Settee of Stories: An Interview with Sarah Hardy

Norwich. A city of mavericks and makers, creators and trail blazers. A big-hearted city beneath even bigger skies, and open air, open minds. In Norwich, everyone has a story to tell. And we’ll be sure to tell it. Every month, we’ll be sitting down with local writers, designers, makers, artists and influencers to discuss life in Norwich. This week we’re joined by journalist, and the woman behind Feast Magazine, Sarah Hardy.

2 August 2021

Sarah Hardy

Sarah Hardy has been a journalist in Norfolk for almost 35 years. She studied English at university, before completing a post-graduate degree in journalism at Cardiff university and joining Eastern Counties Newspapers (now Archant).

She worked in features for several years, before leaving to edit a local lifestyle magazine. Then, six years ago, Sarah set up her own company which produces Feast, a popular foodie magazine which covers everything from plough to plate. Encompassing Norfolk and Suffolk, it details the wonderful artisan producers and great restaurants in the region, as well as its rich farming heritage, coastline and more.

During the pandemic, Feast concentrated its efforts online, but there’s lots of exciting plans for the magazine for the future.

We sat down with Sarah to discuss why she loves Norwich and Norfolk and all the best spots for food and drink.

Sarah Hardy, Feast magazine

Sarah Hardy, Feast magazine

How did you get into your career, and why did you pursue this in Norwich?

I think everyone says that I have always been nosey and interested in people, and a dreadful chatterbox when I get going, so I guess that’s why I was lucky enough to find journalism as a career. I think you have to like people to do what I do – you have to get them talking!

I joined the Eastern Daily Press in the 1980s as a fairly hopeless trainee and basically learned  everything from some great colleagues and bosses – the legendary Paul Durrant was my news editor and he didn’t suffer fools!

I was fortunate to be there when we set up some exciting publications like the EDP Norfolk magazine so it was always a challenge with new projects on the go, and I managed to balance my job with having two children, too. Although it didn’t always feel like a balance – more of a complete nightmare!

What do you love most about Norwich and Norfolk?

The county is simply home to me now – my two children were born here and went to school here so our family is very embedded.

With a dad who worked for British Steel, I moved around a fair bit as a child and lived in mainly large, industrial cities so Norfolk was really quite a revelation when I arrived in my 20s. I remember being really surprised at the pop up fruit and veg stalls by the side of the road and all the dead rabbits on the road!

I guess I just love being near the sea and, as a foodie, all the wonderful restaurants we have here alongside all the seasonal produce, make it a great place to live.


The Norfolk Countryside

What are your favourite places to eat?

Well, that’s a bit like asking me to choose a favourite child! I always say that it depends what sort of mood you are in. My local, The Parson Woodforde at Weston Longville, is much loved and is great for both midweek suppers and family occasions; in the city, I like Benoli (who doesn’t?) as there is such attention to detail and I’ve always liked Roger Hickman’s cooking as he doesn’t muck about with his great ingredients too much – rather he lets them speak for themselves. And you’ll often find me in The Bay at Jarrold’s if I’m shopping. I love seafood and I love looking out of their big windows and seeing who I can spot. Well, I am a journalist!

The Bay, Jarrold

Favourite places for a coffee or drink?

Have you tried The Painted Barnat Barnham Broom? It is set in a gorgeous and enormous 16th century barn, with a café at one end and a shop that sells all manner of goodies for the home at the other. Jazz usually plays and there’s a shortish menu – soup or quiche for lunch and various cakes etc. The coffee is seriously good and I like their salads very much.

Heydon Village Tea Shop is another favourite. We like to take the dog for a walk around the super pretty village and then tuck into whatever cakes are on offer – the Bakewell tart is always good. A young couple run it and they work really hard, and love dogs, too!

What did you miss most during lockdown? And what are you most looking forward to now?

Just like everyone else I missed going out! All that cooking – the thinking, the planning, the shopping, the actual preparation and the washing up! Ugh. There wasn’t much else to do so my family just ate – all the time! It was like running a café but without anyone saying thank you!

Now, I’m enjoying going out for dinners with friends and, equally, having people to our house, sitting in the garden, on our deck, and just chattering away!

We’ve trips planned to The Hero in Burnham Overy Staithe in North Norfolk and The Gatherers in Norwich, which has a really interesting sounding menu, and the dish washer is having a much needed rest!

And finally, what are some of your favourite memories of Norwich?

The city has been good to me, from great nights out with my journalism friends when we were all young and childless (too many nights in the pubs of the Golden Triangle, not solving the problems of the world) to driving up Newmarket Road from work to collect my kids from school. Predictably I was always a little late and I made us even later by wanting to have a natter with some mums – and then we would have to fly off to tennis, football, dance classes – whatever. They were such busy days! I remember 2012 in particular as London staged the Olympics and the city, like everywhere, really, was in a state of great excitement.

I’ve also enjoyed seeing some fantastic shows at the Norwich Theatre Royal; great musicals like Singing in the Rain and The Bodyguard, and visits from the RSC. I can’t wait for it to start up again. I see Dreamgirls is coming next year so I’ll be there, hopefully with my daughter who has inherited my love of the theatre, too.

Norwich Theatre Royal, one of the city's theatre's with plenty to see

Norwich Theatre Royal, one of the city’s theatre’s with plenty to see