PUBLISHED: 13:00 26 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:39 26 June 2020
Group food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis is not alone in fantasising about all the restaurants, cafes and pubs she wants to head to when they eventually re-open. Here are just some of the things she’s looking forward to indulging in.
The East Anglian food and drink scene is a buzzing arena. A melting pot of incredible producers, chefs, restaurants, pubs, cafes, vineyards, breweries, street food and market vendors. While it’s been fantastic to support many of them by picking up takeaways, I’m itching to get back inside some of my favourite spots once it’s safe to do so. And here dear readers, is my (much edited and cut back) master plan. Where are you looking forward to going? Email me.
Panna cotta, arancini and lobster at The Unruly Pig, Bromeswell
If, by a stroke of luck, restaurants magically open towards the end of summer, you’ll find me bathing in sunshine on the terrace of this gastro pub with a glass of fizz. I’ll nibble on a plate of head chef Dave Wall’s spicy n’duja arancini, praying local slipper lobster is on the menu – either teased into a citrussy risotto, or folded between sheets of handmade pasta. For dessert it’ll be the kitchen’s faultless wibbly wobbly panna cotta.
Battered prawns, black pudding fritters and ice cream at Eric’s Thornham
Eric’s already been getting screens in place at his fish and chip hotspots and I am salivating just thinking about a trip to Thornham. Perched at one of the bar seats, I’ll pick my way through crisp battered prawns and a mountain of beef dripped cooked, golden chips, liberally doused in the house-made black garlic aioli. A yielding black pudding fritter is a must when we go here, as is a scoop or two of ice cream, which comes with a tray of sprinkles and sauces to make your own sundae…I’m first to admit I enjoy this more than the kids!
Pie at The Kersey Bell
My close circle of friends is called The Hadleigh Gang. We’ve seen each other through maternity leave, babies, schooling, weaning, birthdays, deaths, anniversaries and countless camping expeditions- we even have our own (OK it belongs to the Wildings) camping kitchen tent. One of our favourite pubs to visit en masse is this ancient beamed property. It’s a near two-mile trek across farmland, tracks and fields – all part of the fun. And the reward at the end is reasonably priced, hearty, generously portioned grub. I always go for the veggie stilton, mushroom and roasted onion suet pudding, filled with peppercorn sauce.
Dinner and afternoon tea at Morston Hall
I have a great deal of respect for owner Galton Blackiston who, despite his success and numerous TV appearances, remains a ‘Norfolk boy’ keen to celebrate regional and hyper-local produce. Despite having interviewed him on numerous occasions, time hasn’t allowed me to get to the hotel/restaurant. As soon as we’re able to book I’ll be on the phone, putting my name down for a room, tasting menu for two and afternoon tea. It’s got to be done.
Fried noodles with pork, chicken, prawns and mixed vegetables in curry sauce at 92 Noodle Bar, Ipswich
A simple, home-style Chinese restaurant and takeaway – I remember seeing the chef through the door one time, hanging his hand cut, fresh noodles ready to be cooked. It’s not the most glamorous of joints, but the food is keenly priced and delicious. I always try to order something else when we visit, but come back time and again to this fiery number – it’s not for the faint hearted.
Rib of beef at The Duke’s Head, Somerleyton
It seems a lifetime ago, but at the beginning of the year, frost still on the air, I visited this pub for the first time and was absolutely blown away by the quality of the food. No frills, just chilled local ale and wine, and carefully thought-out tasty plates – including homemade charcuterie. Heritage beef is ordered by weight and cooked on the bone, arriving sliced and drenched in butter, alongside a bowl of chips and a simple salad for mopping up the juices. It could be my desert island dish.
Cinnamon rolls at Bread Source, Norwich
When we stay in the city we always fall out of bed and into the Upper St Giles café which has the boutique vibe of a London bakery up front, and a boho ambiance out the back. You cannot beat a seat in the garden with a plate of their unlimited toast, a coffee and a plump cinnamon bun. It puts the world right, if only for a little while.
Cheese puffs and tasting menu at The Northgate, Bury St Edmunds
Chef Greig is one talented guy. If you’ve ever spoken to him, you’ll know food pumps through his veins. His menus scream East Anglia and showcase local produce fabulously. The chef’s tasting menu, eaten overlooking the kitchen at work, is a treat and I have a bit of an obsession with the cheesy choux buns, often served as a nibble at the start of a meal. A dish of delicate plaice with lobster nugget here was a stand out for me in 2019.
All the nibbles, Benedicts, Norwich
Richard and his crew are an energetic bunch, pushing out some of the UK’s best plates of food. Whenever we visit I know it’s going to be a memorable experience – I literally can recall everything I’ve eaten there (praise be the cheese soup and smoked pork). Part of the fun is the delivery of a seemingly endless stream of snacks. If they ever take the puffy cracker with salmon roe and voluptuous sherry ‘mousse’ off the menu I think there might be a riot.
The cheeseboard, Maison Bleue, Bury St Edmunds
If I want a refined meal in elegant surroundings with impeccable service, I know I can’t go far wrong with a visit to this lovely award-winning restaurant. Nothing is too much trouble. The food is stunning. And there’s an impressive wine list to match. I always make sure I leave room (we’re talking post-pudding here) to tackle the famous cheese trolley – much to my husband’s dismay as I like the stinky fromages. I can almost taste the spicy, fruity notes of a washed rind camembert now.
The dessert table at The Pigs, Edgefield
When we’re over in north Norfolk a visit to The Pigs is always a must, and inevitably that will be for a stonkingly good Sunday roast, followed by the unlimited pudding table. From crumbles and pies, to portions of steamed pud and traybakes, it’s the place to be if you’re prone to gluttony – as I am.
Katsu chicken, rocky road and cornflake crunch at Norwich Market
We are so lucky to have this award-winning market on our doorstep. You can (and I have) spend a whole day eating your way around it. Typically I’ll err towards a piping hot tub of katsu chicken with ginger pickles and a sprinkle of Japanese seasoning, maybe with a side of gyoza, from Bun Box. Then it’s time to hot-foot it over to Cuppie Hut for their addictive (and enormous) cornflake crunch slices, or to And Eat It, whose rocky road is so damn chocolatey it should be illegal.
Slow-cooked lamb and Turkish delight ice cream at The Galley, Woodbridge
Host and owner Ugur has been on the Suffolk dining scene for a long time and there’s something genuine and warm about the welcome he extends to his guests. My fantasy meal here, eaten on the ground floor by the window so I can people watch over Market Hill, is a mezze platter, followed by melting slow-cooked lamb, finishing with a dish of floral Turkish delight ice cream.
A mixed grill at Alaz, Sudbury
My kids like the twinkly Middle Eastern lights and décor, but I go here for the meat. The mixed grill for two is immense, consisting of two cold mezze, grilled lamb shish, chicken shish, adana kofte, chicken wings, lamb ribs and Turkish meatballs, served with pide bread, rice and your choice of salad. I’d, in fact, go here for the gavurdagi salatasi salad of walnuts, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, parsley, sumac, olive oil, lemon and pomegranate molasses alone.
Anything at XO Kitchen, Norwich
Head chef Jimmy has a way with flavour and leans towards Asian-style cooking, which really appeals to me. I’m heading over for loaded bao buns, katsu sandwiches and…ice cream sandwiches, washed down with a craft beer from the bar- preferably something nice and sour.
Sausage rolls, cheese toasties, doughnuts and bear claws at Pump Street, Orford
I can’t leave this award-winning village bakery without a huge bag of treats. Always a loaf of their famous sourdough, of course, but there’s so much more that tickles my fancy. On my first post-Covid visit here I’ll lounge in the café with a cup of tea and a gooey toasted cheese sandwich. Then I’ll struggle home with garlicky sausage rolls (some of my favourite in the region), sugar-flecked doughnuts, a chocolate-dunked palmier and a bear claw pastry, brimming with almond paste.
Steak at The Gunton Arms, near Norwich
There’ll be no lean fillet for me here. I want a medium rare sirloin, rippled with melting fat, cooked over the Elk Room fire, served up with its accompaniments of goose fat tatties and bearnaise sauce. Simple food but cooked to perfection. You just can’t beat anything sizzled over a real flame.
10 course tasting menu at Forage Kitchen, Rougham
I truly believe this is one of East Anglia’s hidden gems. Literally…it’s squirreled away in the woodland behind Blackthorpe Barn. Boasting just a few tables, two chefs and a front of house manager, the restaurant is a dining experience, with 10 courses of impeccable, inventive food costing just £50! I was blown away by the meal I had there at the tail end of 2019 and was booked to return in March – before lockdown hit. I still dream of the parsley root with coconut and parsley puree and pineapple and chilli jam, the day boat landed sea bass in beurre noisette with mussel and chive cream, and the sesame seed mousse with miso caramel cream, frozen lime, aerated chocolate, baked chocolate mousse and baked caramel.
Poutines, kale salad and nanaimo at No4, Bury St Edmunds
If I’m in the town with my family we always make a beeline here for the American/Canadian/world influenced plates.
Poutines (fries with cheese curds and gravy) are a must, but I also have a bit of a fetish for the dirty fries with jalapenos, tomatoes and bacon bits.
I genuinely believe they sell one of the most incredible vegan salads in the land too– and this is coming from a non-vegan! It sounds dull, but the combination of kale, crispy chickpeas, roasted onions and mushrooms, flaked almonds and sherry vinaigrette hits all the right notes with an overwhelmingly good umami bite. I always leave with a Nanaimo bar – the Canadian dessert of crumbly chocolate base, custard icing and chocolate topping never fails to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Garlic dough balls at Brick, Norwich
Another guilty pleasure of mine and a confession. When I’m staying in Norwich, even if I’ve been out for a meal, I inevitably wind up here (after a couple of cocktails at Gonzo’s) for a takeaway portion of dough balls, because not only is the dough amazing, but the garlic butter dip is pleasingly potent. It’ll definitely keep vampires at bay.
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