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Top chef Richard Bainbridge on his love for Norwich Market, its amazing stalls and the people who shop and work there

PUBLISHED: 18:19 18 June 2017

Richard Bainbridge samples what's on offer at the market. (Picture: Katja Bainbridge)

Richard Bainbridge samples what's on offer at the market. (Picture: Katja Bainbridge)

Archant

This week I would love to talk to you all about Norwich Market as it is as iconic to the city as Norwich Cathedral and the castle.

When you think of the market now, you think of it as a hub or centre. But the market as it is today hasn’t always been there, as the original city market in Saxon times was located in Tombland.

But after the Norman Conquest of 1066, the market was moved to the area we know today when it was called Mancroft. The first stalls back then included vegetables, fish, meat and bread, as well as clothes, shoes and livestock.

However, the market became congested in 1738, so the livestock was moved near the castle, which I am sure some people will remember, as it was like this right up to the 1950s.

But the market as we know was redesigned in the 1930s and it very much still resembles that first model now.

And as a result, and more than 900 years later, the market boasts over 190 stalls and is the largest Monday-to-Saturday open market in the UK.

However, I think there will be many people, who like me, can remember the market in the 1990s when it wasn’t the shining jewel in Norwich’s crown.

I remember going for chips with my granddad and standing in the bin area, which aren’t my fondest memories.

But even in those dark days of the market, I feel it has always had the heartbeat of the city.

Happily, in 2006 the market was completely remodelled into the clean and beautiful market place it is today.

In the last couple of years, the market has become a real foodie haven.

For example, you can go and enjoy the best bacon sandwiches in town on Charlie’s stall, and grab a coffee with the workers from Norwich City Council – which gives me a real boost and a lift for the day, that’s for sure!

But that’s not all the market offers, as it sells the best fresh fish in the city from City Fish to some of the most fantastic fruit and veg in the Norwich area at Mike, Debs & Sons who have been there for longer than I can remember.

I now use all of this wonderful produce in the restaurant on a daily basis, as well as use the aromatic array of spices from the Herbs and Spices.

You will also find the fantastic cheeses at the Cheese Man’s stall, the fresh sausages at Pickerings and not forgetting the amazing work the charity Seed does with their food offerings.

And anyone visiting shouldn’t pass up the chance to pick up a strong boost of coffee from the Little Red Roaster to keep you going around the market.

There really is something for everyone.

And there are not only vegetables and produce that can be found at the market, but also dishes such as lasagne from the Lasagne Man.

There are also hot chips and of course, the iconic mushy peas stall.

And to finish off, you simply can’t miss the ice cream parlours.

My mum worked there when she was pregnant with me in the early 80s. And as the story goes, my mum has no sense of smell and when asked by a friend they suddenly noticed the gas fire in the hut had blown out and was filling the room with gas.

So, my mum, if you think about it, nearly blew the market away – or even up!

But thankfully, she didn’t. (However, it probably does explain how I turned out...)

And if you head to the market soon, you’ll find the new stall, Figbar, which literally opened on Tuesday.

Jamie at the stall serves up freshly-baked cakes that you can pick up and enjoy on the go.

It won’t come as a surprise, but I go to the market every day and for me, it’s the cornerstone of my daily life in the city, from going to a meeting to enjoying a coffee to meeting other businesses there and of course, buying fresh fish for the restaurant too.

Although I’ve only spoken really about the food, you can go there for lots of other things too, for example, if you need a vacuum part, you should go to the Hoover Man. For me, it really is a one-stop shop as you can buy anything from vintage clothes to everyday essentials and much more.

The market really is the beating heart of the city and as I’ve already mentioned, it’s definitely a foodie haven.

Food is becoming so popular and the market is a really exciting place to be, from the produce you can buy there to the people who use it.

But the market wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for all of the amazing stallholders and the produce they bring to the market.

They really are the ones who bring it to life and help make it the thriving hub of Norwich.

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