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Seasonal eats and picnic baskets at The Dial House

PUBLISHED: 14:43 19 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:43 19 June 2018

The Dial House's picnic hamper  Picture: The Dial House

The Dial House's picnic hamper Picture: The Dial House

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Norwich's Farmyard owners put their stamp on Reepham hotel.

These are scary times for restaurant owners. Rising food and rates costs have forced even some big-brand names to slash stores from our high streets.

One couple bucking this trend is Hannah Springham and Andrew Jones, who opened Farmyard on Norwich’s Benedict’s Street last year, and have just taken on The Dial House in Reepham.

It was, says Hannah, who left a career in TV production to run the family business with her husband, purely by chance the Georgian restaurant with rooms The Dial House fell into their hands last month.

“We got a phone call from the owner who said they’d heard we have a restaurant in Norwich and live in Reepham. They told us they were selling up and we knew, somehow, we had to make it happen. We were begging, borrowing and stealing (but not really stealing) to manage to do it and we took over on May 1. It all had to happen really quickly and we are so excited!”

Much like Farmyard, the couple are committed to making their new venture unstuffy and affordable, with a strong leaning towards simplicity.

“Andrew’s food is brilliant,” says Hannah, admitting she’s biased but customers agree. “It’s really good quality with an ethos of sourcing the best ingredients he can find, as locally as he can. He’s not running off trying to get a Michelin star. It’s about what the suppliers bring in that week. Andrew’s ‘thing’ is three ingredients on a plate and not having dishes being twiddly for the sake of it.”

Local sourcing is truly at the heart of both Farmyard and now The Dial House. Meat comes from HV Graves in Briston, with the couple saying they’ve never tasted better steak. A fisherman catches crabs daily for the restaurants at 5am. And Eves Hill Veg Co in Booton near Reepham (which grows biodynamically) has been supplying their vegetables since they flung open the Farmyard doors in January 2017.

“They grow using minimal intervention,” reveals Andrew, piling praise on the growers. “There’s hardly any machinery, it’s all hand-harvested and it’s like a cooperative farm as well. People take home what they grow and there’s a small surplus. Hannah, who manages the farm, sells that on and I’m really inspired by what comes into the kitchen. It’s interesting stuff you wouldn’t see on the supermarket shelves like kohlrabi. We basically take whatever she has. She calls on a Thursday morning and it’s delivered that afternoon.”

Andrew and Hannah say they’re delighted to be bringing their style of food to Reepham, with everything made completely from scratch, and some dishes finished on the Bertha barbecue oven, which gives a smoky, charred edge to both meat and vegetables. “It’s proper cooking,” Andrew says. “We butcher our own meat, make our own bread and butter – everything’s from raw materials.”

The Dial House is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and, says Hannah, makes a cracking “proper” roast on a Sunday.

The current menu includes pearl barley risotto, made vivid green by fresh peas. And a new lamb dish has recently launched, featuring a rack, Rosary Ash goats’ cheese, broad beans, salsa verde and potato fondant rolled in onion ash.

Chips are given a luxury vibe, with truffle, Parmesan and charcoal mayonnaise.

And, as Farmyard has its signature dessert (a bit like a deconstructed Snickers bar), The Dial House has something a bit special on offer when it comes to puds – chocolate and raspberry ganache with nasturtium and raspberry sorbet.

If you pop by in the morning Hannah says you have to try the signature breakfast dish too, of smoked ham hock and potato hash with fried egg and brown sauce.

Perhaps the thing the team are most excited about, though, is the introduction of The Dial House Picnic Basket. Hannah explains: “This is a hotel with an elegant restaurant. We have eight rooms and inside they are like proper five star, all decorated in a Georgian style but with themes. So you could have a ‘night in China’ or a ‘night in Italy’. With that in mind we’re launching these picnics you can have in a hamper or our own bag for life. They start at £27 for two including sandwiches, sausage rolls, cakes and a drink, and you can upgrade to include wine. Inside we’ve created a map of our favourite Norfolk hot spots for picnics. All of us got involved, adding favourite local features, benches, churches, places to cycle to. You just need to book them by 10pm the night before.”

Being socially responsible is important to both Hannah and Andrew, who have really tried to do their bit locally. Single use plastic is already being phased out at both restaurants, with plastic straws and stirrers having been eliminated.

Dementia-friendly lunches are held quarterly (the next is on September 5) at Farmyard too, in homage to Hannah’s mum who sadly died of the disease. And all staff are trained as Dementia Friends, with plans for an evening dementia fundraiser next March at The Dial House.

Find out more and meet Andrew at the Royal Norfolk Show, where he’ll be cooking up a storm on the stage.

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