Parliament impressed by Norfolk food and drink offering

As a tourism minister supped on Norfolk beer and the community secretary marvelled at some sweet treats crafted near Fakenham, visitors to the House of Commons' Jubilee Room this week declared the county's food and drink 'the talk of parliament'.

A month ago the county's food and drink was the talk of Norfolk as a month-long festival delighted locals and visitors alike.

But on Thursday, those efforts to promote the delicious produce grown on our farms, created in our factories and lovingly moulded by our artisan producers reached a new level.

As a tourism minister supped on Norfolk beer and the community secretary marvelled at some sweet treats crafted near Fakenham, visitors to the House of Commons' Jubilee Room declared the county's food and drink 'the talk of parliament'.

The Norfolk Food Festival Visits Parliament event, held in London yesterday, saw hundreds of MPs, peers and parliament workers won over by our first class food and drink offerings during a day which aimed to get the country's decision makers talking about the county.

Organised by South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss and co-ordinated by Anglia Farmers, it brought together 14 of the area's top producers, who offered endless samples of their wares from pork pies and bread to chocolate and whisky.

The event was attended by high profile politicians including communities secretary Eric Pickles, brought along by mid Norfolk MP George Freeman and tourism minister John Penrose.

Most Read

Many Norfolk politicians, including Henry Bellingham, Richard Bacon, and Norman Lamb also showed their support along with members of the House of Lords, including Baroness Shephard.

One notable absence, however, was prime minister David Cameron who was unable to attend due to 'diary commitments'.

But in a letter sent to organiser Ms Truss, in which he described Norfolk as 'one of England's premier farming counties', he signalled his support for the event.

He added: 'A thriving food industry in Norfolk not only enhances the local economy but helps raise wider interest in the county's distinctive, locally produced products.'

At one point during the day there was barely room to move in the packed-out exhibition room which was awash with MPs and their aides.

Producers overheard visitors describing the event as 'the talk of parliament' as more and more people headed through Westminster Hall to take advantage of the tasters. Among those keen to see what Norfolk had to offer was Mr Pickles, who said: 'People go mad over Italian cheeses and French cuts of meat, but here we have, right on our own doorstep, a little gem nobody really knows about. It's time Norfolk food shouted out.'

The event proved more successful than both the organisers and producers had dared hope.

Sarah Pettegree, of Bray's Cottage Pork Pies, said it had given the producers a chance to promote themselves to some of the country's most influential people.

She said: 'There are so many reasons to come to Norfolk – particularly the food and drink. We've got such great raw materials and the wonderful landscape to make the food and really innovative producers creating really good quality stuff.

'Being able to tell people from all over the country – people who are opinion formers – is a fantastic opportunity.'

South West Norfolk MP Ms Truss said MPs from all over the country had been impressed and many were determined to follow Norfolk's lead and organise similar events.

Richard Woolliams, chairman of the EDP Bidwells Norfolk Food Festival, thanked the MP and Anglia Farmers' chief executive Clarke Willis for organising the exhibition which he said 'summed up what the festival was all about'.

victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk