Review: Latitude Festival 2017

Henham Park yet again provided the backdrop for a truly awesome weekend as we returned five years later to one of the UK’s most eclectic and immersive festival experiences – Latitude 2017.

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Latitude 2017 in a Nutshell

The 1975 gave a phenomenal debut headline performance on Friday night. Mumford and Sons and their Gentlemen of the Road Takeover brought with it so many memorable performances – notably their headline set – and Fleet Foxes (who haven’t performed in the UK in over 5 years and this was their only UK gig) rounded off the weekend, the only way they know how, in stunning glory.

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Why this year was epic

Although we didn’t manage to stay for the full four days, we certainly made the best of our stay. I’ve always loved Latitude for it’s big, eccentric personality. This year was possibly my favourite Latitude. There were a number of reasons at play!

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Five Things I Loved about Latitude 2017

  1. The Speakeasy Tent

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This was my spiritual home for our visit. 2017 was the first year that the festival brought together all its debate, discussion, authors and poets under one roof. There was everything from author sessions with award-winning writers, poetry performances from the brightest voices and lively discussion late into the night.

What I loved even more, was the laid-back atmosphere of this tent. People, including myself, took advantage of the easy-going vibe and were literally lying down or propped up on cushions and blankets – it was like one large sitting room with a three dimensional Radio 4 playing out in front of us all.

There are almost too many things to mention including spots from the brilliant Ross Sutherland. I’ve attended a poetry workshop with Ross before and he never fails to disappoint. He’s a modern performance poet who combines his playwriting, acting, comedic and writing skills to his often off-the-wall performances. He’s one of the most exciting artists to watch live – I’d really recommend checking him out.

And then there was possibly my biggest surprise of The Speakeasy Tent. During one particular session, forgetting to check the programme, I stumbled into the tent by pure chance and it took me a good ten minutes, I’m ashamed to say, to recognize that the emotionally intelligent, highly-engaging and well-versed chap on stage was actually Will Young. His ‘The Art of Listening’ explored the importance of being heard and why it doesn’t happen and how we can look at co-dependency and boundaries to create better relationships, working lives and ultimately look at ourselves. I had no idea of his backstory or interest in this field, which is why it took me a while to realise this was Will Young but he was truly captivating, empathetic, compassionate and down-to-earth, he was so in tune with the audience, very clearly displaying the listening skills he was there to speak about.

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  1. Diverse Food Options

 You’d think that catering for two vegetarians, one of which was on a 30 day sugar detox, would be a bit tricky for one home-cooked meal let alone 12 meals over the course of a weekend at a festival. No problem at Latitude! There was an impressive selection of food stalls including fare from South India, Chinese, Thai, Spanish, fish & chips, veggie & vegan burgers & wraps, South Indian and even Tibetan! And that’s not even a drop in the ocean – there were 121 food stalls altogether! So no excuses. Although, this did happen.

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  1. The Head and the Heart

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The Head and the Heart were head and shoulders above the rest. It’s been four years since we’ve seen them live and I welled up at various points – so much has happened over the last few years and this band has seen us through most of it. Too many fond memories listening to and recreating their music with my other half – I used to sing ‘Let’s Be Still’ to out little girl when she was a baby – it was the one song she’d always respond to with such emotion and intrigue. I have the biggest appreciation for this band. What a truly awesome performance. And we got to hear some of their new stuff too. Loving Signs of Light and All We Ever Knew.

  1. The Setting 

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Surrounded by stunning vistas of the Suffolk countryside, there’s a beautiful lake where wild swimming is permitted and where a Lake Stage is located for some of the acts. But possibly my favourite part of the venue is the woodland, The Faraway Forest, surrounding the edge of the main stages which is full of art installations and pop-up venues roaming the thick of this delightful area.

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  1. The Entertainment Options

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There were 750 acts at this year’s festival. 750! And literally something for everyone including: Art, cabaret, comedy, dance, film, kids’ area, lake swimming, literature. Music, poetry, theatre and yoga! 

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Five things I discovered about Latitude this year

  1. The Truth About The Pink Sheep

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There are approx. 60 sheep at Latitude, chosen from a flock of 1,000. They are painted with a non-toxic face paint, which does not harm the sheep. The paint usually gets more vibrant as time goes on, as the dye sinks into the wool and it usually lasts until Christmas time. I was a little concerned when I first saw the pink sheep but apparently the sheep actually quite enjoy the painting process and love the attention they get from the people at Latitude. Ah, I love a happy ending.

  1. Royal Festival Loos

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Sorry to bring up the subject of peeing in this post but let’s face it, this can often be one of the most talked about aspects of a camping and festival experience or at least the standard of lavatories are. Latitude was one of the first ‘proper’ festivals I’d attended way back when and I remember thinking that I must have pretty low standards when it came to toilets because the ’grim festival loos’ didn’t bother me very much. My feet were always spotless after a visit. It was the same story at this year’s festival too – there was always loo roll, a clean loo seat, limited blockages and hand sanitizer. I think the festival organisers must be predominately female, that’s my only conclusion. Latitude has over 600 portals, and in recognition of their standards, last year won Best Toilets (UK Festival Awards 2016).

  1. Wild Swimming

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Although wild swimming was off limits at certain points this year, in 2016 the festival saw over 9,000 people participate in swimming in the lake. It’s a regular thing so expect more dips in next year’s festival.

  1. Family Friendly

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We have a very young family and this year returned without our littlie. However, we half regretted our decision because it was very clear that Latitude has a lot to offer kids. There’s a self-contained kids’ area, lots of wide open spaces, shaded spots and of course, any noise they make is COMPLETELY lost in the festival fun. Simply rock up with a wooden festival cart and you have a self-contained pushchair, bed and play area all in one. Watch out Latitude 2018!

5) The Localist of Local Produce

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Latitude actually offers a very local kind of local produce. I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any other UK festivals that have a small brewery like the one actually located in Henham Park. Its beer Hektor’s Pure, probably doesn’t get any more local than this.

http://henhampark.com/hektors-brewery

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As the sun sets on this year’s festival, sights are already set on 2018 when Latitude will return to Henham Park in July for its 13th edition. Tickets for Latitude Festival 2018 are already available now.

For highlights, photos and more, check out www.latitudefestival.com

 

A huge thank you to Festival Republic and the Corner Shop for having us along this year as their guests! Although we didn’t manage to stay for the full weekend, it was our favourite festival yet.

Things NOT to miss at Latitude 2017

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I’ve been body-popping in front of the bathroom mirror today because I’ve just discovered we have tickets to review Latitude Festival next week. Starting next Thursday 13th July until 16th July and set in the stunning grounds of Henham Park, Suffolk.

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I’ve been to Latitude a few times in the past, for work and pleasure, and although I’m sure the festival has changed somewhat since my last visit, I’m certain it will still offer up a fabulous mix of wildly creative goings on.

This was me (right) and one of my Droogs five summers ago:

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The thing I’ve always loved about this particular festival is its slant on culture, wellbeing and the arts. This year there are 750 acts across 15 stages. I’m slightly intimidated by the choice.

Latitude Festival Faraway Forest Photo Credit Carolina Faruolo

If like me you also want a bit more mileage from a festival, then this one’s for you. Here are a few highlights, things I’m looking forward to. If you’re into music, literary talks, poetry readings and wellbeing events, you’re in the right place. Here’s just a few things to keep your eyes peeled for this year:

Mainstream Music Highlights & Must Sees

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  • Some of the key music acts include Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Suns, Placebo and Fat Boy Slim.
  • A couple of acts to look out for include Dan Owen who is headlining the DIY Presents stage on Saturday, and Catherine McGrath who is also opening the same stage on Friday.
  • Just to give you a little more information on them, the Shrewsbury singer Dan Owen (pictured at the end of this section) is signed to Atlantic Records and has released his first single ‘Moonlight’ through the label. It’s been receiving support from Radio 1 and Radio X and has received high profile press support from the likes of Shortlist, Wonderland, TMRW, London In Stereo and more. He was also a prominent figure in the tips for 2017 at both The Independent and Metro, and among others too. He’s clocked up over 8 MILLION plays on Spotify and sells out headline shows across the UK and Europe.
  • Meanwhile Catherine McGrath is a 20 year old singer/songwriter from Northern Ireland, signed to Warners and building up a lot of interest ahead of her new single next month. She’s had two EPs out in the past six months, which have chalked up seven consecutive New Music Fridays on Spotify across various tracks. She’s toured with The Shires, Picture This and Una Healy and was a “must see” at The Great Escape.
  • However, possibly most exciting of all for us is that the Head and the Heart are playing this year. This is our favourite band as a couple. My other half introduced me to this American Indie folk band over four years ago when we got together. Since then, we’ve been lucky to win tickets to a special performance at Union Chapel in Kings Cross (awesome venue!). They’re playing at Latitude on the Friday night!

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The Quirky, The Literary, The Poetic

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  • There will be many debates, discussions, literary and poetry events all under one roof in The Speakeasy, including Simon Armitage and Linton Kwesie Johnson.
  • Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller When God was a Rabbit and the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller A Year of Marvellous Ways will be at The SpeakEasy to preview her highly anticipated new novel Tin Man, in conversation with The Bookseller’s Sarah Shaffi.
  • Recent Ted Hughes Award winner for Nobody Told Me, which is a poetic memoir about becoming a parent, Hollie McNish will be at Latitude to discuss her latest anthology. A personal favourite as I’m currently reading her book and also writing my own debut poetry collection, some of which is about motherhood.
  • There’s a talk that Dr Tony Goldstone and Dr Samantha Scholtz will be having with comedian Marcus Brigstocke on Gut Hormones in Addiction.
  • There will also be a talk on Immunity and the Health Revolution, which will be chaired by comedian and actor Robin Ince.
  • Poet and professional forager, Richard Osmond (The Useful Verse) will be taking audiences on a poetic foraging walk starting in Latitude’s stunning Faraway Forest on the Saturday.
  • There will also be yoga classes run by Disco Yoga made up of Disco Divas Sarah Hunt and DJ Darlo to revive your spirits with yoga moves to disco grooves.

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PHEWY! It’s going to be virtually impossible to split my time accordingly.

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Day tickets for the Saturday have sold out but there are still weekend tickets available or Friday and Sunday Day tickets!! Tickets can still be booked online here and they won’t be posted but will be available for collection at the Box Office on site.

Adult Weekend tickets £197.50 face value + £8 booking fee per ticket

Accompanied Teen Weekend tickets (13-15 years) £132.50 + £8 booking fee per ticket

Child Weekend tickets – £10

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NEW RESTAURANT & COCKTAIL JOINT “THE TIPSY VEGAN”

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Oh em gee, there’s a new vegan joint in town! From the same people who brought you Bia Kitchen – the popular vegan street food stall on Norwich Market – this week sees the launch of the business’s second venture “The Tipsy Vegan”.

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I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview a couple of days before The Tipsy Vegan opened its doors last night.

Located in the heart of the historic Norwich’s Lanes on St Benedict’s Street, the new eatery serves up exactly what you’d expect from an establishment called The Tipsy Vegan: An inspiring selection of vegan small bites and hearty meals along with a host of bespoke cocktails, vegan wines and local brewery beers.

Owners, Cheryl and Michelle, have both spent a huge amount of time developing and experimenting to find delicious substitutes to animal-based products. As a result, they’ve found some pretty exciting combinations of ingredients that work particularly well in classic casual dining, the dishes vegans usually can’t indulge in.

They’ve created some exciting new dishes which are sometimes overlooked in vegan cooking. Their mission has been to create fun and social dishes that inspire and reassure that you don’t have to miss out when eating vegan food.

Absolutely everything in the restaurant is vegan including the Chesterfields.

The Verdict

Korean Bao Buns: The sticky and spicy BBQ coated tofu was incredible – it looked like a glazed pork rib. Yet the flavour was cleaner, lighter and the ‘rub’ used on the tofu was a delicious mixture of spices. Served with tangy kimchee and an Asian salad with peanut dressing on the side. The homemade buns were light and spongy – spot-on. Really recommend trying this!

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Steak Sandwich:  A homemade (secret recipe) sliced pepper steak is served with an incredible vegan Bernaise sauce – so creamy and light. With sautéed kale inside the sandwich and an extra dollop of Bernaise on the side and with American slaw and parmesan and herb chips. The flavour and texture of the homemade ‘steak’ was impressive.

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Cocktails

Devised by the mixologists from Knowhere Special Bar in London, the cocktail menu is of a really high calibre. I had the Espresso Mocha Martini which is made with Booja-Booja chocolate truffles and Grey Seal Coffee, both local vegan producers based here in Norfolk.

Many people (including myself till recently) don’t realise that various cocktail ingredients, including the actual spirits, are often not vegan, so these guys have masterminded some really great alternatives that are suitable for vegans, without compromising on taste.

The Tipsy Vegan’s friends at Knowhere Special Bar in London have helped develop the vegan cocktail menu which includes classics such as: Whisky Sour, Summer Julep, Mocha Martini, Vegroni, Espresso Mocha Martini and Somewhat New Old Fashioned.

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Dessert

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Chocolate and Salted Caramel torte: The pastry was buttery and light, amazing. Really enjoyed the texture of the torte, so silky.

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Local Produce

The Tipsy Vegan has gone to great lengths to champion local produce where possible including sourcing its coffee sourced from Grey Seal Coffee in North Norfolk, Ale & Beers from All Day Brewing in Salle Norfolk, locally grown fruit and vegetables and chocolate truffles from Booja-Booja.

The Tipsy Vegan’s menu will include specials and regular items such as:

Portobello Mushroom Burger: Portobello Mushroom, toasted walnut and breadcrumb stuffing, wilted spinach, sun dried tomato pesto and ‘parmesan’ and herb chips (£10)

Mushroom Ceviche: Citrus cured oyster mushrooms, cucumber, tomato and red onion salad served with guacamole and crispy tostadas (£8.50)

Lahmacun: Turkish style extra thin pizza with tomato and fresh herb topping. Served with lemon cured red cabbage and white cabbage, ice berg lettuce, Turkish salad, garlic yoghurt and chilli sauce (£15 for 2)

Brunch (Sat-Sun, 10-3pm): Pancakes & Bacon, Full Irish Breakfast, Benedict, Breakfast Tacos and Mexicana hash.

KS Cocktail List

The Tipsy Vegan is located on 68-70 St Benedict’s Street in Norwich (opposite the Art Centre).

Opening hours are Wednesday – Saturday evenings and all day for brunch at the weekend. Website coming soon but in the meantime check out their Instagram page @thetipsyveganbar

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Review: Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2017

Norfolk & Norwich Festival

Fri 12 – Sun 28 May

Every May the Norfolk & Norfolk Festival transforms our fine city with an absurdly imaginative and vibrant collection of creative experiences and performances from both local and globally acclaimed talent. At this year’s Festival you could have seen and taken part in all manner of curious things. In fact, you could have…

  • Taken a ride on a giant mechanical jellyfish
  • Spent the night at a choral sleepover in a beautiful grade I listed 17th century building!
  • Celebrated life through Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring through a quartet performance and multi-media display
  • Relaxed on a deckchair at night under the Museum of the Moon
  • Enjoyed a piece of theatre on a double-decker bus tour of Norwich

Yet this is just a mere glance of what was on offer. In addition to hundreds of musical, visual arts, theatre and other performances, there were many free events. This year included a bumper-packed edition of complimentary street performances, garden parties and moon-gazing activities around the city.

Roots and Toots was invited to attend various ticketed events – sweet rapture spread across my face when I received the email! – for the last few weeks have been a rollercoaster: I’ve been juggling work, writing poetry, dealing with a whole new level of public temper tantrums form my boyfriend and getting used to my toddler working away form home. Hang on, that last part should be the other way around. Yet amidst this befuddling spell, I managed to make three of the performances. Below is a ‘flash review’ of each of the three events, from my point of view and a few words from my guest who joined me at each event.

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Roll Over Atlantic

The official blurb: Winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Caribbean-British poet John Agard performs a quirky reimagining of the notorious voyage of Christopher Columbus. Written in verse and performed against a background soundscape of Atlantic murmurings and mosquito symphonies, Agard’s satirical one-man show takes his audience on a fantastical, fanatical historic voyage into the birth of a new world that still bears relevance to contemporary issues.

Jenny: Roll Over Atlantic was an entertaining evening, with calypso, poetry and seafaring adventures. I loved the voice of the Atlantic (the voice of God!) and the very inventive army of mosquitos. Varied and interesting, it was good food for thought and I laughed out loud several times. This wasn’t a wholly spellbinding performance though – my concentration waxed and waned across the different scenes, and Agard’s voice was sometimes hard to understand over the music. Overall – worth seeing.

Leah: It took me a little while to get into the performance. There were moments that pulsed with the extraordinary yet other times I felt a little lost at sea. I loved the strangeness of it all. I’d heard that Agard loves to play with words like people play with musical notes. That much is true. It was all quite satirical yet at times his delivery was a bit off-piste. He explored the scars of slavery with wincing realism. The sound effects were good and unexpected, the voice of the Atlantic, as Jenny’s says was hypnotic. Agard delivered his performance with erratic energy and with a dark and earnest wit.

Story Machine

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A personal highlight. This unusual event was in fact not one but a series of small performances held across one of Norwich’s newest and funkiest venues, The Shoe Factory. It’s an immersive literary event like nothing you’ve experienced before. Here’s the drill: the audience attends the same beginning and end performance yet each individual is given the freedom to choose which of the three chapters they attend in between. We had the choice of: spoken poetry, readings, performances and installations, including new work by Haruki Murakami, a film and audio exhibition by Helen Macdonald, Sarah Wood and Olivia Laing, and stories from Ben Okri, Tessa Hadley, KJ Orr, Thomas Morris and more – held across two industrial floors of free-moving energy.

Matthew: The concept was bold and each narrative was highly engaging. I enjoyed the idea of choosing my own path for the evening. In fact, each performance meant more because I’d chosen it and there was a great amount of anticipation in the air: What will happen next? Where is this taking me? I particularly enjoyed the poetry performance ‘Written in the Skin’ where the audience was part of the stage; I identified with William Leftford who delivered the readings alongside Cat Woodward. The subject matter, themed around ‘bodies’ was very raw and honest. We both left feeling very inspired, not just by the performances but the dramatic setting.

Leah: No rules, no fixed seating plan, no agenda. Upside down crates, boxes, stools, fold-up chairs, leather armchairs and nooks and crannies for the audience to occupy at whim, as you soaked up a surprising turn of events. I loved the bite-sized performances and the ability to choose which ‘chapter’ came next. I loved the independence, freedom of movement, wide-open spaces and above all, the high caliber of each and every reading, enactment, play and recording. I was blown away.

Garden Party

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Cobalt blue sky behind the occasional marshmallow. The ultimate (free) family event, held in Norwich’s Chapelfield Gardens.

Family entertainment and extraordinary performances attended by Norwich’s bohemian crowd, the Garden Party took over Chapelfield Gardens on the middle weekend of the Festival. With delicious food and drink available, we certainly made a day of it.

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The Garden Party was full of exciting performances and entertainment perfect for all ages. We took part in the real life arcade games, virtual reality headsets on the swings, popped by for some crafting at the Norwich Puppet Theatre stand, ate paper plate-fulls of street food and possibly my highlight, followed the amusing and captivating “Sultans of Sewage” around the park.

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A big heartfelt thank you to the festival organisers for inviting Roots and Toots along to some of the events this year! x

 

For more go to: http://www.nnfestival.org.uk

 

Darsham Nurseries Café: The Poshest (and Pottiest) Roadside Nosh?

 

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Firstly, don’t let my headline deceive you. This is not a roadside cafe, far from it. This little gem is a licensed Café that has been widely praised in the national press. It’s in the unsuspecting location of Darsham in Suffolk, en route to the delights of Southwold, Orford and Aldeburgh. It offers a relaxed, sociable atmosphere in a light, airy dining room and has an absurdly pretty outdoor terrace.

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I first heard about their food when I was pregnant and have only just managed to head there recently on a toddler-free day; it’s the best sort of place to head to with friends or a loved one. There was such a convivial atmosphere; I felt as though I was in a bustling London eatery surrounded by fragrant potted plants and herbs. (Told you, potty and posh.)

I loved the built-in single-flower vases on this group dining bench and the nettle-green enamel lampshades that gently hovered over diner’s heads like lights over seedlings.

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Throughout the year Darsham Nurseries grow their own fruit, herbs and vegetables literally a stone’s throw in their kitchen garden and customers can amble through the gardens to see where many of the menu ingredients are grown.

Their talented Chef Lola Demille, creates gorgeous dishes designed to complement each other, allowing you to experience a range of tastes and flavours. The menu is a modern approach to fresh, veg-led dishes often with a Middle-Eastern twist.

They encourage you to order a few dishes each and share. We devoured a few sharing platters, not all pictured here, including:

  • Jersey royals, aioli (£4) – Enough to serve four. Aioli to die for!
  • Charred asparagus, goat curd & dukkah (£8.50) Fresh & crunchy. The creamiest curd
  • Roman gnocchi, braised greens, pecorino (£7) – Comfort food at it’s finest!
  • Pan fried monk’s beard with crispy capers (£9) – A tart and light contrast to the rest
  • Pump St Sourdough bread (£3) – Chewy, sour and salty – some of the best out there

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Produce is provided by local suppliers and their menu changes to reflect seasonal availability. The sample menu I papp’d below will give you a good idea of what they offer, although the dishes change regularly.

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Opening Hours

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The Café opens daily for breakfast, lunch and afternoon service, with a brunch menu served on Sundays.

Outdoor dining is available when the weather permits and private dining is available in their picturesque summerhouse.

Local Produce in a Glass

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One of my favourite things about their menu is that they serve the most edible sounding cocktails and there are a host of wines are available by the glass. The cafe also serves beers from Adnams Brewery & Aspall Ciders, both of which are local suppliers. They also have a range of soft drinks including Breckland Orchard Posh Pops.

For reservations call 01728 667022.

 

NEARBY SHOPPING GEM:

Make sure you head over the road to Darsham’s Retro Shop! Just next door to Darsham Train station. This place sells lots of reclaimed jewels in its front and back yard and inside is a Pandora’s trinket box of crockery and jewellery delights. There’s also a selection of second-hand, mainly vintage, clothes. Found two stunning tops each less than a tenner, worth ten times this amount. My other half, a draftsman and designer, found a beautiful antique compass from the turn of the century for £3. Vintage lovers, look no further!

 

 

Norfolk & Suffolk Local Produce Courtesy of Lawson’s Deli

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Situated on Aldeburgh High Street, Lawson’s DeliLawson’s Deli is one of the best delis in East Anglia. No word of a lie. Over the years I’ve been to most in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge and this one tops the charts for several reasons.

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It has been hugely popular with locals for over a decade and is multi-award winning. New owners took over in January 2017 and from what I can see, they have seriously reinvigorated the shop with some exciting new changes.

They serve a selection of artisan breads and pastries, gourmet and handmade frozen meals, a wide range of deli cheeses, home made pickles, pates and dips, loose nuts and dried fruits, jarred and bottle items, and a beautiful selection of homemade savoury tarts, luxurious scotch eggs and pastries with a difference, which change weekly. They also serve Monmouth Coffee to take away!

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We were lucky enough to sample a range of their goodies after a recent stay in Aldeburgh.

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Resident head chef, Kim, makes a plethora of daily goodies including one of the best chilli jams I’ve ever tasted. Here are a few of the things we tried:

Kim’s Hummus: Creamy, chunky and punchy, this contained fresh herbs and a delicious blast of garlic. This tasted more wholesome and flavoursome than most homemade hummus recipes I’ve tried. Would love to know your secret ingredient guys! (I couldn’t detect any tahini?!)

Sun blushed Tomatoes: Literally the best sun blushed tomatoes I’ve tasted. High-class restaurant standard. Plump, fresh, ripe and naturally sweet.

Kim’s Chilli Jam: Goodness knows what Kim’s secret is but she’s found the perfect balance of chilli and sticky sweetness. This was wondrous with every single cheese we tasted, especially the pungent ones. And also just lovely on it’s own with a cracker – it’s that good!

Marinated Artichokes: Large, firm whole artichokes in marinated olive oil. These were a delight!

Suffolk Gold: I loved this soft and creamy cheese made locally. It’s rumoured to make a superb frittata and quiches, as it has fantastic melting properties too.

Cornish Yarg: Oh my, this was so good I had to Google it. It tasted so creamy and of mozzarella in some ways but I discovered that it’s actually made from milk of Friesian cows. Before being left to mature, it’s wrapped in nettle leaves to form an edible, though mouldy, rind. DELICIOUS!

Kim’s Pickles: In joint first place with the chilli jam, Kim’s pickles were my other favourite hamper item. I can’t begin to tell you how good these were. Sweet pickled gherkins and thin slices of yellow peppers, soft and drenched in mustard seeds.

Norfolk Mardler: Possibly my favourite cheese of the bunch (and that’s not just because I’m a Norfolk gal) I’ve had this particular cheese many times before. It’s slightly crumbly yet softish for a firm cheese. The flavour is very addictive, I find it difficult to have small amounts of this.

Kalamata and Pistou Pitted: Two of my all-time favourite olives in one container! Not much more to say on this one.

Shipcord Extra mature: Made in Suffolk, Shipcord is a cheddar style cheese made with a high quality unpasteurised milk. Now this one is quite strong but with Kim’s Pickles or Chilli Jam it’s absolutely incredible.

Norfolk White Lady: This is a soft, bloomy Brie-like hand-made cheese using milk from a 60-strong herd of white Friesland sheep.

Rosemary Tounges: These homemade biscuits cum crackers were addictive. They were the perfect partner to mop up everything mentioned! Highly recommended.

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https://www.lawsonsdelicatessen.co.uk

Email: hello@lawsonsdelicatessen.co.uk

Phone: 01728 454052

 

A thousand thank yous to Lawson’s Deli who supplied the hamper and for the introduction via Best of Suffolk and Host Unusual!

15 ‘Best’ Things to Do in Aldeburgh

Our recent trip to Aldeburgh reconfirmed just how lucky we are to have so many coastline hotspots and charming seaside towns on our doorstep. Here in Norfolk, a trip to the coast always feels like we’ve managed to ‘get away from it all’, very quickly.

Although we’re loyal friends to neighbouring Aldeburgh, there are certain things we still haven’t explored. Even if Aldeburgh isn’t on your doorstep, it’s worth the journey for a day trip or even longer. It feels like somewhere beautifully foreign, even to us locals!

Like most things in Norfolk and Suffolk, there are a plethora of independent shops and eateries in our neck of the woods. There isn’t a motorway connecting our part of the world to the UK and as a result most of the chains forget about us. Halleluiah.

This list is primarily geared up to those who like quirky things with a vintage edge and for lovers of local produce! (In other words, things good for the soul.)

Here are a few of my favourite things to do and eat in Aldeburgh:

1.Best Vintage Shop – Vintage Angels Clothes and The Stable.Co: For some lovely trinkets and craft items, head to The Stable Co and for an impressive range and standard of vintage clothing, pop next door to the treasure trove that is known as Vintage Angels Clothes (open 11am-4pm Wednesday to Saturdays).

2. Best Second-hand bookshop: One of my favourite second-hand bookshops, only second to the one in Tombland in Norwich. I’m ashamed to say that despite making many purchases here in the past, I have no idea what the shop is actually called and I totally forgot to consider this fact upon the taking of this photo! Google didn’t reveal its identity either. So here’s a picture of it. It’s not called ‘Zorn’ as the faded canapé may suggest. It’s at the beginning of the high street on the right hand side. One of the first shops you’ll see! Almost opposite from Delphine’s.

3. Best Lunch-on-the-go – Munchies: Great for a morning pastry or sandwich on-the-go, all the locals love Munchies.

4. Best for Beach Hut Picnics and Take-Home Local Produce – Lawson’s Deli: For your daily caffeine hit, head here for a take-away Monmouth Coffee and stock up on some of the best deli items you’re likely to find anywhere.

Perfect for picnics on the beach! For my recommendations of what to buy, see my post about Lawson’s Deli.

5. Best High-Street Restaurant – Market Aldeburgh: This el fresco café on the main high street comes into its own in the warmer months. For a light lunch try the fish soup served with saffron rouille, Gruyère cheese and homemade herby croutons, with a glass of white wine, wearing shades and a smug grin.

6. Best Ice Cream – Ives Ice Cream Parlour: For a small yet gorgeous seaside spot, this parlour serves up an impressive selection of ice creams and cone options. You’ll be spoilt for choice. I always go for the salted caramel. Or try the parlour’s Belgium waffle with a freshly made milkshake. They even stock vegan ice cream, albeit soya-based!

7. Best Retro Lunch Delphine’s: I’ve always loved this small and quirky diner situated on the high street. It perfectly captures the American vibe of the 50s and 60s with its cherry red booths, chequerboard tiled floor and friendly service.

8. Best Way to Soak Up Aldeburgh – A Cycle along the Coast Road: My all-time favourite thing to do in Aldeburgh is to take our two bikes and pedal from Aldeburgh’s coast road up to nearby Thorpeness. It’s such a beautiful ride, and hardly a car on the road!​


9. Best Public Art – The Scallop Sculpture: Soak up the seascape and marvel at this beautiful sculpture. I don’t remember this being on the beach when I was younger, it’s only been here for ten years or more. It’s a striking tribute to Benjamin Britten – one of the twentieth-century’s most important composers who spent much of his life in Aldeburgh and nearby Snape.

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10. Best Activity – Boating on the Meare: Also located in Thorpeness, just a mile outside of town, you can hire a row boat, paddle boat, kayak (and more) and cruise around the Meare. We had the 70-acre lake to ourselves when we went. It was a tranquil way to spend a warm morning. We stopped at the fort, a secluded spot in the middle of the ambling lake, for our Lawson’s Deli picnic. One hour costs £16 and in that time you’ll be able to reach half way up the lake, through the small winding channels, stopping at a few interesting spots (Peter Man’s House, Peggy’s House) and back again.

11. Best House Spotting: Aldeburgh is certainly a great location for house spotting. It boasts a seriously diverse set of properties, each one is very individual in style. The drive up from Aldeburgh along the coast road to Thorpeness sees the type of homes you’d expect to see on Grand Designs. One of my favourite houses is actually in Thorpeness – the House in the Clouds. You can access the property via the drive up to the Thorpeness Golf & Country Club. You can walk or cycle to the entrance, adjacent to the Water Mill.

12. Best Pub – DP’s Bar: Some of the best landlords you’re ever likely to meet, lovely folks. They also often serve the most incredible Thai food from 6-9pm most evenings. Inside the pub boasts a selection of quirky and cosy seating booths, they have a beautiful resident cat (the cutest and cuddliest ginger mog!) and a good selection of art on the walls with papers and magazines aplenty in the rack.

13. Best Fish Supper – Brudnell’s: There are two pretty good fish and chip shops in Aldeburgh (although nothing quite beats the chippies in North Norfolk – sorry Suffolk!) but if you’d prefer to try a wide-range of local fish and seafood, Brudnell’s is the BEST in town for a romantic fish supper on the seafront.

14. Best Vintage Stay – The Vintage House: You could stay in one of Aldeburgh’s many fine hotels, bed and breakfasts or self-catering spots or you could opt for something a bit more different. Staying somewhere like The Vintage House feels a much richer and imaginative way “to do” self-catering. It’s location was perfect. Just a short cycle or walk into the main town yet situated on a pretty road, you’ve very much part of the community and feel nothing like a tourist.

15. Best Festival – Aldeburgh Poetry Festival: I went along to this last autumn and had a wonderful time. I was seriously impressed by the quality of events, workshops and speakers. The line-up was better than or equal to many of the big UK poetry festivals. So if poetry is your thing, make sure you time your visit to coincide with this year’s event.

 

This post is dedicated to Laura, who has recently started to explore the delights of Aldeburgh and asked me just the other day whether I had any tips. This one’s for you x

 

 

Time Travelling to 1928: A Stay in The Vintage House in Aldeburgh

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For those who are familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I’m a lover of quirky retreats, heritage travel and stays in guesthouses that are a little off-the-wall. Recently on Twitter I was introduced to a pretty cool company who seem to share my exact same taste in travel (thanks for the intro, The Control Tower!) In fact, our mutual love of the unusual is uncanny.

Host Unusual do exactly as its name suggests – it’s an online directory that showcases a huge selection of unusual holiday accommodation from across the UK. From intriguing architectural hideouts, to windmills and watermills to retro and vintage retreats.

The latter category really caught my eye. Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved clothes, films and relics from a bygone age, especially those forty years spanning the 1920s until the 1960s. So, as you can imagine, I was over the moon when we were invited to stay at one of Host Unusual’s newest Best of Suffolk properties, The Vintage House in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

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We’re very lucky to live in nearby Norfolk – we have over 90 miles of stunning coastline, not forgetting the picture-postcard countryside, world heritage sites, with many protected RSPB reserves, The Broads and a host of stunning cobbled medieval towns and a cathedral city with its very own castle. And then there’s nearby, Suffolk. Where do I begin? (Now, that’s a different blog post, to follow.)

With all this on our doorstep, it’s pretty easy and very enjoyable to holiday in our own backyard for a cheeky midweek break, sans toddler, to reclaim all the pleasures we once enjoyed before we started a family. Namely, luxuriating in lengthy lunches in beautiful places without having to catch flying hummus, reading in the bath without finding Iggle Piggle wedged into my lower back and shopping in vintage and antique shops without fearing for breakages etc etc.

The 1928 House

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Prior to our stay, I started thinking more about the 1920s. What was special about 1928? Well, lots of things as it happens: John Baird broadcasted the first transatlantic television signal from London to New York, The Oxford Dictionary was completed after 70 years, Heinz Baked Beans started manufacturing in the UK for the first time, the first high-voltage electricity pylon for the National Grid was erected and D.H Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published, in Italy.

Oh and one more thing. This charming home was built in a sleepy seaside town in Suffolk.

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Through the Keyhole

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From the moment we opened the spring-green coloured door, it was clear to see that this was a well looked after property. The 1920s attention to detail was remarkable.

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In fact, when I first set foot over the threshold, my senses were disorientated slightly; there was a very dream-like quality upon entering. It looked so authentically art deco that I had to check myself a couple of times. The only giveaway that I was still in 2017, was the discrete television, Dualit toaster and the radio alarm clocks, which I didn’t notice until later upon closer inspection. Every thing else felt unflinchingly authentic.

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Yet although the owners have clearly gone to great lengths to recreate this era, apart form using modern bedding and retro-looking mod cons, the majority of furniture and soft furnishings were genuine antiques. So much so, at first glance it seemed as though there wasn’t any electricity. That’s because all of the plug sockets are out of sight (they are there though!).

Lawsons Hamper

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On our arrival, we were greeted by a very inviting bottle of red plonk which was left by the owners on the dining room table for us.

Better still, the lovely folks from nearby Lawson’s Deli sent over a gorgeous hamper of the most incredible antipasti goodies and produce from Norfolk and Suffolk, which I will blog about separately (stay tuned!).

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The Things We Loved

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Soaking up the history: We loved the consistency of detail given to all aspects of the property, the vintage décor was seamless. From the black cast iron radiators in every room to the original pieces of memorabilia from cameras to a working gramophone (although it sounded a bit scratchy, it was wonderful to hear), an old electric fireplace and period radio. So lovely to be fully immersed in this era.

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It felt good to be barefoot: This might sound a bit strange but it was a memory of the house I was left with and felt worth mentioning. The house had the same stunning reclaimed wooden floorboards throughout every single room. The floor felt lovely and smooth on my bare feet. (I guess this stuck out for me personally because it was free of Duplo blocks and jagged dinosaur corpses, just pure smooth oak for miles and miles or at least in the eight rooms where we were staying.)

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Art candy for the eyes: Just when I thought I’d taken it all in, I’d spot more detail such as the subtle art deco linear edges of the bed, the dresser and side tables and chairs in each room. It really was a feast for the eyes.

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Being deep in bubbles: I loved the beautiful free-standing bath that we took advantage of. Twice. Filled with bubbles and armed with a glass of red, some Booja-Booja and a new collection of poems I bought from the local second-hand bookshop.

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Floating on clouds: We slept really well in the beautiful bed. It looked deceivingly small but there was plenty of room, perhaps because it was higher than your average modern bed. It was so comfortable. The bedding was very plump, our bodies melted into the absorbing folds of the clouds. We slept until 8.30am, which is a humongous lie-in for us.

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Making a delicious breakfast, simply: The kitchen looked absolutely stunning. Why? It was designed to contain a smart modern-day cooker, a beautiful Belfast sink, wooden work surfaces and an original wood burner cooker with hotplate.

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All the ugly-looking mod cons such as a dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer and fridge-freezer were missing. That’s because, the owners cleverly used the larder space to house the most important day-to-day kitchen gadgets, including this gorgeous black SMEG fridge. Ta dah!

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Overall Verdict

Staying somewhere like The Vintage House is a much richer and imaginative way “to do” self-catering. It’s location was perfect – just a short cycle or longer stroll into the main town yet situated on a pretty road, you’re very much part of the community and feel nothing like a tourist, more of a time-traveller.

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Essentials: Sleeps up to 4 in double bedroom and twin bedroom, bedding and towels provided, private bathroom, roll-top bath & shower, The White Company amenities, fully equipped kitchen, dual fuel cooker, fridge/freezer, dining room, open coal fires, sitting room, flat-screen Freeview TV, DVD player, iPod docking station, WiFi, garden, patio off-road parking.

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What to do in Aldeburgh: Blog post coming soon!

To Stay Here:

Booking with Best of Suffolk via Host Unusual costs from £423 per week to stay at The Vintage House, sleeping 4, with two bedrooms and one bathroom (toilet downstairs). Minimum 3-night stay.

To see a wide range of unusual accommodation from across the UK go to http://www.hostunusual.co.uk

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A big thank you to The Vintage House, Host Unusual and Best of Suffolk for having us, we had the most wonderful stay! And also to the folks over at Lawson’s Deli – the hamper was such a treat, we savoured it all. (No word of a lie, I am literally nibbling on some Norfolk Mardler with Kim’s chilli jam dribbling down my lips whilst I type this!)

Maltese Kappunata

 

This is a recipe from my Maltese roots. Although it’s probably best known as an Italian dish, it’s a popular aubergine accompaniment in Maltese homes too. My Mum would make a big batch of this and serve it up as a sidekick to grilled tuna or with barbequed meat. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed making a lunchtime meal out of it by adding some medium-hard boiled eggs, cooked and dressed asparagus and other leftovers such as this three beet roasted salad.

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But the beautiful thing about kappunata is that once you’ve made a batch, just keep it in your fridge, for around three days, and the longer it marinates the tastier it gets and you can just add spoon-fulls to accompany various dishes. It’s also great stirred into pasta or just with some crackers or bread and some wine. That’s my favourite way to eat this, as an accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks – it’s a superb anti pasti.

My Mum and Maltese Nana didn’t use pine nuts in their recipe but I like the texture it adds. I also like to use good-quality pitted kalamata black olives but it’s really up to you what variety you use.

Although there’s some cooking required for kappunata, it’s a dish best served cold in a bowl garnished with basil. With plenty of sourdough bread on the side.

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Ingredients:

4 aubergines

200g black kalamata olives

50g capers

2 large sticks of celery

4 tbsp of passata

2 onions, finely sliced

125ml white wine vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

handful of pine nuts (optional)

basil leaves

olive oil

 

  1. Dice the aubergines and place in a bowl with salted water for about two hours. Meanwhile, clean the celery and blanch in salted water for five minutes
  2. Place the capers in a bow with hot water to draw out the salt and drain after a few minutes
  3. Fry the onion in a little oil for a couple of minutes and then add capers and the roughly chopped olives
  4. Add the tomato sauce (either homemade pasta sauce or a passata will do).
  5. Squeeze the aubergines, dry carefully and fry in another frying pan
  6. Fry the celery in the same pan and then place both the celery and aubergine in a saucepan with the sauce. Mix well and cook on a gentle heat for five minutes
  7. Add the sugar, vinegar and after a few minutes turn off the heat and cover with a lid.

 

 

Wild Deer, Risqué Art and a Good Pint

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If I was asked to recommend a good pub to visitors coming to Norfolk, I’d be hard pushed to pick just one. But if I was held at gunpoint with a cucumber at my chest, I’d probably pick The Gunton Arms, a stunning gastro-pub with rooms and where we’ve spent many happy family birthdays. Plus its large spacious dinning room is actually pretty baby and toddler friendly, despite what first impressions might give.

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Just four miles from the North Norfolk coast and surrounded by an enormous historic and secluded deerpark, where stags and does roam and are often spotted ambling past the restaurant’s windows as stunned diners watch on.

The owner clearly has an eye for risqué art, which is a big talking point for patrons, with a range of works by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Lucian Freud, Glenn Brown, Beatiz Milhazes and Albert Oehlen to name but a few.

Chef, Stuart Tattersall cooks using the best of Norfolk’s seasonal produce including venison from the deerpark and beef from the local herd at Blickling which are cooked over a large open fire in the Elk Room. The pub also has its own seafood, mussels and Cromer crab caught by local fishermen.

There’s also a surprisingly good vegetarian menu with lots of alluring specials.

How to get there: Gunton station, which connects to other rail networks via Norwich, is one mile away. Norwich Airport is 25 minutes away by car and there are flight connections to worldwide destinations via Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which is a 30 minute flight from Norwich.

The Gunton Arms, Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norwich NR11 8TZ
Telephone: 01263 832010
Email: office@theguntonarms.co.uk