Celebrate North Norfolk’s finest local food

Mussel fishing at Morston.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY


At the northern-most tip of our county, surf and turf combine to produce one of the most abundant larders in Britain.

Exceptional seafood abounds and the fertile land provides incredible fruit and vegetables in addition to pasture land filled with cows and sheep raised for milk to produce artisan cheese or for their superior meat.

North Norfolk is renowned for its food offer, from the Michelin-starred kitchens of Morston Hall to a vast selection of superior gastropubs, roadside stalls selling bunches of samphire harvested from the breathtaking saltmarshes to small-scale producers of world-famous pies, cheese and preserves.

There's Burnham Market which boasts The Hoste, Grooms Bakery, Gurneys Fish Shop and Arthur Howell's butchery, Cley with its Cley Smokehouse and Picnic Fayre delicatessen and North Norfolk also boasts a huge range of high-end pubs such as The Victoria at Holkham, The White Horse Hotel at Blakeney, The Hunny Bell at Hunworth, The Wiveton Bell, The Pigs at Edgefield and The Crown Hotel at Wells.

The Neptune at Hunstanton and Morston Hall both hold Michelin stars, offering upscale dining with largely-local menus which showcase the very best produce available on their doorsteps.

It's no wonder, then, that the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, which kickstarts a month-long celebration of the county's storecupboard as part of the EDP Norfolk Adnams Food and Drink Festival, is such a popular inclusion on Norfolk's food calendar.

Chris Coubrough, pictured right, food festival patron, owner of The Ship Hotel in Brancaster, The Earlham Arms in Norwich, The White Hart Hotel in Hingham and The Crown Hotel in Wells and Norfolk's 'Flying Kiwi', is chairman of the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival and a passionate supporter of all things local.

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'I'm a chef and chefs want to use the very best ingredients possible for the food they cook – although I love Norfolk, if the local food wasn't great, I wouldn't use it. But it is, and I do,' he said.

'We use local crabs, lobsters, oysters, cockles and mussels, beef from LG Harrison and Son in Stiffkey, pork from South Creake, meat from Arthur Howell, asparagus from East Rudham, cheese from Mrs Temple and the list goes on.

'I don't want people to think that we use local food simply because it's local. That's a bonus. We use it because it's the very best you can get. There's a reason why Norfolk's food industry is booming and it's because it's superior.'

The 2013 North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, taking place over the main festival's first weekend – August 31 to September 1 – is now in its fourth year. Last year, more than 10,000 visitors crowded to Holkham Hall, lent to organisers by kind permission of Viscount and Viscountess Coke, and this year they hope to welcome more.

'We're bringing the best of the region to the best location in Norfolk. I love the place. I look around and imagine Lords having swordfights and get quite excited at how old all the trees are. In New Zealand, our oldest tree is about 25 years old and about to be cut down to be a wardrobe,' laughed Chris.

'It's about giving brilliant people a platform, particularly the smaller producers that have to work really hard to make a name for themselves. It's hard when you start out, I remember that, and we want to help.'

There will be around 60 stallholders at the free event, selling a huge range of produce including real ales, fresh meat and poultry, fish, vegetables, local honey, cakes, fruit, ice cream, cheese, fresh juices and even a new, locally-grown and distilled saffron liqueur.

A food court area will be serving delicious lunches to eat on site such as a hog roast by Arthur Howell and sausages by the award-winning Fruit Pig Company. Fans of real ale can wash down their meal with a pint from Jo C's brewery.

For younger food fans, there will be the chance to visit the BeWILDerwood Yurt where there will be storytelling and the chance to watch Boggle chefs create their own foodie concoctions and the little people can also visit Holkham's new children's adventure play area in the woods.

All weekend, Mary Kemp's Cookery Theatre will be hosting demonstrations from some of the biggest names from Norfolk's culinary scene: in the famous octagonal tent visitors will be able to watch chefs such as Richard Bainbridge from Morston Hall, Nik Hare from Holkham's Victoria and Chris Coubrough cooking up a storm in the temporary kitchen.

In the Theatre you can also watch cocktail making, a Cromer crab master class, Indian cookery lessons and an East Anglian wine tasting session.

'I know I'm biased, but it's a really great event. In my trade, if we do a dinner service for 100 people who enjoy their food we go home feeling the buzz so to help with an event that 10,000 people enjoy is like turning the volume on that feeling right up,' said Chris.

'It's a chance for people to see the best food in Norfolk in one place. And it definitely isn't going to rain - I'm prepared to personally guarantee that.'

For the third year running, the lead sponsor for the event is Kettle Foods. The company is offering a prize worth £1,000 to one of the attending stallholders designed to offer business mentoring support.

'As a major employer in Norfolk and a supporter of local produce and the agricultural community, we are proud to be sponsoring the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival again,' said Dominic Lowe, Kettle Foods' managing director.

'We are passionate about helping to support out local food and drink suppliers.'

The North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival opens at 10am and closes at 5pm each day. Entry to the festival is free, but a car park charge applies (redeemable on purchases of £10 or more in Holkham Hall's gift shop). For more information, visit www.northnorfolkfoodfestival.co.uk