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Food and drink plays an important part in everyone’s life – we all have to eat, right? Here in the East of England, we produce a huge amount, from craft beer to cheese, from chocolate to apples, from salami to gin. The region has a rich farming heritage and an extensive coastline for wonderful fish and shellfish. Barley fills the fields for our beer production and the quirky, knobbly sugar beet stacks up on the side of country lanes before heading off to the sugar producing factories.
Add in countless artisan producers, and you quickly realise how fortunate we are to enjoy such a plough to plate, farm to fork existence. Provenance and seasonality are key to great food, and the benefits to your health are well known. The advantages to the local economy are manifold, as cash remaining in your local area helps to support local jobs.
We sat down with Feast editor, Sarah Hardy to discuss all things food and drink in Norwich.
What’s in season at the moment? Wild garlic is a treat right now so get foraging in woodlands. It can be added into dishes a bit like you do with spinach – it is great in soups, one pot wonders and say stirred into scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes. Asparagus isn’t too far off, thank the Lord. I love it and usually overdo it. I love it with fish as a side, or just griddled with a bit of butter and black pepper. Heaven. And before long, Cromer crabs will be filling my plate.
Where’s hot to try at the moment? That’s a tricky one – it’s a bit like asking me to choose a favourite child. The Last is super popular and very consistent at the moment – we had our staff Christmas party there and I think they have just recovered. I also like The Bay at Jarrold as I love seafood and I like looking out over Norwich market – I’m nosey!
Who does the best brekkie? I can recommend Pono, a superfood bar, with the best smoothies and bowls oozing with goodness. Think peanut butter and banana toast, too. And our designer has just been singing the praises of The Ber Street Kitchen.
And what about afternoon tea? Well, it has to be The Assembly House, doesn’t it? They have it nailed and Mark Mitson is the patissiere king.
Anywhere new to try? The Stables at the Royal Norwich – the new golf course just outside Norwich – is worth a look. There’s masses of great local produce on the menu and they have their own microbrewery, too.
What about a new producer? Norfolk Farmhouse Gin from the Walnut Tree Distillery is interesting – it is made on a dairy farm just outside Norwich. Try the sloe gin, made to an old family recipe.
What’s your favourite food festival? Well, I’m on the committee for the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, so I have a bit of a vested interest! But it is lovely; it is held in the Walled Garden at Holkham Hall over the first weekend in September and is just really good fun, with a great cookery theatre, about 60 local producers – and the sun usually shines!
What’s your favourite local product? I am very partial to a Norfolk Gin (large), I indulge with Lakenham Creamery ice cream (Jamaican rum and raisin) and can eat my own body weight in mussels.
Finally, what do you think about Norwich Market? What a question! It is simply fab-u-lous, isn’t it? I think it has really found its niche as a foodie destination. It’s a great opportunity for both up and coming businesses like Substrata wines, and established out of town ones like Walsingham Farms. It’s great to see it nice and buzzy, and I know lots of people love to get their lunch there.
Sarah Hardy is the editor of the region’s only dedicated food and drink magazine, Feast, which is distributed to leading delis, wine shops, farm shops, hotels, pubs, cafes, restaurants, tourist destinations, theatres, department stores and more. It contains interviews, eating out reviews, holiday suggestions, recipes, a beer column, a wine column, cookbook recommendations and news reports. It is a free of charge publication, and there are 10 issues a year.