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New Norfolk café dishing up artisan plates of seasonal and foraged food

PUBLISHED: 15:21 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:21 06 February 2020

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens 
Business owners Tim Atkins and Simon Hunter-Marsh who is also the chef
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens Business owners Tim Atkins and Simon Hunter-Marsh who is also the chef Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

Archant 2020

The eatery is based at a popular tourist destination near the coast.

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens 
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

Two chefs have joined forces to open a brand new eating destination celebrating the best of local and foraged produce.

Tim Atkins, who's worked across the north Norfolk coast for many years, and Simon Hunter (renowned for his foraging and wild food expertise) have transformed the former tearoom at Alby Crafts & Garden into The Artisan Café.

It's a partnership that's been a long time coming for the pals. "We've always worked closely alongside each other," reveals Simon, "and we've known each other for several years, but this is the first time we've been able to do something together."

Tim adds that they'd been looking for a while for premises, but that he knew the right place had fallen into their laps when the lease at Alby came up. "I knew the area and the business and what it was capable of being. It really is a great venue. There are 17 units here, including us, doing anything from clay making to wood turning. And there's four acres of garden and lakes open to the public - it's a leading dog walking area. I jumped at the chance to take this."

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens 
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

The café has undergone a complete transformation which Tim says is "100% not recognisable from what it was before." It's certainly daringly different, with antlers mounted on one wall, an enormous statement horse head crafted of chicken wire, and retro 70s sofas.

But, beyond the kooky décor, food is where both men's hearts are, and they've worked hard to create a daily changing menu that not only reflects the changing seasons, but that supports other businesses too. Produce from Proudly Norfolk members such as The Tea Lady are used in the kitchen, alongside bread from The Craft Bakery in Sheringham, Breckland Orchard Posh Pop, local cheeses, local fish and drinks from Coffee Express in North Walsham.

And that's not to mention the foraged fare - Simon's currently gathering a bounty that includes fresh wild garlic, wild beet, alexanders, wild turnip and rapeseed.

Alongside teas, coffees and juices in the morning, Simon (who heads up the kitchen) has brought a gourmet touch to breakfast, which has all the familiar components - just done better. Sausages are made to their own recipe by The Butcher's Joint in Cromer. "And on top of that," says Tim, "the beans are homemade, the mushrooms are cooked with fresh herbs and rapeseed oil, and all the potato rostis are homemade."

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens 
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

There are gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, with Simon going so far as to make his own regularly changing veggie sausages - currently cauliflower and date.

Then you've got variations on eggs Benedict, and breakfast ciabatta, smothered in toppings such as crushed avocado with chilli, paprika and wild garlic.

Lunchtimes bring soups, and sandwiches (think roast chicken with halloumi, sundried tomato and avocado, and peppered pastrami with roasted peppers, wild garlic and Norfolk cheese), as well as inventive salads (Israeli cous cous with wild garlic and peppers dressed in Crush oil, and beetroot and blood orange with feta), and daily hot, slow-cooked specials.

"Slow food is very important," says Simon. "We'll have a slow cooker constantly ticking over. Maybe with coq au vin or a bourguinon. You can have almost instant food that's been bubbling away for hours."

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens 
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

Sweet options are available as well, including afternoon teas you can virtually make your own, Simon adds: "We're making all our own scones. Norfolk Dapple. Fruit. And speciality ones - maybe like cauliflower cheese. We make our own pistachio meringues and we'll be specialising in afternoon teas. We can bespoke make those. With advance notice we can make anything our customers want.

"My ethos with most things, but also our menus, is they're aimed at making people smile. You know, even if you've had a bad night's sleep, you can come here and have a beautiful plate of food and it can change your whole day. I'd like to say people will be walking out smiling on the inside. We want to use the right fusion and combination of ingredients to do that. There's a huge amount of knowledge between us. That's what it's all about. Teamwork. Hard work. And dedication."

"And fun," points out Tim.

The Artisan Café at Alby is open from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens 
Byline: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020The Artisan Cafe opens at Alby Crafts and Gardens Byline: Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020


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