North Norfolk is quickly becoming one of the best loved holiday spots in the UK. People come from far and wide to enjoy trips to the beach, walks in the unspoilt countryside, visits to bird and nature reserves, or to sample the delicious local food.
Local blogger Sarah Ruffhead has lived in Norfolk for 45 years. She moved to North Norfolk 13 years ago, and can’t recommend the area highly enough.
“It’s a very special place and I haven’t looked back since the day I moved here. Like anywhere, there have been changes over the years. More houses, more shops, more places to eat and more people who want to spend time here, whether it be for a holiday, every weekend, or full time. But the heart of the place hasn’t changed.
“It’s an area of beauty, with many wide open spaces and quiet corners, interesting local characters and a somewhat arty crowd. I love the mix of local and not-so-local. It’s ever-changing in that way, with new people and new experiences which is what keeps it alive.”
Sarah is a bit of a foodie and a keen supporter of the ever growing range of eateries in North Norfolk.
“We have such a plethora of fresh and local food, including cheese, asparagus, wild mushrooms, mussels, lobster from the Wash, freshly-caught sea bass and crab galore. A host of new chefs have moved here in recent years, all keen to produce creative innovative dishes using the best local ingredients. We’re very lucky indeed.”
One of Sarah’s favourite places to eat is the café at Wiveton Hall. She spoke to us about why she loves it and gave us some recommendations for other great places to eat in North Norfolk.
Wiveton Hall and Café
Wiveton Hall is a 17th century Jacobean manor house with farm, gardens and café situated in Holt, near the Norfolk coast.
“Wiveton Café is at the end of a dusty drive, flanked by fields full of raspberry canes, strawberry beds, other soft fruit and asparagus, all of which is available as PYO. The Hall’s west wing is open to rent as a holiday home, and the gardens are especially beautiful in summer – a flower enthusiast’s dream. You can easily spend a day amongst it all, or if you fancy a trip to the beach, there’s an easy walk along the coastal path to nearby Blakeney.”
The café is very popular with locals and visitors alike, often fully booked and with a queue of hungry people at peak times.
“I love the food and the colourful interior and exterior decoration. It has a lovely outside eating area of vibrantly painted wooden chairs and tables and there is no place better to sit on a sunny day. You can people watch surrounded by the fruit canes, with the marsh and sea as the perfect vista.”
Local and Seasonal Produce
Nearly all the fruit and vegetables used in the café’s meals are grown on the farm and can be bought daily from the shop. Anything not from the farm is from local farmers and fishermen, all of whom enjoy a strong relationship with the café.
“The Wiveton salad is famous and a meal in itself, full of leaves, new potatoes, tomatoes, herbs and beets. My favourite food to eat there is probably their celebrated asparagus, served with melted butter, sea salt and black pepper, or mixed into the crab and chilli linguine.”
“The café also has themed food nights. They serve home-made delicious pizzas from their wood-fired pizza oven that was blessed by the local vicar no less! If you like Mediterranean food then you’re in luck, as they have Tapas evenings every Friday and Saturday, accompanied by live Spanish guitar music. These are always great fun to go to with a crowd of friends.
“For visitors, crab seems to be the favourite dish and they serve it baked with cream in its shell, or simply with salad, homemade mayonnaise and new potatoes. I think their cakes and sweets are very popular too: fabulous chocolate brownies and enormous home-made meringues are delicious with strawberries and cream.”
For manager and head chef, Ben Pert, the fresh, local produce is the star of the show.
“Our ethos at Wiveton Hall Café has remained the same since it opened 10 years ago, when Alison Yetman was at the helm. We produce fresh, seasonal food, utilising as much of the produce grown on the farm as possible. We are extremely lucky as chefs to have such incredible ingredients delivered to the kitchen door every morning, and during the busiest periods, we have some amazing local producers who help us keep up with the demand.
“We are proud to use some of the finest local businesses in North Norfolk and have great working relationships with them. They are almost as passionate about Wiveton Hall Café as we are and they enjoy coming as paying customers as well. For instance, we have fishermen from Sheringham who turn up with a boot full of freshly caught fish, which are sometimes still flapping. We then plan our menu around the season and their bounty.”
Fully Stocked Shop
All Wiveton Hall produce is sold in the shop including home-made preserves, granola, salads and dressings, plus the freshly grown fruit and vegetables. They also stock locally produced goods ranging from wine, oils, honey, crisps and chocolate to tea and ice cream. Flowering plants and herbs from the garden are available throughout the year, plus small businesses showcase their goods, which include pottery, homeware, art, stationery, children’s toys, books and cookware.
Local Artist Exhibitions
The café has a separate Art Barn where it showcases the work of different local artists and photographers every month. The artwork is also displayed on the café walls, where it often receives praise. Sarah’s husband, Andrew Ruffhead, is a popular local artist and one of the exhibitors this year
“He has a studio, Fish and Ships Coastal Art, in nearby Burnham Market and this year he’s exhibiting in the café from July 26th for a month. He also has a small selection of his fun fish and whales on sale in the café shop all year.”
Other Top Spots
Sarah had some recommendations for other places to eat nearby too.
Best place for fish and chips: The recently opened Eric’s Fish and Chips in Thornham does great fish and chips with a modern update. They use only fresh, seasonal fish and local produce, have numerous vegetarian options and can cater for gluten free. They also have an extensive wine list.
Best place for picnic food: “Humble Pie deli in Burnham has been open since 1980 and stocks the yummiest of picnic foods.” Everything is hand-picked and is always taste tested before being stocked.
Best place for family dining: The Anchor at Morston serves classic pub dishes for a family supper, with fresh, seasonal fish and buttered samphire on the menu.
Best place for foodies: The Duck at Stanhoe has won numerous awards and special mentions, including being a front runner in The Good Food Guide’s ‘Best Restaurant’ category for East Anglia. “The quail’s egg and black pudding Scotch egg is fantastic.”
Best place for afternoon tea: Enjoy the great view of the quay and boats whilst sampling a traditional afternoon tea at the Blakeney Hotel.
Best place for dinner and a view: “The White Horse at Brancaster is the perfect place to sit and just drink in the amazing view along the coast. You can sit out on the deck at any time and watch the tide slowly rise up. It’s the only place on the East coast that faces West, so you can enjoy the fiery sunsets towards Hunstanton and the sailing boats racing in the distance.”