Boom in lockdown street food and deliveries brings dining revolution to Norfolk
- Credit: Archant
Our corner of the world is peppered with stand-out local produce and celebrated places to grab a bite to eat.
But with delivery options often limited and the promise of a chippy down the road not always guaranteed, food lovers in its more rural areas may have become used to hopping in the car for a meal made outside their home.
Coronavirus has hit the hospitality industry hard, with restaurants and pubs forced to close their doors, but it has brought with it a wave of innovation.
New businesses have been launched, delivery schemes started, restaurateurs forced to adapt and street vendors, with event-packed summers cancelled, now touring our villages and towns.
And it’s been met with a warm welcome - socially distanced queues now snake from food trucks on Friday nights and village centres are abuzz as households escape lockdown to enjoy the variety.
In Taverham, a drive-through street food festival proved such a hit in May it will now be held in other locations, and some of the county’s most prestigious restaurants, including Socius in Burnham Market, are now offering deliveries.
Ella Tarrant, from Hethersett, has been able to start her own cake delivery business during lockdown, Bakes by Ella.
And the 26-year-old, mother to two-year-old daughter Lilah Walker, will this weekend sell her cakes at her first street food gathering in the village.
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“I was always baking,” she said, “and over Easter I did some treat boxes and sent them to my family. They said I should sell them so I started to, and sold six boxes in Hethersett to begin with.
“More and more people were asking though and the next thing I had 42 deliveries in one week and it just took off.”
Since then, she has started creating custom orders, including birthday and baby gender reveal cakes.
With a background in both social media and the restaurant industry, she has been able to combine her skills to see the business flourish.
“There have been times where I have been covered in flour, my two-year-old is screaming and my dog is in the other room and I have wondered ‘am I doing the right thing’, but to see people happy when they receive their boxes is lovely,” she said.
Many of her customers, who live largely in the areas surrounding Hethersett, are older, she said, and not going out as much.
She said she hoped the popularity of delivery and street food businesses continued after lockdown ended.
“People see it as a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening,” she said, “and it’s a surprise no-one thought of doing it before.”
The street food fair in Hethersett in which she will take part is one of several now being organised by community interest company ClearCompany.
Its founder and director Julie Briggs has spent the last two years looking for a site at which to base a new street food park, and hopes to make use of the former OPEN Youth Trust site on Bank Plain in Norwich city centre.
For now, she has launched street food fairs with a network of vendors, which began at Attleborough’s Connaught Hall last month and will soon start in other areas including Hethersett, Diss, Norwich and Wymondham.
“Outdoor dining and outdoor events will be really popular going forward,” she said. “It’s much easier to conform to the safety guidelines and people can have more confidence they are safe.
“Once we have got the social distancing rules established at each venue we can add more pitches.”
She their first event in Attleborough had been a sell-out, with a second equally as busy despite heavy rain.
“We sold out on the first week really quickly,” she said. “We had taken pre-orders but we could have done the same again and more.”
Despite the weather, people arrived en masse, and her team delivered to their cars, running back and forth in the downpour.
For businesses which rely on events throughout the summer, the banning of large gatherings was daunting. Several, including Spanish food business Churros and Chorizo, have taken to offering deliveries instead.
The team at Taverham-based fish and chip van Frier Tucks was faced with a string of cancellations, including Cromer Carnival and the Fakenham races.
But Cheryl Pennell, who runs the business with son Troy Pennell, said demand had seen them requested further afield.
They now visit The Fox at Lyng pub, as well as the Queen’s Hill community in Costessey.
On Tuesday afternoon, she said they had roughly 30 orders in for Friday night.