“Four years ago, I was holidaying with some friends, renting one of Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture properties, The Dune House, in Suffolk. On a cycle ride to buy some bread, we ended up in Orford, at the Pump Street Bakery. I saw the owner, Joanna; our eyes met across the crowded room, and that was that – we ended up getting married. Now we have a nine-month-old son and live between London and our tiny cottage in Orford.
On a Friday evening, it’s a two-hour drive from east London. As soon as I get to Orford I meet Joanna – who usually goes down earlier with our son on the train – and either friends or my in-laws at the Butley Orford Oysterage, one of three restaurants in the village and my favourite place to eat. It’s been there since 1959 and I don’t think the menu has ever changed. They have their own oyster beds, and the fish comes straight from the sea. I always have cod with a herb crust served with boiled potatoes, and oysters with horseradish. I know my weekend has arrived once I’m there.
On Saturday morning the first thing I do is walk to the quay, look out to the endless river and sky and blow the cobwebs away. Then I’ll make a beeline for the Pump Street Bakery for breakfast. There’s very much a Saturday-morning club, where we all catch up on gossip. Joanna joins me when she can, which is great. I’ll have the homemade granola with seasonal fruit and maybe sneak in a pastry – they do a wonderful gibassier, a Provençal pastry flavoured with aniseed and orange-flower water.
My weekend revolves around eating, so the rest of the morning is spent trying to source ingredients for the evening meal – but without going to a supermarket. There are wonderful farmers’ markets and shops at Friday Street and Snape Maltings. I like vegetables from Newbourne Farm and we often get Blythburgh pork from Salter & King, a good butcher in Aldeburgh.
The afternoons involve a long walk, generally along Orford Ness, a National Trust nature reserve that’s beautifully rugged. We’ll take a little boat across and go and see the lighthouse and old military pagodas. It’s magical. Another place I love is Shingle Street, further down the coast. It’s desolate and exposed, and has one of several Martello towers in the area – small Napoleonic defence forts built along this stretch of coastline – that you can also rent as a holiday cottage. Late afternoon is spent in front of the fire, and preparing dinner; I often slow-cook in a Big Green Egg – like an outdoor oven – in the garden. We’ll often have friends over and huddle round the tiny table.
On Sunday we’ll get up early – I rise with the light – and head to Darsham Nurseries, which has a beautiful shop filled with homewares, from Japanese secateurs to delicate porcelainteacups. We’ll stay for brunch; there’s a constantly changing menu that’s slightly Middle Eastern in feel and uses produce from the gardens. I like the shakshuka – baked eggs with spicy tomatoes and feta.
Then we go antiquing. Framlingham is a gorgeous town with lots of antique shops including In Da Cottage, an 18th-century barn with fantastic finds, from taxidermy to artworks. Or there’s a huge bric-à-brac place in Yoxford, which I love trawling through.
In the summer when the tide is high I swim in the river at Iken Cliff – actually an estuary – or go canoeing.
My favourite meal of all time is a Sunday roast; I’ll cook a local Sutton Hoo chicken on a slab of sourdough bread, so the sticky juice and fat soaks into the bread. It’s delicious.
Then it’s the drive back to London, listening to a podcast – something like This American Life.”