There is more to Norwich than just being a cathedral city, although medieval Norwich at one point had 57 churches within the city walls. Last year, it was voted the best place to live in the UK by a national newspaper and in this article, we will examine why you should be visiting this charming city.
History is an inescapable part of Norwich and you will find the oldest hotel in the UK dating back over 800 years in the city centre in the form of The Maids Head Hotel. History exudes from every corner of this hotel from Queen Catherine of Aragon being entertained at the hotel in 1520 to the ‘snug' being confirmed by Alan Partridge as his ‘favourite Norfolk pub. The historic eaves and beams might date back many centuries but they are not a hotel to stand on their laurels; each room comes with an iPad to provide all the vital information about the hotel and the interior decoration is modern and chic.
Close-by is the awe-inspiring Norwich Cathedral with a 315ft spire that dominates the city skyline and is second in height only to Salisbury. Apart from discovering the fantastic stories throughout the site such as the statue of Edith Cavell and Erpingham gate, it is just an incredibly serene and peaceful place for quiet reflection. The monastic cloister with elegant high arches and roof bosses is the largest in the UK.
I also highly recommend visiting the Plantation garden, an extraordinary private Victorian town garden that is rarely seen these days. Apart from the riot of colours from their floral display, you also get to see a 30ft gothic fountain, an Italianate terrace, rustic bridge, and woodland paths.
There is plenty to do in the city centre itself, with the Norwich Lanes offering an eclectic mix of boutique shops and independent eateries. However, what you should plan ahead for is to book in a few restaurants to sample the booming culinary scene in the city.
Veganism isn't just big in cosmopolitan cities like London but also thriving in places like Norwich. Erpingham House couldn't be more on trend being 100% plant-based, plastic-free and mostly gluten-free. There is a delightful mix of Western, Middle-eastern and Asian offerings with the key USP being fresh, healthy ingredients that don't compromise on the taste. We enjoyed extremely refreshing rice paper summer rolls and flavoursome tabbouleh stuffed baby aubergine for starters. Whilst the main course included very filling portions of avocado pesto linguine and pad thai, which was packed with flavours of chilli, ginger, lime, coriander, spring onions, and sesame seeds.
In the centre of town is the famous, “baroque” style department store, Jarrold that was established in 1770. Although, you will not guess it is centuries old if you visit their recently refurbished deli, wine bar, and food hall. We rested our shopping-weary legs at The Exchange for a quick pasta lunch. It has a simple yet effective menu in which you have 6 different pasta options matched with 7 choices for sauces. Seafood fans will not be disappointed with their squid ink pasta with crab and crayfish.
If you want to experience a culinary extravaganza, then make a beeline to Benedicts in Norwich. Their tasting menu rivals the very best in London but with less of the pretentiousness. English watercress velouté, you might not think of as the most flavoursome dish ever, but when combined with cod roe and quail egg it turns into a dreamy concoction. Using seasonal, local ingredients isn't breaking news these days but it was fantastic to discover so many offerings in the local area from Norfolk chanterelles to tender Blickling Hall Estate new season lamb. The huge positive is they were prepared to offer a vegetarian tasting menu alongside their standard version on the same table. The Norwichians could teach everyone a thing or two about customer service. We finished off our meal with Nanny Bush's trifle with milk jam, which was, in fact, the winning dish of BBC2's Great British Menu 2015.
Whether it is history, culture or just fantastic food, Norwich has something special to cater for all tastes.
Greater Anglia runs trains between London Liverpool Street andNorwich daily, every half hour. Advanced fares from £10 each way.Book at www.greateranglia.co.ukDuration 1hr 50 mins.
For more information on Norwich, see here.
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