A trip to Norwich

Norwich is a great city. Where else could a trip for a car service become an adventure in food? Today was a day of exploration and we were not disappointed.

We started our morning by dropping off said car and heading to Strangers coffee shop. The cakes are very good and the barista really knew his stuff. We had a chat about natural processing and how it can infuse the coffee beans with a fruity flavour. The macchiato had strawberry notes to it which was a world away from your average chain. The enthusiasm for his subject was clearly in evidence.

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Lunch brought another discovery at the Iron House. The soup of the day was pulled pork and chorizo with a hunk of home baked bread. Marek chose the pulled pork in a brioche bun with home made coleslaw and fries. After ordering the server walked past with what looked like mouthwatering chunky chips so we had to add that to our order. The result was very satisfying. So much so that I was disappointed to not have any room left for any of the amazing cakes on display.

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Finally we took the scenic route home, going through a new village, Itteringham. Situated on the banks of the River Bure, we were pleasantly surprised to find an interesting looking pub and village shop. As it was tea time we stopped in the Little Village Shop; the “smallest cafe in Norfolk” for a cuppa. Inside were all the basics one could need from a village shop but with a few extras. The cakes were homemade by a lady in the village. The flour for the bread was from the Letheringsett Mill where we buy our flour. Local Norfolk favourites such as Aspalls cider, Norfolk Cordials, and Adnams were also on display. Linocut cards from local/well-known artists and felted crafts covered the walls. We were so pleased to discover this hidden gem to round off our day!

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The Funky Mackerel, Sheringham

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To continue our winter revival we finished our costal path walk today, starting in Cromer. We decided to walk along the beach as it was low tide and finished in Sheringham where we sought lunch at The Funky Mackerel Cafe. Dog friendly and overlooking the sea, this cafe was fun and relaxed serving significant portions of freshly made simple food. Espresso based coffees and cakes finished off lunch before we set back out again to Cromer. On the way back we took the coast path which went iand through beautiful woodland.

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The Grey Seal: artisanal coffee, brought to you by the folks from the Art Cafe

Forgive the gap in posting. There has been a lot of turmoil this last month. The floods left an impression on our coastline and the tragic American military crash came close on its heals. But today we would like to speak on a positive note.

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Brought to you by the fine foodie folks at the Art Cafe, comes a new coffee experience, The Grey Seal. Across from the Art Cafe itself, it only opened last week but we were excited to have a try. We walked over Wiveton Down to work up an appetite and were greeted by the smell of delicious coffee. There is a roaster on site, the only one we are aware of on the north Norfolk coast. The choice of espresso based drinks was great, but the difference was in the various other coffee options.. Marek tried the air press, while I went for the theatrical siphon. You also have a choice of different single source coffee beans, so the mix-and-match possibilities seem endless. We both had the home roast and compared the taste. Mine had a lighter fruity flavour while the airpress produced a richer bolder flavour, all from the same beans!

The cakes provided were of the same high quality we have come to expect from the Art Cafe, which is currently closed for the season . Rounding out the menu are various other teas and homemade soup. Dogs are welcome. A great stop on a winters walk. We wish them much success.

Highly recommended!

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Titchwell Manor’s tea time tapas and treats

Tapas selection at Titchwell Manor
Tapas selection at Titchwell Manor

It’s delightful to holiday somewhere and stumble across a delicious one-off meal, but rather more special to find a local eatery that can be relied upon to surprise you with wonderful food time and again.

We had heard of Titchwell Manor because it has a reputation for fine dining in the evening, courtesy of chef proprietor Eric Snaith’s tasting menus. However, in a year of living on the Norfolk coast, we were yet to visit, always saving it for a particularly special occasion when we could do justice to such a multi-course extravaganza.

A couple of months ago we were walking on the beach at Holme with a friend and, as it often does, talk turned to tea and cakes. We were well past the witching hour when most cafes on the coast stop serving, but our friend suggested Titchwell, knowing from past experience that they had an all day menu, not just of cakes, but savouries too.

It was the first of what has become many visits (thank you Julia!).

That day we shared a selection of scones, tea and Titchwell’s plate of 3 little cakes. The scones were excellent, even measured against the traditional benchmark of my Mum’s homemade. Each of the 3 cakes was special in its own way, with not just a good quality base, but little embellishments in the form of unusual toppings or pieces mixed into the cakes themselves.

It was served in the ‘Eating Rooms’, the light, airy brasserie-style space on the opposite side of the building from the more formal evening dining room. This opens via a folding glass wall onto a sunny terrace and our little four legged friend (Bonzo, the Labrador you may recognise from other photos) was welcome both in the brasserie and on the terrace.

It was so refreshing to find somewhere which, post-5pm (or almost any other time of day, it seems), rustles up such a high quality of freshly prepared food in a relaxed setting with great service.

We enjoyed our afternoon tea so much that we decided we must go back soon after to sample their selection of savoury tapas, a menu of 10 or so small plates, offered at £3 each, with a special offer on 3 for the price of 2. Again, they serve it throughout the day, making it the perfect stop when you find yourself hungry after a mid-afternoon walk and local pubs have closed their kitchens.

Smoked salmon tapas at Titchwell Manor
Smoked salmon tapas at Titchwell Manor

The tapas is outstanding and consistently so. We have been back on several occasions since with various friends and family. The menu changes slightly each time, but particularly memorable were the smoked salmon, crab with pistachio and purslane, the crisped chorizo, the duck hearts with red currant and the smoked eel.

Each dish is a beautifully presented and, just like the cakes, has stylish little garnishes and twists, obviously benefitting from the talents of the house chefs who rustle up the famous evening tasting menus. On a few occasions, the two of us have shared one of every tapas dish on the menu, racking up a total bill of a princely £18, courtesy of the extremely good value 3 for 2 offer. Small though each individual plate may be, 9 or 10 of them between two of us at lunch has seen us sufficiently satiated to skip dinner entirely.

It is stunning good value for such an exceptional quality of imaginative cooking and, having now visited numerous times, we can attest that those first visits were no one-off when post-walk hunger clouded our judgement: the food really is consistently special.

Tempura oysters with chilli dip at Titchwell Manor
Tempura oysters with chilli dip at Titchwell Manor

We broadened our horizons on yesterday’s visit, ordering both the tapas selection and trying some other dishes like the tempura oysters (served on a plate of Norfolk beach cobbles) and the blondie, popcorn and chocolate ice cream dessert. We were accompanied by our most food loving friends, one of whom is a chef himself, and they too were delighted by the meal.

Peanut butter blondie with grapes, popcorn & chocolate ice cream at Titchwell Manor
Peanut butter blondie with grapes, popcorn & chocolate ice cream at Titchwell Manor

We’re looking forward to our next visit already and hope one day to sample the full evening menu too.

Google Maps link.

Babcia tea & a taste of Eastern Europe at Lituanica in Kings Lynn

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Whenever I’m taking the train to London from Kings Lynn, I try to allow extra time to stop at Lituanica, a wonderful Eastern European supermarket.  It has an extraordinary range of fresh meat, vegetables, bakery and cakes – as well as jars and frozen food for the store cupboards.

There is Polish heritage in my family, but even without this connection, it makes for a great shopping experience. You’ll find produce you just can’t get in traditional British supermarkets and in a store that is beautifully quiet and clean.

The butchers, fresh bread and cakes are particular highlights. I also use it to stock up on herbal teas – Babcia brand! ‘Babcia’ in Polish is Grandma and it reminds me of my own Babcia, still going strong at nearly 90.  I recommend the Apple Mint and Pear varieties.

The store opened a café recently, complete with exactly the sort of dark wood furniture and floral prints you’ll find in any Eastern European café or household of a certain era.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the value too. Cappuccino and a weighty slice of cake (it is sold by the gram) set me back the princely sum of £2.48. This extends to the shop goods as well – if you’re used to shopping at Tesco, Waitrose, Asda et al, you’ll be blown away by the value here.

Go and buy some random stuff you don’t recognise and enjoy a taste of Eastern Europe in Norfolk!

Time for Tea

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Back to the lovely village of Heydon, Norfolk. This time we are going for a spot of tea and cake at the fantastic Heydon Village Tea Room.

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Tis is a very traditional tea shop with gingham, florals, and a large picture window overlooking the picturesque green. Today was bright sunshine and several people were picnicking on the lawn across the way as we entered. On the menu were scones in many unusual flavours and I went for the fig and apricot, which had a hint of all spice. Marek went for a large wedge of one of their many cakes as usual. The decor was sweet and modern and their shop in the back was full of local delights. Definitely worth a visit to this little hamlet for tea and a tour of the church and grounds.

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Buying late night dinner at Creake Abbey Food Hall

Creake Abbey Food Hall & Cafe
Creake Abbey Food Hall & Cafe

It was Thursday night and the cupboards were bare. We were wondering what to do for dinner when I remembered I’d seen a post on Twitter earlier in the day from Creake Abbey Food Hall, saying they were open until 8pm on a Thursday.

We’d been meaning to go back after acquiring some delicious local lamb (and not so local olives) on their opening day last month. It seems such a good idea to have a late night opening once a week, and rare among the local delis, so we jumped in the car and headed down.

We arrived just as they were closing up but Steve, the owner, and Tom, the manager, couldn’t have been more welcoming. A glass of wine was offered almost the second we walked through the door (a Mexican white, surprisingly good, and they also have a red from the same producer).

They chatted about how things have been going since the opening and showed us around the cafe.

Eventually we remembered we’d come to buy something for dinner and chose some of the meat balls from the well stocked butcher’s counter. They had minted lamb and spicy beef, so we took a handful of each.

It was then that I noticed the pie: a great hulk of pastry and meat, with a thick wedge already cut. It turns out it is made by the landlady of the pub near owner Steve’s village, close to Halesworth in Suffolk. According to Steve, it won recognition at a local food fair and deservedly so.

Made with chicken and pork, it had a wonderfully herby flavour, spiced with plenty of pepper. The pastry, so key to the success of any pork pie, was thick and hearty.

We added that to our list and, suffice to say, it was stuffed in faces before we’d finished the drive home.

It is good to see this new venue growing. The range of produce is interesting, from local favourites like Candy’s Chutneys, to an extensive and well curated butchery counter.  Combined with the warm welcome, the location among an already established collection of shops at Creake and smart ideas like late night shopping on a Thursday, they look set for deserved success.

We’ll be back to try the cakes in the cafe, some more of the olives, their great selection of meat and maybe even the eclectic wine choices.

Google Maps link.

Huckleberries for cake in Cromer

Huckleberries Cafe in Cromer
Huckleberries Cafe in Cromer

I arrived in Cromer at the end of a windswept adventure on my bike. There’s nothing like riding into a gale of a headwind to inspire a desire for tea and cake.

Despite living on the Norfolk coast for nearly a year now, this was my first visit to Cromer, so I pedalled around looking for the tell-tale signs of a good cafe. External appearance only tells you so much. I found myself peering through windows and looking for stacks of homemade cakes under glass domes or an enthusiastic barrista enjoying their art.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has actually visited Cromer that such establishments are thin on the ground. I, however, had arrived innocent of this state of affairs. There were no shortage of options for fish and chips or ice cream in a cone, but I was beginning to despair my dream of a moist, dense cake and steaming mug of herbal tea would remain elusive.

It was on my last circuit through town, heading for the train station, that I spotted the pale green exterior of Huckleberries (@hucks_coffee) on Church Street. A discerning consumer of cake just knows when somewhere is going to be a cut above the average, and Huckleberries did not disappoint.

There was a friendly welcome from the staff and plenty of well spaced seating in the relaxed interior of wood floors and pale colours. I sat upstairs, where there was a mix of tourists and locals reading the papers, but there is also more seating downstairs.

Ginger & lemon cake, granola bar & tea in a tea cosy at Huckleberries in Cromer
Ginger & lemon cake, granola bar & tea in a tea cosy at Huckleberries in Cromer

All of the cakes are baked on the premises and range from scones and fruit loaves to Bakewells and chocolate fudge cake. I opted for the ginger and lemon, a pot of Roobois tea and a granola bar, for a grand total of £4.85.

The cake was exceptional. Strong, spicy ginger, a dense and rich texture, topped with tangy lemon icing infused with lemon zest. The granola bar was also good: clearly homemade, moister than I was expecting and welcome after the miles on the bike.

The feature, however, which convinced me this is a cafe trying to go the extra mile was the knitted tea cosy and little shortbread biscuit left as a treat on the saucer. It is the little things that count and, as far as I could see, Huckleberries is the only place for the cake connoisseur in Cromer.

Google Maps link.

Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market

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Yesterday saw a gloriously sunny day for the monthly Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market in North Creake. Now, we have been to Creake Abbey before, and aside from the English Heritage Abbey ruins, there is a fabulous cluster of shops and cafes; but more on that later.

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As far as local produce is concerned we have been spoiled for choice since moving up here. It is a bastion of artisans and the market was well curated. We could have walked away with a lot more than we did. Good sense had to kick in at some point, but not before we made a number of choice selections.

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First stall we came to was our first purchase and that is a good start! WOW muffins,  or Without Wheat Muffins, were offering free samples and were so good we bought a box of 9 ‘muffinettes’ despite having no food intolerances between us. We brought them down to visit some friends today and they were praised highly.

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Jamoroc Spices were our next hit. Run by a husband and wife team from Jamaica and Morocco this stall featured a full range of spices (complete with fab little containers), sauces and dips. We went all out and got a mild and hot sauce for ourselves and another as a gift.

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Next came another of my favourites. We have come across the Marsh Pig range before, which is stocked at our local, The Blakeney Delicatessen. But there is such a wide range of flavours and I can’t seem to resist the free samples. I always end up buying some.

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The last highlight of our day was the English Spirit Distillery. Despite having only just passed noon the free samples were flowing. This little distillery based in Dullingham, Cambs (a few streets away from our last home no less!) has turned out something special. We walked away with The Old Salt Rum, blown away by its banana and caramel notes. This was used later that evening in some very rich hot chocolate and couldn’t have been nicer.

A couple of venison burgers, and a shoulder of lamb later we decided we had to leave the premises. It was a lovely day and in lovely settings. I’m sure the sun helped a bit too but highly enjoyable and very recommended. The market is the first Saturday of each month barring January. Check it out.

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