PUBLISHED: 07:07 24 March 2014
It was a sentimental kind of day: After a time in north Norfolk we indulged ourselves, slumping in front of a roaring wood fire and turning on the TV to catch an absorbing interview with the writer Hanif Kureishi and then one his films, the iconic My Beautiful Laundrette, from 1985.
It was directed by Stephen Frears and launched his career (as well as that of Daniel Day-Lewis, now of course the triple Oscar winner). Stephen is a sought-after persona, directing The Queen and recently Philomena, but a few years back he was at school with me and was in the same house. We used to call him “nude” because he had the reputation of skinny-dipping with Glynis Johns, who was still acting last year at 90 years old. He was a little older than me and as a prefect he gave me a punishment which involved me dressing in games clothes and doing press-ups outside his study on gravel.
To celebrate our satisfying entertainment on this evening though, we indulged ourselves with a splendid fish quiche with tender pastry and a couple of glasses of L’Oustalet, Famille Perrin, both bought at Back to the Garden, our latest and unusual venture into Norfolk’s gourmet scene. It’s a farm shop at Letheringsett, near Holt, but with elaborate additions that have turned it into a very classy destination. The man behind the project is the landowner and actor Lord Hastings, and the place is the current holder of the title of Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer in the EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards, a category sponsored by Adnams.
The substantial car park was brimming and we found at last one place to park before entering the vaulted, cathedral-like barn with beautiful beamed ceiling, to be confronted by the central range of exquisite local vegetables in stylish baskets. There is a comprehensive butcher’s shop, selling meat that has been butchered on the estate, all local and some sourced from a Soil Association organic farm. It has also been awarded organic gold standard for range of meats.
Before passing into the café there is a delicatessen counter with sells fare from its own separate kitchen and superb unpasteurised cheeses from an “affineur” in London as well as Norfolk sources. There are also shelves stocked with wines all from the old and distinguished wine merchants, Berry Brothers and Rudd from St James, London - classy again!
The café is big, some 80 covers, and is appointed with modern, good-looking and substantial chairs and tables, and with elegant old brick and flint walls.
We settled down with a glass of burgundy and chose from the lunch menu, inquisitive to know who cooked this elaborate food under this unusual situation. We found out that it was Eden Derrick, who started with me in Wymondham, washing-up when he was 13, 30 years ago.
There is a brunch menu, but we went for the restaurantesque-style lunch menu, choosing Thai beef with pineapple and crispy pulled pork with black pudding as the starters. Da had risotto of Brancaster mussels, another of the starters
as her main course. It was rich and substantial and good for garlic-lovers. My main course was perfectly cooked organic chump of lamb from the butcher’s section, with sweetness from a honey and thyme jus. The dark chocolate mousse was an Adlard’s old recipe and one cannot argue about
the impeccable source!
The verdict: Class food, class waiting, class wine and class mise-en-scène!
Meet the chef
Eden’s first job was washing-up and cleaning at Adlard’s Restaurant in Wymondham in his early teens. After three years at City College Norwich, he went on to be chef at Adlard’s and then with Animal Inns for 14 years, with a spell with Sam Clifford at Tatler’s in Norwich. Eden was head chef at The Mad Moose, the Animal Inns’ restaurant in Norwich, and was proud to achieve the Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide before he moved to be head chef at The Wildebeest in Stoke Holy Cross. After working as a freelance chef, he was attracted to cook at Back to the Garden. He is a family man and cooks most evenings but eats out when he can. He still rides fast motorcycles!
Back to the Garden, Letheringsett, Holt, NR25 7JJ; 01263 715996; www.back-to-the-garden.co.uk
Expect to pay:
Starters, around £8
Mains, around £15.95
Under-12s’ menu, £6.50