Cookies Club Shop, Salthouse
The Norfolk coast is famous for crab and lobster. Feeding on the world’s longest chalk reef just off Cromer, the crabs and lobsters are incredibly tender and flavorful.
And one of Zena’s favorite ways to enjoy the best produce the county has to offer is to visit Salthouse’s Cookies Club shop.
The A149 coastal road has been selling shellfish for more than three generations and has a quaint atmosphere. The garden overlooking the salt marshes is the perfect spot for sunny days, but there’s also an indoor dining room for chilly, gray days. They offer a selection of salads and sandwiches (and you can bring in your own beer or wine) – but Zena’s go-to is great value and slightly retro platters.
“Cookie’s is still going strong after the Covid turmoil and people think they can’t reopen,” she says.
“We went 6 months ago and still love the 70’s style lobster platter. Prices are 90’s. You can even get a smiley face made out of olives.”
The Kimchi, Brig Street, Norwich
Korean restaurant The Kimchi, which opened in 2019, quickly became a hit, with people lining up to get a table.
But Zena says it tends to fly a little under the radar. Perhaps it has something to do with the location being up a flight of stairs.
“Kimchi is often overlooked. When you tell people there is a Korean restaurant in Norwich, you have to explain where it is,” she says. “Across from the old Debenhams on her ground floor at 4a Brig Street – look for the almost hidden doorway and stairs.”
Now that you know where it is, what dish should we try next?
“They make a Korean home-cooked dish called tteokbokki, which is a spicy, surprisingly soft gnocchi-like rice vermicelli dumpling. It’s the texture that does it for me,” says Zena.
“But you can’t beat their KFC – Korean Fried Chicken.”
Arboretum, St Benedict Street, Norwich
If you thought The Kimchi put a hidden gem in a hidden gem, Arboretum, a Victorian cocktail bar with a secret entrance, will pique your curiosity even further, says Zena.
“The windows are covered in black with mysterious boards and you can barely see them,” she says.
“And you walk into a place that reminds you of your great Aunt Doris’ living room in the Victorian era, but darker than that. Greg will make you a cocktail to your liking. It’s very unique.”
Cheese Kottu, Catton Grove Road, Norwich
Cheese Kottu is the first Sri Lankan restaurant in the city that opened just over a year ago.
Named after its signature dish of shredded cabbage and carrots fried with cheese, eggs and sometimes chicken and topped with curry sauce.
“There’s nothing more unique than exotic flavors you can’t find anywhere else in the world,” Zena says.
“During our vacation in Sri Lanka, we enjoyed egg hoppers (thin bowl-shaped pancakes of rice flour and coconut milk that can be served with eggs and topped with curry or daal) for breakfast, so we decided to give it a try. It’s great to find a place that makes it… locally.”
And there are many mouth-watering menus.
“I have to admit that some of the dishes were too spicy for me last time I went. They sure like chilli,” Zena says. “So it’s not for the Korma lovers among us.”
Beach Huts, Promenade, Great Yarmouth
Zena wasn’t the only one to fall in love with The Beach Hut on the Great Yarmouth promenade.
On a recent trip to what she calls “Vegas of the East,” food editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis explores Caribbean-style seaside dishes that can be paired with everything from sausages, eggs and bacon to hash browns. Shack breakfast raved about ciabatta…and mushrooms.
We also recommend hot chocolate that is so rich that a spoon can stand on its own.
The location also gets a big tick.
“They hit breakfast bops while you sit outside looking out to sea at the long stretch of golden sand. That beautiful view will last a lifetime,” Zena said.
Socius, Foundry Place, Burnham Market
Since Socius was named AA’s Restaurant of the Year England 2022, we’ve been getting calls from diners keen to taste Dan Lawrence and Natalie Stirrer’s top-notch tapas.
With some people booking up to a year in advance, it’s no exaggeration to say that the secret has been revealed.
Here, Zena says, sharing a plate meets fine dining in a casual setting.
“All foodies will know about it, but if you don’t know about it, it’s the kind of place you should be,” she says.
“I can honestly say they served us the best bread and butter. And the crispy, caramelized shrimp fritters in the appetizer look sensational. Shared and loved everything.It’s a modern purpose-built restaurant in the middle of a parking lot, so it’s understated.It makes it unexpected.”
Sweet Tree Patisserie, St John’s Close, Norwich
Xena’s final choice, Sweet Tree Patisserie, comes with an apology.
“I’m probably a fan of mentioning it too much,” she says. So if she’s in a hurry while I’m there, I can step in.”
And what makes Xena such a fangirl? One word: cake. If you have a sweet tooth this is the place for you.
“It’s a hidden gem as it’s in Lakenham on a row of shops just after the old railway bridge. Also, Magda bakes all the cakes fresh on the spot, so there’s always a minimum of 12 to 18.”
Can Xena choose a favourite?
“Chocolate fudge cake,” she says without hesitation.
See Zena’s food blog at lovenorwichfood.co.uk and follow her on Instagram @love_norwich_food.