It’s not all doom and gloom - eight reasons to shout about food in Norfolk
- Credit: Archant
It’s not been an easy few months for those working in the food industry. But the challenges have been met with resilience and innovation. Here, we’ve picked eight reasons to celebrate the work of everyone in the world of Norfolk food and drink during lockdown.
• Delivery, delivery and more delivery...
Switching your business from perfectly-presented plates to delivery is no mean feat.
Owners had to figure out the practicalities - ensuring food arrives hot and in good condition, to start with - in just a few days.
But they were hurdles most overcame, with hundreds of cafés, restaurants and producers finding their feet, and many hoping to continue deliveries.
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At Portugese restaurant Jorge’s, in Norwich, owner Jorge Santos said the popularity of deliveries of their bifana sandwich - a Portugese pork speciality - had inspired a desire to open a new space to solely serve it.
• ...Including fine dining takeaways
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Even the county’s most renowned chefs weren’t exempt from the need to adapt to takeaways.
Seven restaurants in the Michelin Guide offered takeaways in Norfolk during lockdown, including Socius in Burnham Market and Benedicts in Norwich city centre.
The innovation meant diners were able to enjoy some of the county’s most high-end culinary delights from the comfort of their own home.
They included Roger Hickman’s Restaurant, in Upper St Giles Street, which launched a five-course collection menu for Father’s Day.
Mr Hickman, who said the intimate nature of his restaurant meant it was unlikely to reopen before autumn, said he was hoping to create two more collection menus each month across the summer, after the Father’s Day one sold out within hours.
“It takes some time to come up with a menu which maintains our high standards, but which people can assemble and serve at home,” he said. “I’m trying to keep dishes as close to what we would serve in the restaurant, but providing all the elements for people to bring together in their own kitchens is different, and I want them to have as close as possible an experience to what they would get if they came in to eat.”
• Popular coffee shop opens new branch
At the start of July, independent coffee company Kofra gave us something to celebrate when it opened a new branch on Bell Road in NR3.
The latest joined other branches in Onley Street and Upper St Giles Street.
While it will largely cater for takeaways, there is outdoor seating for customers to enjoy.
Managing director José Guzmán said the success of takeaways from their Onley Street branch had given them confidence in the decision.
He said: “We have had so much love during lockdown and people have been so grateful for our coffee and happy to have a little bit of normality.”
• New homes for city centre businesses
Behind the closed doors, some restaurateurs were busy turning empty units into new homes.
Sicily Market, a Sicilian eatery which usually calls Norwich Market home, opened up a permanent spot on Bridewell Alley in time to serve customers from Saturday, July 4.
Owner Rocco Consiglio said their first weekend open had gone well, and that it had been “very busy”.
“It was nice to see people happy and finally able to eat in a restaurant, to relax and have fun. I hope it can always be this way,” he said.
They were not alone - Christophes Crepes, which has served up the sweet treat from its van home in Davey Place for eight years, is also opening in the former home of Tofurei in Pottergate.
Chris Smith, who runs the business with wife Lauren, said it was a case of “now or never”.
• The rise of street food
Norfolk has long had a booming street food scene.
But as weddings and events were cancelled, many food trucks - including Churros and Chorizo and Frier Tucks, among many others - instead turned their focus to travelling around their local communities.
A drive-through street food festival in Taverham proved such a hit it has now been launched in other locations, while community interest company ClearCompany has seen a network of street food vendors tour round towns including Attleborough, Diss,Wymondham and Hethersett.
Its founder and director Julie Briggs said they had seen sell-out events and planned to expand the events as time went on, with street food trucks offering an easy way for diners to socially distance.
• Picnics and popcorn to your door as new businesses open
There has, of course, been immense upheaval for businesses, with income plummeting and workers being made redundant.
But there has been positivity and innovation, with a string of new Norfolk businesses setting out.
They include cake delivery business Bakes by Ella, which was set up by Ella Tarrant from Hethersett, Uber-Corn, a flavoured popcorn delivery service, and luxury picnic delivery service PicNicks and More.
Richard Elms, who started Uber-Corn from his home in Horsford, said they initially planned to launch at a farmer’s market in April, but had to change plans when lockdown was introduced.
Hard work over the last few months, though, means their sales have steadily increased, they are in talks over stocking their products locally and have even had their first appearance at a farmer’s market.
“From the people we’ve met you can tell that we have seen the best of people during this,” he said.
• Demand for local produce
As supermarket shelves emptied, consumers returned to the local producers on their doorstep.
Butchers, bakers, vegetable box services and fishmongers found themselves struggling to keep up with demand
Lee Martin, owner of Norfolk in a Box, saw his orders increase from 12 to 14 boxes a day, to more than a thousand in one week.
He said they’d hired two extra vans to keep up with soaring demand.
• Generosity of spirit
As if they didn’t have enough to contend with, plenty of businesses made time to support their local communities - too many to mention here.
They included the Downham Tandoori Indian restaurant, which prepared more than 1,750 meals fro the NHS, and more than 50 for people in and around Downham Market.
And in the two months from the end of March to May, staff at Namaste Village Indian Restaurant on Queens Road, in Norwich, dished up almost 700 meals for frontline workers.
At Gonzo’s Tea Room, in Norwich city centre, staff hosted a quiz night to fund a party for NHS workers with free drinks once lockdown lifts.