribe Now

See inside new Roots café, at Rougham Estate, near Bury St Edmunds, ahead of its official opening





Final preparations are under way for a new café in Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds, which opens its doors on Wednesday.

Roots café, at the Blackthorpe Barn complex, on the Rougham Estate, hopes to become a cosy gathering spot for the community and will be open all year round.

The major development has been four years in the making and is the biggest investment in the history of the estate – offering nods to its heritage throughout.

George Agnew, of Rougham Estate, said: “We are very excited and fit to pop. It has been such a long journey and it is getting so close now – it is incredible.

“The word ‘roots’ is about the history of the estate, remembering those who worked here in the past and honouring their memories and all the wonderful things they did.

“In creating Roots café we spent a lot of time working with the architect, council and listed buildings, who have been really helpful and supportive. What we have tried to create is a modern and old building at the same time.”

Matt Brown – an artisan who exhibits at Blackthorpe Barn’s annual arts and crafts events – has created many aspects of the cafés interior from salvaged items, including an intimate ‘maintenance shed’, airy-yet-cosy dovecote and a ‘woodman’s hut’ full of salvaged memorabilia.

Matt is also behind eye-catching Suffolk Punch horse wall art and an assortment of friendly wooden birds hidden throughout the café – with young twitchers invited to find all the birds.

The wooden dovecote features doves – representing peace – on its roof and a bespoke weathervane complete with a carved German bomber aeroplane ‘on its way to bomb Rougham Hall in 1940’, according to George.

Other nods to Rougham Hall, which was destroyed in the wartime attack, include its salvaged fireplace – which takes pride of place in the part of the café affectionately known as ‘the brewery’ due to a former use – and a toilet from the early 20th century made by Bury firm Andrews and Plumpton.

The café seats 140 people – 80 inside and 60 in the courtyard – with bi-folding doors making it feel airy, while exposed brickwork and natural elements add warmth to its interior.

“We don’t want this to be an echoey space, which is why we have made it with little nooks and corners and intimate places to break it up,” said George.

Meanwhile, a library offering texts on local history and books on subjects ‘we feel are important – such as walking and food’ invites visitors to pick up some reading matter before returning books to the library before they leave.

During our visit barista training was ongoing – the café has created an estimated 15 jobs – while head chef Laura Wheeler was offering samples of spiced pumpkin soup, made from pumpkins grown on the estate and which will feature on the launch menu.

Laura has joined Roots after more than four years with the National Trust at Ickworth and 15 years in the catering industry.

She has been leading a team to create a high-quality menu which will grow and change over time, including breakfasts, lunchtime staples such as sandwiches, salads, venison casserole, a cheese grazing board and fish platter, and a children’s menu.

“Everything is about simple ideas executed well,” said Laura.

“Coming here is very exciting and it is something I was desperate for. Here, we are being able to flex our creative muscles and we are having so much fun.”

The café’s entrance area features an atrium area leading to the Christmas shop, the courtyard and a retail area selling locally-produced items from Suffolk and slightly over the border into Norfolk.

“Roots is the biggest investment that the estate has ever made. If I had known how much it would cost at the beginning I might have vetoed the idea,” said George, who was not able to put a figure on the project cost.

“But we want a high-end offering but which is really welcoming to everyone who wants to come in here. We want people who just want to come in for a cup of tea – all our excellent tea is loose leaf and served in teapots – to come here and feel welcome.

“And our dream is to have the best coffee in the area.”

Roots will open daily, all year round, from 8.30am-4.30pm (last orders 2.45pm, kitchen closes at 3pm), offering breakfasts, lunches, cakes, snacks, and refreshments.

And what is next for the Rougham Estate? January will see it launch 16 guided walks, written and developed by George, ranging from 20 minutes to two-and-a-half hours, ‘to open the estate up to more and more people’.