A little different this week...
Many times in the restaurant, and regularly at my cookery classes, people have asked me where we get various ingredients, and where they can shop for them in Norwich and the surrounds? In 2017 we joined the 'Proudly Norfolk' scheme which is a network of producers, suppliers and retailers, as well as companies and restaurants that support them. At the time there was a flat requirement that we had ten Norfolk products or suppliers on our menu (which we did), but membership criteria has since become more flexible and less didactic. In any case, we were trying then to use and promote Norfolk producers, we still do, even more so, but also champion Norwich's range of independent retailers selling unique produce, as well as discovering great produce from East Anglia generally. Download the Proudly Norfolk app for discounts and deals with many producers.
So, here's a shout-out to some of our great suppliers, plus hints and tips on how to shop for these ingredients yourself:
Starting of course with a solid supplier of local produce, as well as plenty of fruit and veg from further afield; Easters of Norwich have been supplying River Green for several years now, but as with many wholesalers to the hospitality industry, found themselves short of customers last year due to the pandemic. They moved quickly to change to a consumer offering, and still now have an online shop with delivery, which shows great resilience and agility. We have just started using fresh produce from a small market garden south of Norwich as well, whose fruit and veg is grown without artificial fertilisers and is supplying several catering businesses with excellent fresh local produce changing weekly. MeadowHarvest also have a veg box service that you can take advantage of. Email email@example.com for more details. I'll also need to add Mike and Debs and Sons on Norwich Market to the list. Another supplier who adapted their business model with delivery during covid. Always worth dropping by there on my way into work just to see at a glance what's available now, and pick up a few bits to experiment with (or take home.)
While we're on the subject of Norwich market, what a great range of suppliers, specialists, and food and drink outlets! Surely Norwich Market must be the envy of every large town and city in England? Two of my favourites there include Orient Express and City Fish (yes) on opposite sides of the market. Orient Express is (as the name suggests) an Asian market stall (actually they have two stalls.) They have anything you might need, from fresh spices and exotic veg, through sauces and condiments, to canned and frozen produce, and everything soya-related. The stalls are packed, and not very spacious (especially if you're trying to do social distancing,) two customers and it's full! If you need to find anything, just ask! You'll get cooking helps and ingredients suggestions too, their knowledge is encyclopedic. If you want local Samphire in the city, head to City Fish, usually its available from the first week of Wimbledon. At other times they have plenty of Palestinian Samphire if you're desperate!
One of the founder members of 'Proudly Norfolk', Candi Robertson makes unique chutneys in her 'Chutney Barn' in Norfolk using only local produce. Many of her chutneys have graced our dishes, and you can buy them in several outlets around Norwich, however she has also teamed up with Crush Foods who supply her chutneys, and many other local products via their website. Crush of course produce their own Norfolk staple: Rapeseed oil, both in the standard and extra virgin versions, both of which we use in the restaurant, the regular oil as the basis for all our general frying, the extra virgin has a lovely golden colour, nutty flavour, and several advantages over olive oil, not least the lower food miles, but also a higher frying temperature and without the over-powering peppery taste which means you can make a mayo or sauce with it without having to dilute it with a general oil.
If you need ingredients from further afield, Norwich is replete with specialist food shops for Middle-Eastern, European, Asian and Indian/Sub-Continental ingredients. One with a very comprehensive offering is Norfolk Daily Fresh on Magdalen Road. A good range of dried and fresh Mediterranean food as well as chilled pastries and ingredients, they have recently expanded their fresh produce offering. They are open from early to late, but I have to say their attitude to Covid precautions has been less than satisfactory, so they don't get full marks or a link, from me. If you need to get Asian ingredients somewhere you can park a car, try Oriental Delight on the Drayton road in the old Volvo dealership building near Asda (much better Covid precautions!)
I'd better mention some of the Norfolk drinks suppliers we use; The county has more craft beer brewers than my daughter has shoes (nearly), and many of them supply great vegan friendly and also gluten free offerings. Of course our neighbours just up the road are Redwell brewery. They've changed hands a few times recently, but are currently producing a consistently reliable, vegan, gluten free product. We have also had, and do stock, beers from Panther brewery, as well as Norfolk Raider Cider.
Going further afield, you may have heard of the battle that industry giant 'Oatly' launched against the small family firm from Cambridgeshire Glebe Farm Foods. Of course we have been using 'Pure Oaty' for some time now, as well as now using their sustainably sourced almond and soya milks. In addition to using their home grown oats, Glebe Farm's cereals are also certified gluten free, so an excellent fit for our menu. You can buy their products online, not just plant milks, but gluten free flours and other produce too.
Over the border (just) in Suffolk, Hodmadods, supply British grown pulses and grains as whole, canned and dried products. Plus flours and wholegrains, including Carlin peas (a chickpea substitute), quinoa, and pea flours (to use instead of gram flour.) Additionally, a shout out to our trade supplier: Steele Fine Foods, also based in Suffolk, but that can't be helped unfortunately. Last year they were signally useful at one point in sourcing a job lot of dried chickpeas that were desperately needed by Nash's Falafel Bar in Cromer.
Finally, we use a few strictly vegan specialist products from time to time, including vegan cheeses and non-dairy creams. We use a wholesaler based in London for these, and, whilst these type of product are now freely available in supermarkets all over, many of the best ones that we use are also available from The Little Shop of Vegans, who have the same wholesaler amongst their suppliers. They've had a difficult time too, so do give them a visit on St Benedicts Street! I would add that our own local supermarket brand (certainly not one of the big three!) Roys of Wroxham are surprisingly good at supplying either vegan and/or gluten free products both local, and from further afield. If you're caught short it's worth calling into their flagship Wroxham store (with plenty of Norfolk produce) or their other branches including Magdalen Street.
I hope that's given you some pointers, however, if you want to taste what these products could become when used imaginatively and expertly(!?)... You still have to visit us at River Green!