When you get asked to be a judge for the Norfolk Food and Drink awards, you don’t say no. I was so delighted to be chosen – it’s often the more out there faces that get picked. I’m like a little stelf bomber always on the outskirts working for myself just below the radar.
But with 30 years in catering, an X city college trained chef, 15 years teaching, my cookery school plus my local foodie website – why not!
Firstly, I’m a business women – I’ve never said that before, I say X chef, cookery tutor and food writer because that’s what’s in my soul. But my main income comes from my holiday homes I’ve been successfully running for 7 years, then my cookery school comes in second with 6 years going from strength to strength right here at Lodge Farm Kitchen with 61 courses under my belt last year (although I have slowed it down this year – #knackered !)
Then there’s the 6 – 8 Food and Drink Walking tours I put on every year BUT the thing that’s taken over the most which I make absolutely no money on is the blogging.
This is what I love doing filling up every spare orifice of time to follow my passions in writing, eating, helping and tweeting.
I think it’s something to do with my Dyslexic Brain – – it constantly needs feeding!
Anyhow – it wasn’t too difficult to meet up with the rather lovely fellow judge Carol Makins from the WI to venture to the four corners of Norfolk to sample the delights of the four finalists.
The Sitting Roomin Sherringham is a corner café with al fresco dining space. A continental menu feel with the most amazing breakfast toast buffet, with a massive Tiptree jam, curd and marmalade selection. Lovely local coffee and a good selection of teas in this comfy 40’s retro style café. It’s even attached to an art gallery.
Crepes and Cakes in Cromer was a delightful community run café facing a large boating lake in the heart of North Lodge park. I had the tastiest freshly made (by volunteers) Crepe. Vintage mismatching crockery add to its vintage chic charm and the staff blew us away with their enthusiasm and dedication. A welcoming place for everyone.
The Willows Café Bistroin Drayton offers a good selection of home-made or locally made cakes and bakes to eat in or takeaway with other take away classics. A massive menu from the full English to curry’s – something for everyone all day long. They even have a dedicated parent & child room upstairs with sofas and toys. It’s kind of a local’s café, a breakfast gaff and restaurant all rolled in to one – it’s even licenced.
Limn Kiln Kitchenat Thetford has the most impressive luxurious restaurant with nooks and crannies stretching from outside on their impressive balcony, overlooking the reeds & fields to the dog friendly conservatory to the comfy lounge areas. A day time menu with friendly quick service and the garden centre next door for all your retail therapy.
So, as you can see ‘four strong contenders’ and there really was only point five of a percentage in it – – it took us nearly a week to reach our decision because they all offered something different and unique and all worthy finalists.
So by a cats whisker we mutually chose The Sitting Room – for its quirky interior, varied menu, use of local ingredients, amazing service and its impressive feedback on line. Not to mention that Toast Bar – – ooooh la la.
But oh, what a night – – – – Open is an incredible venue for Norwich, so big, so impressive, so versatile and well equipped. The room looked stunning with seating for 350 people.
The table were adorned with donations of drink from Brookers / Makro with beer donated from Woodfords.
Julie Abbs catering impressed 350 caterers with a Seared Tuna starter topped with crispy noodles, a tender Venison (well mine was) with mash, spinach and a vanilla glazed carrot with parsnip crisps and a spiced chocolate and quince jus – yummy. Then a deconstructed lemon meringue with freeze dried raspberries to finish.
Service was excellent – the whole evening was impeccably organised.
We even got a goodie bag, which us ladies tucked in to with the coffee (strangers) – Fudge from Old Hall Farm, a bliss ball from The Shambles and some chocolate from Gnaw.
Then on to the awards hosted by David Whitleley (although I did tell Carol it was Richard Madeley and she believed me #dyslexia!)
- Best AfternoonTea went to The Crown Lodge Hotel in Outwell
- Best Newcomer– Shambles Café Bar & Bistro, North Walsham
- Field to Forkwinner was Swannington
- Pride of Norfolk– Flint Vineyard in Bungay
- Best Tea / Coffee Shop– – of course The Sitting Room
- Best Independent Retailer– ‘Back to the Garden ‘ in Holt
- Outstanding Front of House – Brasteds in Framlingham Pigot
- Beer Quality Award– The Norfolk Lurcher, Colton
- Family Dining Award– Rani Indian Dining and Bar, Yaxham
- Restaurant of the Year– Socius, Burnham Market
- Home Chef of the Year– Chris Payne, Norwich
- Chef of the Year– Fabio Miani, The Wilderbeast, Stoke Holy Cross
- Pub of the Year– The Brisley Bell, Dereham
- Outstanding Achievement awardwent to Nick De-Ath from De’Ath Hospitality
Oh, what a night !!! – plus some new places for me to try. Like Socius, I’d seen them on social media so when the boys from front of house were on our table they bigged it up so much, it’s made me want to go – plus they WON so even more reason.
And I’m a sucker for Afternoon Tea so all 4 finalists are on my radar and The Shambles looked so good in the promo video before the awards were announced that I’m there (well not literally but soon).
I was talking to a lovely lady who works for the Norfolk Magazine and told her that it was only since entering the world of blogging that I noticed the awards, I’d seen the odd banner – but its grown over the last few years and seems to get bigger and better and certainly more recognised.
It helps establish new links, it promotes the best and the worthy and quite frankly it lets 300 odd chefs, waiting staff, managers, food producers and bar staff let our hair down once a year – – and if you know chefs – you’ll know they did exactly that.
Thanks for the invite EDP – it’s been a pleasure and an experience.
By Zena Leech-Calton ©
Look out for a new FREE promo I’m launching in 2020 via Instagram – Love_norwich_food – it’s gonna be a cracker for Norfolk food businesses and customers alike ?!?!?!?!?!?!