09 April 2012

Norwich Eats.

When I decided to move to Manchester, I remember a woman I worked with at Alfalfa House saying, "Wow. That is a notoriously horrible place." I remember hoping it was an unreliable stereotype.

It was. I got here and I fell in love with this town.

Norwich is another place that carries the burden of bad stereotypes. It is supposedly parochial, boring, lacking culture and filled with small-minded people.

Mark's just moved to Norwich to begin his two-year traineeship, and I visited him over Easter weekend. Norwich, so far as I've seen, is absolutely lovely. Small for a city, sure.

I'm not sure it deserves those stereotypes. For one thing, it's beautiful. 

It feels like nearly everywhere you turn, there's another stunning building.

There's a huge river through it, and more than one cathedral. 

Though he's only been in Norwich about a week, Mark's already found this amazing café.
My friend Katie's maiden name is Appleyard! I was already inclined to like it.
Run by two friendly young men, Appleyard is a lunchtime haven. 
Josh and Daniel have a great thing going here: a pretty, slightly unfinished old building with lots of light and great food. They made me a vegetarian reuben per special request (basically sauerkraut, cheese, pickles and mustard on rye). The coffee's lovely, and they have local beer on tap. And it's entirely affordable. They only charged me about £3.20 for my sandwich. 

They're also looking to get some locally (stilled? distilled? brewed?) whiskey in soon! Seriously, this is an exciting place. Young people, starting their own place, with great food, drink, and atmosphere... Basically, I'm looking forward to visiting again. You should go.

Mark also took me to this adorable café called The Window, a tiny shop run by Hayley, a friendly, chatty young woman. There's not even space for a counter in this shop, so you have to chat with other customers and with Hayley. It feels like having a coffee in a friend's squashed kitchen. Really very nice. I forgot to take pictures, though.

We really enjoyed walking around Norwich, and catching sight of little jokes.

The Castle was exhibiting Diana and Acteon, by Titian, so we had to go. I didn't do all those art history classes for nothing! The Castle's a great spot to see the rest of the city, as it's so high up. It was a windy day, but I wanted a picture of Norwich Cathedral's amazing spire (see background). 

What wouldn't I do for a fire alarm like this? I think the gold and black lettering on it might be hand-painted.

At The Iron House, a brunch place Hayley recommended, we waited for what felt like ages for our food. I was really hungry, and to pass the time, we took pictures. I like this one of Mark, he looks all mean and confrontational. He's never like that, though, so it's a funny picture.

I got a bit bored and arty.

And then I wasn't allowed to keep taking pictures and had to sit for my own portraits.

As it turned out, Mark's food was amazing. Eggs Benedict:

And mine was fairly awful. A ugly beige-coloured lentil soup with more starchy thickener in it than lentils and more salt than good flavour. The toughest, driest, blandest bread I've touched in a long time. Maybe it's one of those places that just doesn't understand vegetables. I was feeling let down as we left this place, and also still very hungry.

But then we found another great place. The Mustard Cafe did me a lovely cheese & mustard croissant for takeaway. As I munched my warmed pastry and Mark tried to navigate us around the old French part of the city, I couldn't help thinking about how much I love mustard.

No wonder Norwich and I get along so well. It's the home of Colman's English Mustard, a national treasure. It should be more famous than Marmite, but because it's less well-known, it's more beloved. Did you know Colman's is one of the oldest existing food brands?

Did you want to?
Lest you think all we did was eat out during my weekend in Norwich, I'll note here that Mark and I also watched movies, slept in a lot and cooked for ourselves, too. 

I really liked what I saw of Norwich this past weekend, it has some really good things going for it. It's got the only dedicated puppetry centre in the country, a great creative writing programme (Ian McEwan graduated from there!) and an excellent arts school. So it can't be all that culturally deprived. It's even got a supposedly really good market that's been going since Saxon times. Sadly, that was mostly closed for Easter holidays, so I'll report on it properly next time I visit!

It was nice to see that, even in a short weekend, Norwich managed to disprove a lot of its ugly reputation. It has great food and lots of theatres and kind, friendly people. As I got ready to leave yesterday, it was easier to say goodbye knowing that Mark will have a great two years there...


  1. Oh my! What a lovely cafe! I'm so glad they did good by the name. Being that it was good people and good food, I certainly hope they are my kin.


  2. I hope they are, too! It was a really lovely place, delicious food. I miss them already...