Burnham

Eight reasons to celebrate Norfolk's lockdown food and drink

07 July, 2020 – 06:30

From left to right, clockwise, Kofra managing director Jose, Richard and Faye of Uber-Corn, Jorge Santos of Jorge's Portugese restaurant, Ella Tarrant, Lauren and Chris Smith of Cristophes Crepes, Rocco Consiglio and Bruno Armenante, staff at Downham Tandoori and Lee Martin of Norfolk in a Box. Photos: Lee Martin, Victoria Pertusa, Ian Burt, Ella Wilkinson, Sarah Lucy Brown, Ella Tarrant, Downham Tandoori and Rocco Consiglio.

From left to right, clockwise, Kofra managing director Jose, Richard and Faye of Uber-Corn, Jorge Santos of Jorge’s Portugese restaurant, Ella Tarrant, Lauren and Chris Smith of Cristophes Crepes, Rocco Consiglio and Bruno Armenante, staff at Downham Tandoori and Lee Martin of Norfolk in a Box. Photos: Lee Martin, Victoria Pertusa, Ian Burt, Ella Wilkinson, Sarah Lucy Brown, Ella Tarrant, Downham Tandoori and Rocco Consiglio.

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It’s not been an easy few months for those working in the food industry. But the challenges have been met with resilience and innovation. Here, we’ve picked eight reasons to celebrate the work of everyone in the world of Norfolk food and drink during lockdown.

Jorge Santos, owner of Portuguese restaurant Jorge's in Orford Yard. Picture: Victoria PertusaJorge Santos, owner of Portuguese restaurant Jorge’s in Orford Yard. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

• Delivery, delivery and more delivery…

Kofra managing director Jose Guzman at their new coffee shop in Bell Road in NR3 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNKofra managing director Jose Guzman at their new coffee shop in Bell Road in NR3 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Switching your business from perfectly-presented plates to delivery is no mean feat.

Owners had to figure out the practicalities – ensuring food arrives hot and in good condition, to start with – in just a few days.

Kofra has a new premises in Bell Road in NR3 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNKofra has a new premises in Bell Road in NR3 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

But they were hurdles most overcame, with hundreds of cafés, restaurants and producers finding their feet, and many hoping to continue deliveries.

At Portugese restaurant Jorge’s, in Norwich, owner Jorge Santos said the popularity of deliveries of their bifana sandwich – a Portugese pork speciality – had inspired a desire to open a new space to solely serve it.

Lauren and Chris Smith, who own Christophe's Crepes, at the food van in Davey Place. Picture: Ella WilkinsonLauren and Chris Smith, who own Christophe’s Crepes, at the food van in Davey Place. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

• …Including fine dining takeaways

Rocco Consiglio, left, and right, Bruno Armenante outside the new Sicily Trattoria. Photo: Rocco ConsiglioRocco Consiglio, left, and right, Bruno Armenante outside the new Sicily Trattoria. Photo: Rocco Consiglio

Even the county’s most renowned chefs weren’t exempt from the need to adapt to takeaways.

Seven restaurants in the Michelin Guide offered takeaways in Norfolk during lockdown, including Socius in Burnham Market and Benedicts in Norwich city centre.

Richard and Faye Elms, pictured here with their boys Ollie (5) and Cory (3), have set up a new popcorn family business called Uber-Corn. Picture: Ian BurtRichard and Faye Elms, pictured here with their boys Ollie (5) and Cory (3), have set up a new popcorn family business called Uber-Corn. Picture: Ian Burt

The innovation meant diners were able to enjoy some of the county’s most high-end culinary delights from the comfort of their own home.

They included Roger Hickman’s Restaurant, in Upper St Giles Street, which launched a five-course collection menu for Father’s Day.

Roger Hickman, returned to the kitchen for the first time during lockdown with a Father's Day collection menu. Photo: Newman Associates PRRoger Hickman, returned to the kitchen for the first time during lockdown with a Father’s Day collection menu. Photo: Newman Associates PR

Mr Hickman, who said the intimate nature of his restaurant meant it was unlikely to reopen before autumn, said he was hoping to create two more collection menus each month across the summer, after the Father’s Day one sold out within hours.

“It takes some time to come up with a menu which maintains our high standards, but which people can assemble and serve at home,” he said. “I’m trying to keep dishes as close to what we would serve in the restaurant, but providing all the elements for people to bring together in their own kitchens is different, and I want them to have as close as possible an experience to what they would get if they came in to eat.”

Owner of Norfolk in a Box, Lee Martin, is encouraging people to buy locally. Picture: Lee MartinOwner of Norfolk in a Box, Lee Martin, is encouraging people to buy locally. Picture: Lee Martin

• Popular coffee shop opens fourth branch

Downham Tandoori has been making meals for vulnerable people in the local community. Picture: Downham TandooriDownham Tandoori has been making meals for vulnerable people in the local community. Picture: Downham Tandoori

At the start of July, independent coffee company Kofra gave us something to celebrate when it opened its fourth branch on Bell Road in NR3.

The latest joined other branches in Onley Street, Upper St Giles Street and at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

While it will largely cater for takeaways, there is outdoor seating for customers to enjoy.

Managing director José Guzmán said the success of takeaways from their Onley Street branch had given them confidence in the decision.

He said: “We have had so much love during lockdown and people have been so grateful for our coffee and happy to have a little bit of normality.”

New homes for city centre businesses

Behind the closed doors, some restaurateurs were busy turning empty units into new homes.

Sicily Market, a Sicilian eatery which usually calls Norwich Market home, opened up a permanent spot on Bridewell Alley in time to serve customers from Saturday, July 4.

Owner Rocco Consiglio said their first weekend open had gone well, and that it had been “very busy”.

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“It was nice to see people happy and finally able to eat in a restaurant, to relax and have fun. I hope it can always be this way,” he said.

They were not alone – Christophes Crepes, which has served up the sweet treat from its van home in Davey Place for eight years, is also opening in the former home of Tofurei in Pottergate.

Chris Smith, who runs the business with wife Lauren, said it was a case of “now or never”.

• The rise of street food

Norfolk has long had a booming street food scene.

But as weddings and events were cancelled, many food trucks – including Churros and Chorizo and Frier Tucks, among many others – instead turned their focus to travelling around their local communities.

A drive-through street food festival in Taverham proved such a hit it has now been launched in other locations, while community interest company ClearCompany has seen a network of street food vendors tour round towns including Attleborough, Diss,Wymondham and Hethersett.

Its founder and director Julie Briggs said they had seen sell-out events and planned to expand the events as time went on, with street food trucks offering an easy way for diners to socially distance.

• Picnics and popcorn to your door as new businesses open

There has, of course, been immense upheaval for businesses, with income plummeting and workers being made redundant.

But there has been positivity and innovation, with a string of new Norfolk businesses setting out.

They include cake delivery business Bakes by Ella, which was set up by Ella Tarrant from Hethersett, Uber-Corn, a flavoured popcorn delivery service, and luxury picnic delivery service PicNicks and More.

Richard Elms, who started Uber-Corn from his home in Horsford, said they initially planned to launch at a farmer’s market in April, but had to change plans when lockdown was introduced.

Hard work over the last few months, though, means their sales have steadily increased, they are in talks over stocking their products locally and have even had their first appearance at a farmer’s market.

“From the people we’ve met you can tell that we have seen the best of people during this,” he said.

• Demand for local produce

As supermarket shelves emptied, consumers returned to the local producers on their doorstep.

Butchers, bakers, vegetable box services and fishmongers found themselves struggling to keep up with demand

Lee Martin, owner of Norfolk in a Box, saw his orders increase from 12 to 14 boxes a day, to more than a thousand in one week.

He said they’d hired two extra vans to keep up with soaring demand.

• Generosity of spirit

As if they didn’t have enough to contend with, plenty of businesses made time to support their local communities – too many to mention here.

They included the Downham Tandoori Indian restaurant, which prepared more than 1,750 meals fro the NHS, and more than 50 for people in and around Downham Market.

And in the two months from the end of March to May, staff at Namaste Village Indian Restaurant on Queens Road, in Norwich, dished up almost 700 meals for frontline workers.

At Gonzo’s Tea Room, in Norwich city centre, staff hosted a quiz night to fund a party for NHS workers with free drinks once lockdown lifts.


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How coronavirus is bringing food innovation to Norfolk's communities

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The drive-through street food festival at The Silver Fox in Taverham. The team from the Willows Cafe Bistro in Drayton. Photo: Adam Coulton

The drive-through street food festival at The Silver Fox in Taverham. The team from the Willows Cafe Bistro in Drayton. Photo: Adam Coulton

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Our corner of the world is peppered with stand-out local produce and celebrated places to grab a bite to eat.

Nick Brewer, owner of Churros and Chorizo Spanish Street Food. Photo: Nick BrewerNick Brewer, owner of Churros and Chorizo Spanish Street Food. Photo: Nick Brewer

But with delivery options often limited and the promise of a chippy down the road not always guaranteed, food lovers in its more rural areas may have become used to hopping in the car for a meal made outside their home.

Coronavirus has hit the hospitality industry hard, with restaurants and pubs forced to close their doors, but it has brought with it a wave of innovation.

New businesses have been launched, delivery schemes started, restaurateurs forced to adapt and street vendors, with event-packed summers cancelled, now touring our villages and towns.

And it’s been met with a warm welcome – socially distanced queues now snake from food trucks on Friday nights and village centres are abuzz as households escape lockdown to enjoy the variety.

In Taverham, a drive-through street food festival proved such a hit in May it will now be held in other locations, and some of the county’s most prestigious restaurants, including Socius in Burnham Market, are now offering deliveries.

Ella Tarrant, from Hethersett, has been able to start her own cake delivery business during lockdown, Bakes by Ella.

ClearCompany CIC volunteer directors, from left, Ana Almeida, Steve Wiseman and Julie Briggs. Picture: ClearCompany CICClearCompany CIC volunteer directors, from left, Ana Almeida, Steve Wiseman and Julie Briggs. Picture: ClearCompany CIC

And the 26-year-old, mother to two-year-old daughter Lilah Walker, will this weekend sell her cakes at her first street food gathering in the village.

MORE: Luxury picnic delivery business to launch across Norfolk

“I was always baking,” she said, “and over Easter I did some treat boxes and sent them to my family. They said I should sell them so I started to, and sold six boxes in Hethersett to begin with.

“More and more people were asking though and the next thing I had 42 deliveries in one week and it just took off.”

The team at Frier Tucks fish and chip van. Credit: Supplied by Outside LiveThe team at Frier Tucks fish and chip van. Credit: Supplied by Outside Live

Since then, she has started creating custom orders, including birthday and baby gender reveal cakes.

With a background in both social media and the restaurant industry, she has been able to combine her skills to see the business flourish.

“There have been times where I have been covered in flour, my two-year-old is screaming and my dog is in the other room and I have wondered ‘am I doing the right thing’, but to see people happy when they receive their boxes is lovely,” she said.

Many of her customers, who live largely in the areas surrounding Hethersett, are older, she said, and not going out as much.

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She said she hoped the popularity of delivery and street food businesses continued after lockdown ended.

“People see it as a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening,” she said, “and it’s a surprise no-one thought of doing it before.”

The street food fair in Hethersett in which she will take part is one of several now being organised by community interest company ClearCompany.

Its founder and director Julie Briggs has spent the last two years looking for a site at which to base a new street food park, and hopes to make use of the former OPEN Youth Trust site on Bank Plain in Norwich city centre.

For now, she has launched street food fairs with a network of vendors, which began at Attleborough’s Connaught Hall last month and will soon start in other areas including Hethersett, Diss, Norwich and Wymondham.

MORE: You can now have a chocolate shop’s ‘lockdown boxes’ delivered straight to your door

“Outdoor dining and outdoor events will be really popular going forward,” she said. “It’s much easier to conform to the safety guidelines and people can have more confidence they are safe.

“Once we have got the social distancing rules established at each venue we can add more pitches.”

She their first event in Attleborough had been a sell-out, with a second equally as busy despite heavy rain.

“We sold out on the first week really quickly,” she said. “We had taken pre-orders but we could have done the same again and more.”

Despite the weather, people arrived en masse, and her team delivered to their cars, running back and forth in the downpour.

For businesses which rely on events throughout the summer, the banning of large gatherings was daunting. Several, including Spanish food business Churros and Chorizo, have taken to offering deliveries instead.

The team at Taverham-based fish and chip van Frier Tucks was faced with a string of cancellations, including Cromer Carnival and the Fakenham races.

They decided to try out home delivery in their local area, initially Thorpe Marriott, Drayton, Horsford and Felthorpe.

But Cheryl Pennell, who runs the business with son Troy Pennell, said demand had seen them requested further afield.

They now visit The Fox at Lyng pub, as well as the Queen’s Hill community in Costessey.

On Tuesday afternoon, she said they had roughly 30 orders in for Friday night.


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