Since our last update the acid green buds on the the trees have mellowed to an apple green. Blossom flutters in the air; the sloes are putting on a good show this year. We walked down the lane from Wiveton to the coast road and the petals snowed down on our heads from above.
Everything is starting to fill out and become lush. The vivid blue ceanothus clouds glow from garden walls. The long-awaited dark pink blossom on the corner of Saxlingham road has finally come out: warm magenta hues.
The air is now full of birdsong. The nightingales’ serenade can now be heard. The odd cry of the Northern lapwing calls over Blakeney and Cley marsh. The first swan pair glide down Cley Channel.
On Mariner’s Hill the tiny white flowers blanket the southface. They spread a little further each year, around the bluebells and fennel. In the evening light they glow like a snow dusting.
Barefoot season has started with a walk down the harbour at low tide! I always say there are two halves to the year in Blakeney, barefoot season and welly season. So pleased! We have also had our first BBQ’s on Cley beach. Fishing and sea bass sandwiches! This also leads us to start work by on the boat again and planning for a launch date!
In the allotment the squash seeds have gone in. Sweet pea seedlings go along the dahlia walk. I can’t wait for their sweet scent to fill the house all summer. In the kitchen, the smell of slow cooked gammon hocks over lentils permeates. Rhubarb, rhubarb, and more rhubarb! Crumble with Banana! With pomegranate in cheesecake. Allotment produce is increasingly finding its way onto the table. Locally caught crab from Andy’s Crab Shed on toast with pea shoots and avocado! Delicious.
And the tulips continue their show in the courtyard, on the allotment, and at East Ruston Old Vicarage. A must see!
The Equinox brings with it the return of longer days, seemingly all of a sudden. The clocks go forward and the evening is extended, so much so that we are now able to take the dog out for his evening walk after work. This treat lasts only six months for me between the Equinox.
The boats start to return to Blakeney Quay around Easter. In fact it marks quite a few things. My birthday being this time of year we usually have a rather elaborate tea with more cake than sense. Easter brings with it Mothering Sunday and daffodil walks. The world is bursting into bloom and bud. Blakeney Quay awakens and the tourists return for the first “busy” days of the season. (It feels busy compared to February but I suppose we are never as busy as the south coast, even in August)
The gorse is in full bloom and just to be on the Heath above Kelling or Salthouse is to walk through a cloud of coconut fragrance. Cuckoos have arrived on the marsh, and we found frog spawn in the garden. In the hedges primrose blooms and wild garlic unfurls.
This leads to many a tasty Spring treat. This year we have made wild garlic aioli, mayonnaise, and focaccia. (Try this recipe!) we were also advised to substitute the wild garlic in for leeks in potato soup by chef friend Jackson Campbell. For Easter we had 7 Hour Lamb which was amazingly tender.
In the garden the magnolias are in bloom and we all pray there are no frosts to spoil their glory. Itss fragility may make it all the sweeter. Winter jasmine adds to the yellow overtones of the floral season along with the daffs and primrose. In addition to the ipheion bulbs, our first tulips start to colour. It’s the start of a month or two of drama in the tulip beds.
Finally April brings with it some truly warm days, so long as you stay out of the wind. We often have our first picnics and BBQ’s on the beach and in the garden. The dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe provide good shelter, or under the cliffs at Weybourne.
As part of our ‘Winter Recaps’ we can’t wait to gush about our invitation to a fabulous tasting event by Oyster Catcher Catering. I am not food blogger (though we do seem to talk about food, and local food, a lot on here) so I will let the starters speak for themselves!
They are as delicious as they are beautiful.
Wherever possible they provide food and ingredients from the Norfolk area. And of course living in some of the best arable farmland in the UK, great ingredients combined with Chef Jackson Campbell’s imagination and skill leads to an amazing meal. While it is pretty, this is real food. Healthy, filling, local.
Enough of me, here’s some more…
So many courses! But we had to have it all! On display at the event was a selection of things offered in their Welcome Packs. (which we may have also tried.) What a great idea! When you spend all day trying to get out of the Big Smoke, and arrive late and hungry, what better thing to have waiting for you than delicious local food? I can distinctly remember when we moved to Blakeney and by the time we unloaded the van the only thing being served at the local pub was dessert and a cheese board. If only….
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re looking forward to our next visit already and hope one day to sample the full evening menu too.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.