The Gunton Arms – A Review

A traditional pub with rooms located in a stunning deer park in the glorious North Norfolk countryside

Formerly a country house hotel and shooting lodge where King Edward VII (when Prince of Wales) enjoyed liaisons with his mistress Lillie Langtry in the late 1800s, the Gunton Arms was converted into a pub with 12 bedrooms and opened its doors in October 2011. The Gunton Arms is owned by the London art dealer Ivor Braka in partnership with Stuart and Simone Tattersall, who both used to work for the celebrated chef Mark Hix. Art lovers will appreciate the extensive display of original works by artists including Tracey Emin, Damien Hurst and Lucien Freud.

Head chef Stuart sources local ingredients and seasonal produce, enthusiastically cooking venison (from the deer park), beef and pork over a large open fire in the Elk Room (look out for the huge antlers over the fireplace). These hearty slabs of meat are served with goose fat roast potatoes, Bramley apple, Béarnaise sauce or rowanberry jelly.

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As well as bar snacks and sandwiches, the dishes on the main menu include ingredients such as Weybourne crab, Blythburgh pork, Gunton venison sausages and local Binham Blue cheese. Desserts are reassuringly indulgent: rice pudding with crab-apple jelly, Victoria plum and almond tart or “a shot” of sloe gin jelly. A private dining room is available for parties of up to 12 people and affords a quieter and more private environment for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations.

 

The Gunton Arms, Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norfolk, NR11 8TZ

Telephone: 01263 832 010

Website: theguntonarms.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/theguntonarms

Twitter: @TheGuntonArms_

 

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Camellia Cottage – a delightful vintage tea room in Sheringham

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat that offers vintage style and charm and a relaxing environment, you’ll find it at Camellia Cottage which is located in the heart of Sheringham, a busy seaside town on the North Norfolk coast. The interior of the tearoom is painted in delicate pastel hues and complemented with vases of beautiful fresh flowers. The interior is quite small although there are more tables upstairs and the courtyard at the front of the premises plus the garden at the back allow for more seating when the weather permits.

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Customers can enjoy breakfast or brunch until 12 noon and light lunches, afternoon or cream tea between noon and 4pm. Food choices include: several cooked breakfast options including American style pancakes; homemade soup with crusty bread; sandwiches or toasted ciabatta served with salad and coleslaw; and a generous selection of homemade cakes and bakes. 24 hours’ notice is required for afternoon tea which I have to say is exceptionally good. Gluten free alternatives to some dishes are available. The tearoom offers a good selection of drinks too: over 15 different varieties of Teapigs tea; their own blend of freshly ground coffee; hot chocolate; milkshakes; iced tea and coffee and various cold drinks. The food and drink is served on delightful vintage china so even if you’ve just popped in for tea and cake, you feel like it’s a special occasion.

With staff who are always cheerful and friendly and such excellent food on offer, you’ll want to return to Camellia Cottage – probably more than once!

 

Address: 1 Station Road, Sheringham, Norfolk, NR26 8RE

Telephone: 01263 824 984

Website: www.camelliacottagesheringham.com

 

 

 

Wagamama Norwich – A Review

Wagamama first opened its doors in Bloomsbury, London, in 1992 and in the 25 years since then has grown into a chain of over 120 restaurants in the UK with more than 20 overseas.

Wagamama in Norwich has recently undergone a “shiny new” refurbishment and I was lucky enough to be invited along last week with other food bloggers and writers for the official re-opening. I was accompanied by my friend Cathy – an avid foodie like me – and between us we tasted (and tested) a variety of dishes. We met one of Wagamama’s top executive chefs who talked about Wagamama’s food and history. I was particularly interested to see the new vegan menu which offers some delicious meat and dairy free dishes.

Before the refurbishment, the restaurant had a slightly clinical feel: bright white walls, a lime green feature wall and plenty of stainless steel. The new décor is a complete contrast: while there is still a white and green theme (but no lime!), it’s been softened by the addition of exposed brickwork on pillars, wood panelling and a marble bar counter. Copper coloured pendant light fittings cast a warm glow throughout the restaurant and the large wall mirrors – with a hint of copper on the glass add a sense of space. The bench seating has remained and adds a sociable feel to the dining experience. In my opinion, the new colour scheme and feature lighting are very stylish and make the Wagamama experience more relaxing and intimate.

The waiting staff whetted our appetites with a selection of side dishes, which were placed in the centre of the long table so that we could all dig in. The pork ribs in a Korean barbecue sauce were very popular as was the chilli squid.

We tried two prawn sides: ebi katsu (crispy fried prawns in panko breadcrumbs served with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce) and lollipop prawn kushiyaki (prawn skewers marinated in lemongrass, lime and chilli). For me, the star of the side dishes was beef tataki: lightly seared marinated steak, thinly sliced and served chilled, dressed with citrus ponzu and Japanese mayonnaise.

We chose our own main dishes and each of us ordered something different. I chose the chicken and prawn pad thai (rice noodles in an amai sauce with egg, beansprouts, leeks, chilli and red onion, garnished with fried shallots, peanuts, mint, coriander and fresh lime) while Cathy plumped for the chilli ramen with chicken (a spicy chicken broth topped with red and spring onions, beansprouts, chilli, coriander and fresh lime). I noticed that there was an awful lot of red chilli in Cathy’s bowl but she coped with it admirably!

Someone else on our table had selected the Wagamama ramen which was a substantial bowl of food containing chicken, seasoned pork, prawns and mussels in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso. Another diner had the steak bulgogi which consisted of marinated sirloin steak and miso-fried aubergine served on soba noodles, dressed in a sesame and bulgogi sauce and finished with spring onions, kimchee and half a tea-stained egg.

The portions of food were very generous and well presented. The chefs had clearly taken time to ensure that the dishes had visual appeal as well as great flavour.

Some desserts then miraculously appeared on our table including a white chocolate and ginger cheesecake that was drizzled with a chilli toffee and ginger sauce, yuzu and lemon tart and a wonderfully moreish cake comprising layers of chocolate sponge, dark chocolate parfait and hazelnut cream with a sleek chocolate mirror glaze. By this time I think we were all quite full but for the purposes of research we valiantly clutched our forks and sampled each of the puds. Well, it would have been rude not to!

I should mention at this point that we could have chosen dishes from the vegetarian and vegan menu. Meat-free at Wagamama doesn’t mean taste-free: side dishes included bang bang cauliflower; mixed aubergine and panko aubergine hirata steamed bun and yasai gyoza with a dipping sauce. For lovers of katsu curry, the vegetarian version consisted of sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, covered in an aromatic curry sauce and served with white rice and a side salad. Vegan main courses included yasai pad thai, kare burosu ramen and yasai samla curry. The vegan dessert options were limited to two different flavoured fruit sorbets but I would hope that the Wagamama chefs will soon add more puds to the menu.

The drinks selection was varied with a choice of teas, coffee, wines (bottles or by the glass), beer, soft drinks and fresh juices – there was definitely something available to suit everyone.

I left Wagamama in Norwich feeling pleasantly full and I will return as soon as I can to try some other things on the menu. It will take several visits to try everything but I don’t think that’ll be an onerous task! The waiting staff were courteous and attentive and we appreciated the Executive Chef taking time to talk to us about the food, the flavours and the Wagamama ethos.

 

 

I was invited to Wagamama for a complementary meal in order to review the restaurant following its recent refurbishment. The above reflects my honest opinion of my November 2017 visit. The photographs of the food items are taken from Wagamama’s website.

 

 

The Sitting Room – Retro Charm in Sheringham, Norfolk

Situated just off Sheringham High Street, The Sitting Room is a café serving coffee, tea, breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas to local residents and tourists alike. The cafe shares its premises with the Westcliffe Art Gallery and browsing is actively encouraged.

Breakfast at The Sitting Room is a delightfully robust continental breakfast comprising a choice of pastries or toast with an impressive selection of marmalades, curds and jams, fresh fruit, continental cured meats and cheese. Each table has its own toaster so you can toast your bread exactly how you like it.

For people who prefer a light lunch, there is a choice of original house salads which may include the “Super Salad” with avocado and pomegranate or the “Italian”, with Parma ham, rocket and olives or you can create your own from an impressive array of ingredients. Those who like a heartier lunch can choose items including locally made quiches, savoury muffins, soups, hot sausage rolls, sandwiches and rolls.

The afternoon tea served on delicate mismatched vintage china is done exceptionally well: delicious cakes – including gluten-free choices – and patisserie such as millefeuilles, raspberry and white chocolate tart or macarons. You have to pre-book afternoon tea but this allows you to request a personalised experience according to taste.

There are various drinks to choose from including coffee, teas from the Nelson & Norfolk Tea Company, hot chocolate made with real – not powdered – milk, dark or plain chocolate.

On Friday evenings, The Sitting Room is open until 9pm where alongside the standard menu, customers can enjoy cheese or Mediterranean cured meat boards, dips, olives and artisan bread washed down with a glass or two of wine.

The owners Paul and Kristian and their staff are attentive without being intrusive, the food is of a high standard and the little touches and ambience at The Sitting Room will make you want to return very soon.

 

 

Address:       4 Augusta Street, Sheringham, Norfolk, NR26 8LA

Telephone:   01263 821 344

Facebook:     http://www.facebook.com/thesittingroomsheringham

 

Norfolk’s “Liquid Gold” – A Review Of Crush Foods’ Rapeseed Oil

Continuing my series of articles on independent Norfolk food producers, I headed for a pot of liquid gold that’s found in a quiet corner of North Norfolk.

As a keen cook I was delighted to find a culinary oil that offers a healthier option than many on the market as well as a range of innovative associated products, look no further than North Norfolk based Crush Foods.

Operating since 2010, the company uses only Norfolk grown oil seed rape in its products as it firmly believes in the importance of supporting local growers. Crush Foods’ rapeseed oil is unrefined due to being cold-pressed mechanically on-site. It’s then triple-filtered which makes it extra light and a crystal clear golden yellow colour. All Crush products are produced in Salle, Norfolk by a small, dedicated team of people who ensure that high standards are always met. Rapeseed oil contains half the saturated fat of extra virgin olive oil and is high in Omegas 3, 6 and 9 which are essential for healthy bones and joints, brain function, heart health and balanced cholesterol.

As well as the original cold-pressed rapeseed oil, Crush now offers a range of infused oils including smoked chipotle chilli, garlic and “feisty” chilli as well as an incredibly flavoursome lemongrass, garlic, ginger & chilli stir fry oil. Dressings and sauces were added to the product list and currently include a tangy honey and mustard sauce, a zingy lemon dressing and a honey and balsamic dipping oil. Crush has also developed an exceptional selection of granola cereals: who wouldn’t be tempted by a breakfast consisting of honey, apple and cranberry or chocolate and hazelnut granola, to mention just two flavours? From March 2017 the entire granola range became gluten-free to make it accessible to a wider customer base. Earlier, in February 2017, Crush unveiled its egg-free (and vegan friendly) mayonnaise and there are currently two flavours available: garlic and chipotle.

Crush Foods retails in many farm shops, delis and other independent retailers across East Anglia and selected sellers in London and Kent. You can also order the products online via the website: http://www.crush-foods.com

 

The Foraging Fox Beetroot Ketchup – A Review

As I’ve recently lost a lot of weight and have adopted a much healthier way of eating, I started to reminisce about what I ate as a child. I am of an age where I can remember when “Findus Crispy Pancakes” were the latest in convenience food, not to mention Vesta Chow Mein, fish fingers and Fray Bentos pies that came in a tin!

I do recall that the one constant thing in my 1970s diet was tomato ketchup. I had it with everything and my mother reminds me (too often!) that I once embarrassed her in a restaurant when I was about 8 or 9 years old by asking the waiter for some. But then, was that so bad when you consider that my parents were probably drinking a bottle of “Blue Nun” at the time?

Anyway, since those stodgy days of my youth my tastes – thank goodness – have changed for the better. When you’re on a diet, you have to do away with rich, creamy or buttery sauces so instead I like to use a variety of condiments and sauces to accompany meals but they mustn’t be too boring and they have to taste exceptional. These days, I find that tomato ketchup can taste a little sickly and over sweet, even the ones that have a reduced sugar content. It was therefore rather timely that the producers of “The Foraging Fox” range of beetroot ketchups asked me to try their brand and write a review.

As a company, “The Foraging Fox” was launched at the Speciality and Fine Foods Fair in 2014 and the range currently consists of three flavours of beetroot ketchup: Original; Hot and Smoked. On the bottles, it confidently states, “good with everything” and so I was keen to put that claim to the test.

Before I try anything, I like to check the ingredients as I’ve become more conscious of too much sugar or salt in food products. Reassuringly, all three beetroot ketchups are 100% natural and there are no artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings. The ketchups are sweetened with apple juice and the gloriously vibrant pinky purple colour comes, of course, from the beetroot itself.

I kicked off with the “original” beetroot ketchup so I knew what I was dealing with. I tasted it on a teaspoon first so I could really get a feel for the texture and taste. I was expecting the ketchup to be quite grainy, as beetroot has such an earthy flavour but in fact it was pretty smooth and flowed well out of the bottle. (I didn’t have to whack it on the base to get any out!)

I put a large dollop of the “Original” beetroot ketchup in a ramekin to accompany my light lunch of cheese on toast. These days I eat reduced fat cheese which can sometimes be a little bland but the ketchup gave it a real boot up the backside. My taste buds joyously welcomed a flavoursome combination of beetroot and apple plus a subtle hint of acidity from the red grape vinegar. The ketchup is not excessively sweet and paired well with the salty tang of the cheddar. You don’t see many people of my age dipping toasted cheese fingers in a little pot of bright pink sauce but I highly recommend it.

Next I tried the “hot” beetroot ketchup. This combines chilli-infused beetroot with horseradish and my initial teaspoon taster was a little deceptive. At first I thought there was a little hint of horseradish, not too peppery, and so I put some on my plate when we had steak for dinner. Well, after a couple of mouthfuls, I could definitely feel some heat and the horseradish flavour became more pronounced. However, it wasn’t too strong and really complemented the steak.

I find horseradish sauce on its own can be rather overpowering although I love the flavour so the “hot” beetroot ketchup is an excellent choice if you can’t take too much heat in your horseradish! My husband has Polish heritage and he has a “thing” about beetroot – he absolutely loves it. He’s not usually a sauce man (ooh Matron!) but he tried this and gave it a two thumbs up verdict.

Finally, I opened the “smoked” beetroot ketchup. Back in the day when my deprived taste buds existed largely on the wrong sort of food, I never thought I’d like smoked sauces. The idea seemed odd to me – why would you want to add a smokey taste to something that was perfectly good already? But….. once I’d discovered smoked paprika I was hooked and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do after all.

In my opinion, the “smoked” beetroot ketchup has the balance of flavours spot on. It’s a subtle taste due to the beetroot being smoked rather than a liquid smoke being added to the product. This smoked beetroot ketchup would go well with barbecued food in the summer but as I was testing this on a dull day in March, I made chicken and vegetable skewers and stuck them under my grill. I thought I’d be a bit creative and as well as some ketchup in a little ramekin, I also made a dip by adding some of the ketchup to some Greek yoghurt and mixing it together with a sprinkle of dill. Oh yum! This was really delicious and again received my husband’s approval

I’d highly recommend all three of the beetroot ketchups made by “The Foraging Fox”. They go well with a variety of foods e.g. meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables and can be used with other ingredients to make dips and dressings. I have to say, I do like a food product that can be used in different ways – you feel you’re getting more bang for your buck!

All of the beetroot ketchups are gluten free and suitable for vegans and vegetarians (they have been approved by the Vegetarian Society).

Here are the nutritional panels so you can see that there are no nastiest in these ketchup:

 

 

 

Finally, I always like to highlight how any foodie products I review can be incorporated into the Slimming World eating plan, so here are the amounts of – reassuringly low – Syns in each flavour:

Original            – 1 level tablespoon                 1 Syn

Smoked           – 1 level tablespoon                 1 Syn

Hot                  – 1 level tablespoon                 ½ Syn

 

For more information or to order on line, go to www.foragingfox.com

Twitter: @theforagingfox

 

Disclaimer: the above represents my honest opinion of the beetroot ketchups made by “The Foraging Fox”, who kindly sent me samples to try. From time to time I am sent products to review and the fact they are free does not influence my reviews in any way. My reviews are always fair, unbiased and genuine and I have not been paid to write them.

 

A Brief History Of The Perfect Pork Pie

If you live in Norfolk, when anyone mentions pork pies you know they’re likely to be talking about those made by Bray’s Cottage. In 2017, Bray’s celebrates 10 years of trading and so it was an ideal time for me to meet the founder and owner Sarah Pettegree and chat to her about the porky deliciousness of her pies and sausage rolls and also find out a little more about the woman behind the brand.

After a degree at the University of East Anglia, Sarah found employment as a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, working as a humble clerical assistant because “I needed a job”. The job didn’t pay particularly well and there were no career prospects but luckily Sarah later passed a Civil Service promotion board and was offered a role at HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) which surprised her seeing as she wasn’t very good at maths: a management accounting job! There was no other offer on the horizon and so Sarah bit the bullet, learned to do the job well and eventually became a qualified Chartered Accountant.

When HMSO was privatised in 1996, Sarah was made redundant and worked in various contract positions for organisations such as Norwich Union and CITB. Thanks to experience gained in her previous job, she was able to train managers on various in-house business management systems. While this meant she was moving away from accountancy, it was also giving her an opportunity to learn how people ran their businesses. At the same time, the television programme “Dragons’ Den” was in its early days and Sarah was interested to watch the start-up process surrounding new business and whether they succeeded or failed.

Sarah had always felt the pull of the countryside and once she realised she no longer wanted to work in Norwich or London, she moved to the Norfolk countryside in 2001 and took time to think about what sort of business would be sustainable. One of her early ideas was to do something using her arty skills – Sarah had studied painting and sculpture at the Open College of Arts – but realised although it would be enjoyable, she would be unlikely to earn a living from it.

Then she thought of something food-related. A friend had a couple of saddleback pigs and the idea of making pork pies was born. Sarah felt that the traditional pork pies that were generally available in supermarkets or even butchers’ shops were all quite “samey”, with no unusual or interesting flavour combinations available.

Sarah’s pies took off and her initial sales – via a website with a mail order facility -resulted in an article being written by the Food Editor of The Sunday Times. Sarah’s first big customer was “The Green Grocer” in Norwich and in 2006, they told Sarah that her pies were their best-selling product (after potatoes). They are still a valued customer today.

 

Here’s Sarah at one of the many Norfolk foodie events she attends – doing what she does best!

 

These days, you can buy Bray’s Cottage “Pies by Post” via the website otherwise you’ll find them only at independent retailers and pubs. During any given week, Brays could be making between 1,000 and 3,000 pork pies and there are seasonal spikes at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You can even buy a pork pie “wedding cake”. A small range of sausage rolls was added to the Brays repertoire when one of Sarah’s retailers mentioned that the ones available elsewhere weren’t particularly good. There are now two sizes of Brays sausage rolls and two flavours: plain and with onion marmalade. Interestingly, the onion marmalade pork pie is Sarah’s best seller. Having tasted it, I can see why!

 

 

Apart from Sarah and her partner Derek (who gave up his music career a few years ago to help with the business), there are 8 members of staff at Brays who are the “bakers and makers” of the pies and sausage rolls. Derek mostly deals with administration, book-keeping and the local deliveries although Sarah pointed out that he can also bake! Sarah now focuses on growing the business, marketing, PR and maintaining a lively presence on social media.

I asked her if there had been any low points in her pork pie career and she said the early days of setting up a small business are very challenging. You have to work really hard and it takes over your life. Now, 10 years on, Sarah said it’s more manageable now there are people to whom she can delegate and she has time to appreciate the rewards: working in a great environment, supplying a product that people love and also having fun along the way.

I asked what the future holds for the Bray’s Cottage brand and Sarah said “more of the same”. She wants to grow the mail order side of the business and link up with more Norfolk and UK wide retailers. At the moment, some of the places in Norfolk where you can buy Brays pork pies are Picnic Fayre in Cley, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett, Walsingham Farm Shop, Henry’s Coffee Store in Cromer and Blakeney Deli.

There are other stockists of Bray’s further afield too e.g. London, the Midlands, Wales and the North of England. A full list of stockists is on the website.

You can find Sarah at Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month (during the season) and at bigger local Norfolk events including the Aylsham Show and the North Norfolk Food Festival.

And if you want to learn how to make outstanding pork pies yourself, Sarah runs classes in Norwich. Details are on the website but spaces sell out fast.

 

 

Sarah said her life now is so different from when she used to be an accountant and she thrives on the positive comments she receives about Brays’ products. “After all”, she said, “nobody ever told me I’d produced the best spreadsheet they’d ever seen”!

 

http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

 

This article originally appeared on the Norfolk Places website.