Norwich: No 33 Cafe Bar
EMMA LEE Tucked away a little from the hustle and bustle of the city centre it hadn't long opened when our reviewer first visited, but it seemed to have won quite a few fans already.
When it comes to finding somewhere for a spot of lunch in Norwich, it's sometimes more of a challenge than it at first seems. Norwich has lots of fantastic places to eat out, and is spoiled for pubs and takeway places. But if you're looking for somewhere that serves up light and simple fare like soup, sandwiches and jacket potatoes - and actually has some seats free at lunchtime - the choices are more limited.
Spotting a gap in the market, a couple of new places have recently sprung up in the city. Slurp, in St John Maddermarket, does a fab range of healthy smoothies and sells scrumptious watermelon by the slice.
And another relative newcomer is the smart café No 33 in Exchange Street. Tucked away a little from the hustle and bustle of the city centre it hadn't long opened when I first visited, but it seemed to have won quite a few fans already.
There were plenty of diners in the stylish sit-down eating area, giving it a buzzy atmosphere, and it was seemingly popular with office workers as take-out trade was also brisk.
The interior of the former clothes shop has been modernised, with some nice original touches - the steel beams in the ceiling have been exposed and turned into a feature, making it feel open and airy and the background music was tasteful and unintrusive. As you walk in, there's a counter with some tempting-looking cakes on display. The seating is a mixture of chairs and comfy red leather benches. The décor is minimal in classy neutral tones without being clinical like some places can be - and trendy without being too cool.
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The friendly staff give it a welcoming and laid-back feel, and there were a mixture of age groups dining.
The test of a good lunch spot is whether you can comfortably fit in a visit within an hour's break from work. And I'm pleased to say that No 33 passed with flying colours - but I could have quite happily spent longer there and taken time to sample the cakes.
Although it's at-table service, you pick where you want to sit. My friend and I hadn't been there long when we were presented with laminated menu cards.
I noticed there's a full breakfast menu featuring some tasty ways to bring a bit of sunshine into your morning (and a good excuse for a return visit), including meaty paninis (as the good old toasty is called nowadays), smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, croissants and yoghurt and muesli. And it was good to see that the menu boasted that some of the ingredients and produce were locally sourced.
At lunchtime there's an array of bagels and paninis to choose from, including pastrami, cream cheese and gherkin, chilli chicken, tuna melt, goat's cheese and red pepper and ham and cheese.
And as I discovered on a later visit, the kitchen is happy to swap fillings round if the one you fancy is on a bagel and you'd prefer a panini.
There's a few different salads for around the £5 mark, and a yummy-sounding bruschetta and a soup of the day on offer. And there's also a daily specials board.
But you don't have to have a full meal. It's the kind of place where you can just pop by for a medicinal coffee or a cake (or, heck, why not both?) during a shopping trip - the drinks menu boasts a variety of coffees, teas and fruit juices.
After quite a bit of deliberation, I went for a tuna melt panini - an old favourite - from the main menu, with an elderflower presse to drink. My friend plumped for an Italian ham and butternut squash salad from the specials board with a fruit juice.
Our food arrived promptly, which was good as I was clockwatching. My panini was done to perfection and came with some plain crisps on the side, which I thought was a nice touch.
And my friend pronounced the salad delicious. It came served in a white bowl and was generous in size, with big chunks of butternut squash, plenty of ham and a nice mixture of different types of lettuce leaves.
The price was reasonable too. The bill for the both of us, including drinks, came to just over £13.
And if they could add jacket potatoes to the menu, it would be just perfect.
t No 33 Café Bar, 33 Exchange Street, Norwich; 01603 626097
t Where is it? It's in a former clothes shop a few doors away from Café Rouge near the St Andrew's Street end of the road.
t Where do I park? St Andrew's car park is just across the way, and St Giles and the Forum car parks are within easy walking distance.
t Anything for veggies? Absolutely. There's a range of meat-free sandwich fillings.
t Anything else? No 33 can be booked for private parties.