Norwich is a city that welcomes the hungry. A cornucopia of cafes, restaurants, bars and stalls lines the streets and lanes of the city, each one inviting you to stop, try, venture inside. With choices so numerous, even the hungriest traveller needs a guide though to lead them through this culinary landscape and so we discover a small part of the city in the Norwich Lanes: the area of Gaol Hill, St Giles and Upper St Giles.
Our first stop is for those who like their restaurants to come with a backstory. On Gaol Hill you’ll find The Library, an exquisite restaurant whose story stretches back to the eighteenth century. Built on the site of the old city gaol, this former library was finished in 1836, and contained 50,000 books in two eleven-bay wings across three storeys. Despite a major fire in 1898, it remained a library until 1976, when the last book was stamped and the service was moved elsewhere. It wasn’t until 2006 that the building was transformed. Now imposing Doric columns flank the entrance to this Victorian building, and where once there were books there stands an expansive bar and brasserie. Diners sit in alcoves walled by original bookshelves, stretching nine metres up to the glass ceiling above. The cocktails are renowned; the food famous for its distinctive taste, owing much to the specially imported wood fire grill.
Further up the hill takes you into St Giles Street, it is here you’ll find one of Norwich’s most popular and unusual restaurants, The Waffle House. The name gives you a clue as to what you’ll find on the menu: waffles with every kind of topping imaginable – sweet, savoury, saucy, spicy, simple and sophisticated – all for your delectation. With its emphasis on organic ingredients and drinks, reasonable prices, plenty of vegetarian options and perfect light and crispy waffles, it’s no wonder The Waffle House has been a Norwich institution for the last 39 years.
Next we travel onward to Upper St Giles where diners with a taste for the finer things in life flock to Roger Hickman’s Restaurant, two-time winner of the EDP’s Restaurant of the Year and the only restaurant in the city to boast three AA rosettes. The Good Food Guide praises the eponymous chef for his incredible attention to detail, defined flavours and “high levels of painstaking skill” (not to mention the superb wine list) plus the restaurant was named in the Sunday Times Top UK 100 Restaurants in 2015 – the first in Norwich to be included.
And then a hop, skip and a jump from Roger we stumble upon Louis of Louis’ Deli, a veritable smorgasbord of fresh seasonal produce, cakes, pies, savouries, bread, cheese, preserves and beverages, an artisan kitchen to break your heart! Pop in for a coffee (you may only go in for a coffee but you will eat too – we assure you), or take away delicacies for an impromptu picnic, you can even pick up a home-made ready meal (all the goodness of what you make yourself without the guilt that you didn’t actually make it!). And for those of us who like to dabble in conversational languages, meet at 3pm to join like minded individuals who want to chat; French (Mon), Spanish (Tue), Italian (Wed), Russian (Thurs) and German (Fri).
Top image: sweet treats from Louis' Deli; bottom image: food from The Library Restaurant Bar & Grill