As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Broads, Jackie King picks out a selection of cafés, delis, pubs and restaurants in and around the Broads.
East Anglia is in the throes of a mini food revolution, and Norfolk is at the heart of it, with increasing numbers of places celebrating the best of the rich store of local produce the area has to offer, from locally caught fish, meat reared organically on nearby farms to the full breadth of the arable produce that defines the landscape of the county.
No one would pretend that the Broads is at the heart of all this, and its reputation for food has suffered over the years, with offerings in some riverside pubs not living up to the magic of their settings. But that has begun to change, and it hasn’t been hard to recommend some fabulous places run by people not just with a passion for food and drink, but with a mission to bring the best of the local area to the masses.
Farm to Fork and Fish
The second of the two farm shops of the Mutimer family business over in Swannington, this sells fantastically fresh local produce, with pork and lamb from the Mutimer’s own herds, beef from nearby Hevingham and free-roaming chickens from Hindolveston up towards the north coast. They’ve won numerous awards, including a 2008 ‘Beautiful Farm’ award for ‘farms that aim to give something back to environment’, as well as gaining more recent EDP recognition for their food and, in particular, their sausages. Worth a visit both for picnic supplies or if you’re self-catering. farmtoforkandfish.co.uk
Horning would be a lesser place without this well-stocked deli and café, which not only sells a high quality selection of deli items and ready-cooked meals, it also somehow packs in a giftshop and a tearoom that also displays and sells well-chosen work by local artists and photographers. Wendy Timewell bakes up fab cakes, sausage rolls and homemade “Hornish’ pasties – perfect for picnics and on-board lunches – and everywhere the focus in on Norfolk cheeses and other local produce. thegalley-horning.co.uk
Bure River Cottage Restaurant
Horning’s not short on places to eat, but Abbie and Nigel’s restaurant goes the extra mile – it’s arguably one of the best alternatives for miles round, serving high-quality fish and seafood from a blackboard menu that features changing specials like Brancaster or Morston mussels, local crab and lobster, and great locally smoked salmon. Great service too, from staff who seem to genuinely like working here. Best to book during the summer, when it can get busy. burerivercottagerestaurant.co.uk
The Recruiting Sergeant
The flagship eatery of Matthew and Nicola Colchester, who own – and have revitalised – a number of pubs in the area, the Recruiting Sergeant caters for both hearty appetites and grazing, with a snack menu at lunchtime – great fishcakes, steak sandwiches, and suchlike – along with a full menu at lunch or dinner. Choose from substantial starters like scallops with pork belly and grilled sardines, and mains like fresh local mackerel with salad nicoise, excellent skate wing, or just fish pie or a burger. Beers are mostly local (Suffolk and Norfolk ales), and service friendly and efficient, and most of the ingredients are not only fresh but sourced locally – some of them from the sister business, Farm to Fork & Fish, across the road. recruitingsergeant.co.uk
The Lavender House
Brundall is a clinker-and-tar, boaty sort of village, mainly focused on the river, and is not the sort of place you’d expect to find a restaurant like Lavender House, where chef Richard Hughes has been cooking complex yet hearty food for a decade in a lovely sixteenth-century beamed and thatched setting. This is one of Norfolk’s finest fine dining restaurants, indeed the style of cooking here has been described as ‘Modern Norfolk’ utilising the best local produce – local lamb, local beef, crabs and other seafood from Cley and the north coast – in culinary skilful and innovative ways. For all that, it’s a relaxing and welcoming place to eat – and the prices, while high, are not outlandish. thelavenderhouse.co.uk
The Waveney Inn
The Waveney River Centre’s pub, the Waveney Inn, is an honest, family-friendly boozer, and something of a Godsend given you’re quite a way form the nearest settlement. They do food noon–2.30pm and 6pm–9pm, and there’s outside seating, a separate games room and they have quiz nights and occasional live music. waveneyrivercentre.co.uk/park-marina/park-facilities/waveney-inn
About a mile north of Hoveton, it’s an easy twenty-minute walk from the railway station to Wroxham Barns, a popular local attraction that has plenty for children and adults alike – various craft shops and galleries, a food store, garden centre and micro-brewery, Uncle Stuart’s, selling its products direct (along with other local beers). It’s also home to a small “junior farm” with goats, sheep, cows, pigs with lamb Feeding during the half-term school holidays and donkeys to pet and feed, a small funfair and mini golf course, and an excellent restaurant which is one of the area’s best bets for lunch, with an emphasis on quality local produce – one of several sustainable aspects of the business, which also includes water-less urinals and excellent recycling. Overall, a great example of a mainstream business that’s is trying hard to be both sustainable and successful. wroxhambarns.co.uk
For more information on characterful places to stay, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to the Broads