Wild Thyme Norwich re-opens almost a year after ‘horrendous’ fire damage

The new interior Picture: Wild Thyme

The new interior Picture: Wild Thyme - Credit: Archant

Brunch, cocktails and 'vegan eggs' are on the menu of plant-based restaurant devastated by smoke in 2018.

Wild Thyme restaurant pictured before the fire Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Wild Thyme restaurant pictured before the fire Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A fire devastating the business you've spent five years building from scratch isn't the ideal way to spend your birthday.

But that's exactly what happened to Pip Wilkinson last year, when a blaze at neighbouring shop Rainbow caused a startling amount of smoke damage to her plant-based restaurant Wild Thyme on April 11.

Despite 'a world of pain' with insurance companies, and having to refurbish much of the interior, now, just over 10 months on, Wild Thyme is back in business with the doors having opened today.

Talking about the fire and the impact it had on her eatery, Pip said: 'I kept my staff on site for six weeks to help out. It looked like just a clean up job but it was much worse than that!

Porcini, sage and orange risotto Picture: Wild Thyme

Porcini, sage and orange risotto Picture: Wild Thyme - Credit: Archant

'We've had to put in new furniture over the last few weeks, new soft furnishings, a new cappuccino machine and bits of kitchen equipment.

'It really was horrendous, especially as it wasn't my fault, but that's life. What has happened is I've been given the opportunity to 'relight my fire'. My head chef and I have been able to work on the menu and new bits and pieces, the staff are smashing and the food is great!'

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As of today, Wild Thyme (at Labour in Vain Yard) is now open from 9am, meaning customers get to enjoy the menus an hour earlier than before.

Breakfasts and lunches are served daily, evening meals can be booked on Friday and Saturday nights, and, new for 2019, brunch will be available on the first Sunday of each month, beginning on April 7. 'We haven't finalised the brunch menu yet,' Pip adds, 'but we've definitely got some cheeky ideas!'

Part of the appeal of the restaurant, which had a strong following before it closed, is the kitchen team's commitment to flavour. Sure, there's no meat or fish on the menus, but beyond that, it's just good, honest, properly-made, well-thought-out, food.

'We have a lot of customers who are 'vegetarian tourists',' Pip says, talking about the typical clientele. 'Or we have ladies who are veggie and they bring their husbands or boyfriends in because they love it. I had a couple of friends come to our soft launch this week who are passionate carnivores and they thought it was great.'

There are no plans to go vegan any time soon, but Pip says all bar one dish on the menu can be made vegan on request, to the point where the kitchen have even devised a Heston Blumenthal-esque vegan fried egg. Made with black salt, butternut squash and a host of other top secret ingredients, Pip swears it looks and tastes just like the real thing.

But what of the rest of the menu?

The restaurateur says they take influence from all over the world, rustling up anything and everything, from Italian and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine, to Japanese dishes.

'One of our signatures, which really appeals to people who aren't veggie is our sweet potato dauphinoise with roasted red onion gravy, wilted spinach and melted goats' cheese. It does look pretty epic.

'And we've just nailed a fabulous burger with beetroot bun, made for us by Maggie, a Scandinavian baker who's also making our vegan Danish pastries for us. For the burgers we even make our own black garlic aioli with our own fermented black garlic.'

Now that's dedication. And it's this desire to cook from-scratch which really sets the restaurant apart with Pip saying: 'We are taking a lot of care over everything – there's no point otherwise.'

The chefs make their own kimchi for a sweet potato and kimchi hash, served with their homemade tomato and sriracha coulis.

In a nod to the bog standard mushroom risotto doled out to vegetarians across the land, the team have stepped it up here with a porcini, sage and orange version, made with homemade stock and topped with griddled shimeji mushrooms, crispy sage and vegan Parmesan.

Even the desserts are carefully homemade, from saffron poached pear, coconut cream and nutty granola crumb, roasted pineapple with tamarind, chilli and toasted coconut, and raw chocolate orange cake making the cut.

Look out too for some interesting cocktails, making an appearance on the new menu.