Sunday, 27 January 2013

Café Crawling

A snowy view from House

I have quite a few passions/addictions, and another that’s pretty high up there is tea! I currently have 15 varieties in my cupboard, each of which is had on particular occasions and has a very special purpose, but every day has to start with a rather large mug of Earl Grey (I’m not only in love but a bit of a snob).

This week and weekend, I’ve finally made it back to a few of my favourite Norwich haunts. Forget bar crawling, this city is best for a good old café crawl (although many of my favourite places for tea do also serve as bars in the evenings and late into the night)!

My return began with a visit to the Bicycle Shop. Usually visits to the Bicycle Shop involve masses of tapas, the perfect accompaniment to any drinking. I particularly love the ambience in the Bicycle Shop, emphasised by the beautiful decor and the way that the whole place is candle-lit of an evening. The candles have often resulted in being sat in pitch black by the end of the night as they go out and no one seems to notice (either because too much alcohol has been consumed or, I like to think, because company is just so stimulating and we’re all having such a nice time). The Bicycle Shop serves the nicest Moroccan Green tea. A bag all the way from Morocco when I visited at Easter sits in my cupboard, but I’m ashamed to admit that it’s not quite the same as a tea bag. Perhaps one of the most important things for me when drinking tea however, is what it comes in. The Bicycle Shop definitely has the best selection of China which is always mix-and-match and provides me with far too much entertainment (and the person I’m with far too much embarrassment as I spill tea in an attempt to see the bottom of the cup)!

The following day I visited House, another of my favourites on St Benedict’s Street and another with a very pretty selection of China. House is a vintage café and yet another place to get a great fish finger sandwich or a CRUMPET, and anywhere that serves a crumpet is fine by me! I had a slice of rose baklava to accompany my tea this time which was very, very tasty! They even used to have an Etch-a-Sketch to play with which is probably what used to get me back quite so often although sadly it seems to have disappeared. Nevertheless, the ridiculously comfy sofa positioned right in the window is ideal for people-watching – and for being people-watched back – instead and because they serve loose tea they’re happy to create blends which is always exciting. Lovely spot for a proper catch up!

Yesterday I headed to Strangers Coffee House in Pottergate. When I was working in Norwich this used to be my regular sandwich stop (not that I should admit that what with working in food somewhere else) because they do some really unusual but very tasty fillings. Even though it’s quite a small café and an empty table is rare, I love the location of Strangers because it’s right next to St Gregory’s Green and a rather handy wall to perch on at any time of year (I got a very wet bottom inadvertently sitting on a patch of melted snow yesterday). In the summer their iced tea is particularly yummy!

Today I experienced breakfast at Frank’s Bar on Bedford Street for the first time. Frank’s is somewhere frequented by me just as often for a celebratory beverage (or several) as for a cup of tea. The menu has always been an endless list of wines, beers, and spirits, making for some very experimental drinking. However today we were greeted by an actual cocktail menu; return visit is obligatory! Frank’s is table service which always feels rather decadent, and they serve London Tea Company tea, whose packaging always gives you the full run-down of what the tea is best for (it’s the little things). My favourite is chamomile and lavender which is always perfect after a long day of shopping, its soporific effect leaving a snoozy Laura in the corner. Again the accompanying bread and oils make for good absorption of any drink and while there may not be an Etch-a-Sketch, there is Shut The Box and Rummikub, and apparently their Full English breakfast is also extremely satisfactory (can’t believe I’ve gone this long without trying it)!