I have a history with the assembly rooms – admitted I wasn’t there when Madam Tussauds show cased her exhibition or when it was a ballet school but I was there after school pick up with my mother when she was on the singing circuit and had just been on New Faces. We were there in the que to the canteen style café – waiting to shuffle along for my usual order of beans on toast when Richard Briers from the Good Life joined the que. Being a well known singer herself my mum had a good old chat with him, I as usual shyly hid behind one of her legs.
And sometimes I would be allowed to leave her in peace while she slid me a quid note (yes we had them in those days) and sent me the back way around past the massive multi-storey car park which is now part of Chapelfield on to the old Wimpy for a milkshake. And back in time for my beans on toast to arrive.
Sometimes we would stay on for the pictures as the Noverre cinema was in-house, a small independent cinema with odd films my mum would take me to see like Carrie – a horrific thriller for a twelve-year-old, I’m surprised I was let in. Knowing my mother she probably smuggled me in – which is probably not advisable after beans !
It’s always been such a beautiful building – its original beginnings as a Georgian house started as a multiplex entertainment centre – set up for the wealthier folk of Norwich, by way of balls, exhibitions and events. It even had a bowling green out the front.
It’s since been a residential home, a girls school and a YMCA.
So fast forward a devastating fire, a chocolate store and a war office and we arrive in the year 2021 mid covid crisis. Richard Hughes took over as the director a few years ago and since has grown from strength to strength – especially in the afternoon tea stakes. Award winning and simply the best place to enjoy afternoon tea in Norwich.
Today brings us bang up to date and the day I tried their Cakeaway – drive through pick up = take away afternoon tea. Along with a Cheeseaway with a little mouse included.
They caterer for all needs like vegan, veggie, gluten free, dairy free and nut free varieties.
So along with their usual afternoon tea at £20 pp with an offering of loose leaf Wilkinson tea, you will get freshly made sandwiches including smoked salmon, 2 types of scones, cheese and fruit along with jam and clotted cream, plus some pastries to keep the gentleman involved and of course the best of fine patisseries of which we have become expectant from their Pastry chef Mark Mitson, like his signature opera cake. (todays was Rhubarb and vanilla custard, plus Lemon Meringue pie shot, Ice Cream hazelnut cookie and raspberry ripple filling, plus a rainbow hedgehog sticky toffee cupcake and a sea salt caramel chocolate eclair)
Or if you choose the Cheese-away, you’ll find the more savoury version with sarnies, a cheese board and crackers, a parmesan custard & some pastries. All for £20 pp.
You can add on delights like chocolate scones – ‘oh my’ these are good – I piled mine with butter, chocolate spread, clotted cream and cherries and they were delightful.
Add on truffles for £3 and all the cash goes to a local charity.
Richard is also offering ready meals for the Covid folk of Norwich – including confit duck with bacon and lentils and a side of peas for just under £9, Sticky toffee pudding at £4 and a beef bourgeon to mention only a few. I’ll be trying their £4 welsh rarebit mix – simply spread thickly on toast and grill to melted perfection.
The Assembly rooms like to use local East Anglian produce but only if it’s the best like Tiptree jam, Wilkinson’s Tea, Colmans mustard etc
The kitchen is usually jam packed with up to 15 chefs but it’s now down to a crew of 2 – including Richard who’s more on wash up duty these days but everyone is doing what they can to keep their name out there and the wolfs from the door –
So, in better days we will be able to lavish in their Georgian ball room which has seen paupers, sergeants and Royalty and indulge in an afternoon tea with amazing service – after all this covid. Book on to a cookery class (other cookery schools are out there ) and enjoy some live theatre or an event or two – – it’s all there waiting for us.
But meanwhile support them by buying their products and simply ‘stuffing with pleasure’.
Happy Afternoon Tea