A blog in which Lucy and Mother Dearest drive through the Norfolk countryside to enjoy tea and cake at Elveden Estates.
The sun blazes down on the tarmac as the little car flies down the A11. Sunglasses on. Beach Boys blaring from the stereo. Mother Dearest in the passenger seat.
That pretty much sets the scene for last weekend’s trip to Elveden Estate on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.
It took us about 40 minutes to get there from Norwich and it was super-easy to find. It’s well signposted when you take the slip-road off the A11. You come to a T-junction and just follow the signs to the spacious car park.
When you arrive, you may be deceived into thinking the Food Hall is a small affair, but it’s extensive and packed with local goodies. I defy you to not be distracted by all the fine local fare as you walk through the barn conversion to the Restaurant at the rear.
We were warmly greeted by Sam when we arrived and immediately shown to a cloth-clad table at the centre of the room. We were told that we could sit outside and enjoy the sunshine if we’d prefer. However, as there is no table service outside, we decided to remain indoors. That said, there were lots of families in the courtyard, making the most of the weather, as well as an 18th birthday party taking place on the lawn, so I think that will be on the cards for my next visit.
Having passed lots of beautiful cakes on the counter as we walked in, we were keenly anticipating our afternoon tea. We perused the drinks menu and opted for Butterworth & Son Suffolk Blend Tea then sat back and took in our surroundings.
Elveden Estates Restaurant: Setting the scene
The barn is light and airy, with windows all along one side; soft music blends with the burble of conversation and the tinkle of cutlery; in all, it is a very civilised, relaxed place to spend the afternoon.
The tea arrived shortly before the food and it deserves a mention. It’s rare that I will proclaim the wonders of tea. While I love it, it’s rare that I’ll get a good brew in a restaurant. But this tea was perfect. Yep. That’s right. Perfect. It brewed quickly, had a good colour and a rounded flavour; it was so good that I bought a box on my way home.
But enough of that.
I’m pretty sure you came to read about the food. And let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint. I’m fairly certain I cooed as the cake stand was delivered to our table. Beautifully presented, it was loaded with sandwiches, scones and cakes and garnished with berries and physalis. I may have taken several hundred photographs of it.
So much cake…
Ever the traditionalists, we started at the bottom with the sandwich selection and worked our way up. The options were egg mayonnaise and cress on white; tuna with gherkins, onion, red pepper and sweetcorn on granary; gammon and Elvedenlilli pickle on white; and cheddar and chutney on brown.
As any afternoon-tea lover will know, sometimes the sandwiches are a disappointment. They were made earlier in the day and the bread has dried out; slightly curled at the edges. And the filling literally doesn’t taste of anything.
Well, not these. The bread was incredibly fresh and they all had great fillings. I particularly liked the creamy cheddar, which beautifully contrasted with the spicy, cinnamony Elveden Estate chutney. It’s not a combination I normally plump for, but I can happily say that it was my favourite of the bunch.
Mother Dearest was more keen on the egg mayo, which prompted a whole conversation about why we never eat cress anymore. I pity anyone sitting near us, having to listen to such nonsense.
Following savoury with savoury seemed to be the logical option, so the cheese scones were up next. And they were incredible. With a thick cheese crust on the top, they were light and airy with an excellent crumb. In fact, they were so moist that they didn’t need butter.
With a thick cheese crust on the top, they were light and airy with an excellent crumb
That’s not the cast a shadow over the fruit scones. They were far from disappointing. Bespeckled with sultanas, they were equally light. And when loaded up with bright, chunky strawberry jam and thick, rich clotted cream they were even better. There was a hint of lemon somewhere in the mix too, but I failed to nail down exactly where it was coming from. I will just have to go back and try another one!
Is there such a thing as too much cake?
At this point Mother Dearest started to fatigue. ‘I don’t know if I can go on,’ she sighed. ‘But I believe in you. Eat the cake!’ I cried and coerced. Eventually, having agreed to take a little break, we resumed our feast and proceeded to to polish off the top layer of cake.
The rhubarb sponge was light and delicately flavoured; the frangipane tart had the shortest, buttery-est pastry I’ve ever eaten; the victoria sponge moist and rich; and the miniature crème pât eclairs were rich and vanilla-y. But the pièce de résistance was the tiny lemon cheesecake.
The pièce de résistance was the tiny lemon cheesecake
Now, I’ve never had a tiny cheesecake as part of an afternoon tea before, but I have to say it’s a stroke of genius. Just when you think you’ve had enough sponge, you can mix it up with a mouthful of cool cheesecake. Although it was small, it made a real impression – as you may have already figured. Not only was it prettily presented, but the cream cheese was very light, almost like a mousse, with a bright, zingy burst of lemon curd on top. It was delightful.
At this point, it’s safe to say that we were both feeling rather uncomfortable. We’d eaten our own body weight in carb-based goodness and needed a nap. Thankfully our teapot had been replenished and we sat and chatted. In fact, I think we were there for over 90 minutes in total. I couldn’t think of a more decadent way to spend an afternoon, to be honest.
Elveden Estate Food Hall
Once we had recovered from our cake marathon, we had an amble around the Food Hall itself. There’s a great butchery on site, selling all local meats from Norfolk and Suffolk. I can highly recommend a sirloin steak – the beef was really fresh, tasty and tender. I may have also succumbed to a loaf of sourdough with wild yeast, as well as a jar of lemon curd and a box of tea.
But there was also lots of local booze, including IPA and gin; cakes and biscuits, as well as macarons from Macarons & More. We spent at least another half-an-hour filling our baskets before we realised they were trying to shut the shop around us!
Needless to say, we will both be returning later in the summer, hopefully post-walk for some hard-earned sustenance.
Note: I was invited to review Elveden Estates Food Hall & Restaurant.