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.

Finding a proper pub at the Earle Arms, Heydon

Earle Arms at Heydon, Norfolk
Earle Arms at Heydon, Norfolk

There is only one road to Heydon and it ends at the gates of Heydon Hall. This is not a place you idly pass through on your way to somewhere else. It is a destination, both in place and time: travel down that quiet lane and you’ll find yourself not only in the village, but in a bygone era whose faint echoes are seldom heard in the wider world.

Heydon Hall in Norfolk
Heydon Hall in Norfolk

Heydon is arranged around the lawn of the village green. There is a church, tea rooms, an excellent wood-fired bakery called Husk (which supplies the Art Cafe, among others), a few cottages, the Hall and the Earle Arms.

The entrance to the pub overlooks the green. Push open the heavy, old door and you step into a wood panelled hallway, with doors leading left and right to the ‘Number 1’ and ‘Number 2’ rooms. Number 2 is laid with white table cloths and cutlery for dinner, while Number 1 is a cosy bar, with a few wooden tables and a glowing old iron woodburner.

My Mum and I took a table close to the fire in Number 1. Each had a silver candelabra, with white candles and old wax.

Bar lounge at the Earle Arms, Heydon in Norfolk
Bar lounge at the Earle Arms, Heydon in Norfolk

There was no sign of any staff for a while, but eventually a lady appeared behind the bar and poured me lime cordial from a heavy crystal decanter. We ordered sandwiches and a plate of ham, egg and chips.

The room looked unchanged from the early part of the 20th century. Taxidermy stares back at you from the walls and the small corner bar, made of wood, is nothing like the giant metal runway strips with illuminated beer pumps you see in most pubs these days. As we waited for our food, the same lady returned and spread a white cotton table cloth for us.

She came back some time later with our food. My Mum proclaimed her tuna sandwich very good, while my ham, egg and chips was superb. The ham, served cold, was in thick, homecooked slices, topped with two eggs and a large portion of freshly fried chips.

The influence of the Heydon estate has preserved the village as an elegant example of rural Norfolk life, cira. 1920. However, there is no cliched feeling of a period theme park about this place and, on the several occasions we’ve visited, we seemed to be the only non-locals present. It is simply a beautiful, quiet village.

As for the Earle Arms, it goes down in my book as a ‘proper pub’. Simple, fresh cooked food, a welcoming fire and a comfortable and cosy atmosphere which compels you to spend time there. I would like to visit again: either on my bike, which seems like the way to reach somewhere like Heydon, or at night, when I can imagine how wonderful their dining room must look, with the glassware and silver reflecting the light of of all those candelabras.

Google Maps link.

A visit to the Art Cafe

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I think today we should take a look at one of the very first places Marek and I discovered in Norfolk. The Art Cafe is just what it says on the tin, a cafe that is filled with art. But it is the quality of the food and craft that is what makes it special.

The frontage has two large barn doors, brightly painted, and many windows to let in plenty of natural light. Inside you are greeted by the art and craft display which includes pottery, textiles, paintings in modern and traditional styles, and handmade jewellery. After you wander though the goods you finally notice the counter of the cafe. And what a counter! It is full of both the sweet buns, cakes, and scones available as well as enormous bowls of the many colourful, healthy, and delicious salads. Each main comes with the full selection of sides and you never leave feeling hungry.

A great choice all year round, during the summer you can sun yourself in their courtyard out front, and in winter the wood burner is cranked up to warm your soul. They also do bistro nights where you book in advance for dinner. We cannot recommend this place enough. Come try it.

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Google Maps link.