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Monday, November 12, 2012
The cakes are legendary, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the savouries at this gem of a Norwich café, says SARAH BREALEY.
How do I love cake? Let me count the ways. I love carrot cake and lemon drizzle, coffee and walnut and Victoria sponge...
At Café 33 they are all so good it is impossible to have a favourite. This place has long been my top spot for cake in Norwich, thanks to the impressive choice, the generous slices and the little touches of quality – like the mascarpone icing on the Victoria sponge. The only trouble is that the place is so popular you may have to wait for a table, but unless you’re very impatient I reckon it’s worth it.
After umpteen visits for tea and cake it seemed like a more leisurely investigation of the menu was overdue. There are cooked breakfasts in various classic forms (full English, eggs Benedict) as well as the less classic (granola sundae). Or you can have one of various “light lunches” which are not all that light (unless perhaps your point of reference is steak and kidney pudding): ham and eggs, or various good things on toast, such as Welsh rarebit made with Norfolk ale, sage and onion.
The soup of the day, which was roasted vegetable, came in the kind of bowl you can dive into. Though that would have been a very messy experience: the contents were rust-red and nearly thick enough to stand a spoon in. It was delicious, too, singing with all the flavours of late summer. It came with cheese-filled bread that had been grilled to a slight crispness, bringing out the flavour of the cheese.
There was more of the cheese bread, though not grilled this time, on an antipasti board. Like most antipasti selections, the skill lay in the purchasing and assembling rather than the cooking. There were sunblush tomatoes in oil, and some better-than-average hummous that still retained some texture in a way that made me suspect it of being home-made. The board was easy on the eye, too, with its fragile folds of rose-pink Parma ham, and juicy olives in shades of green and violet, their stones still in (you should never trust a pre-stoned olive). But first of all we devoured the one cooked item, some slices of grilled halloumi. I don’t always get excited about this salty, squeaky cheese with its mild flavour, but this time it had been cooked to a turn, and eaten still hot on the cheese bread it was a simple but memorable pleasure.
Equally good was the “posh mushrooms on toast” — fat, juicy slices of field mushroom with half-melted goats’ cheese to lend an extra kick up the backside. It was served on ciabatta - or perhaps it was focaccia, it was hard to tell under the avalanche of fungi — and there was a tasty, albeit slightly unnecessary, pot of red onion chutney on the side.
The other dish we sampled, bacon, sausage and new potato hash, seems just right for lazy weekend lunch or brunch. It was served on a bed of salad leaves and topped with a poached egg. The egg may have been slightly overcooked, at least for those who like their yolks runny, but there were certainly no other complaints, and it disappeared in short order.
Then it was time for cake, and alas, I barely had room. So I restricted myself to nicking a couple of forkfuls of a chocolate and orange sponge, which was like one of those Terry’s Christmas-time treats in cake form. There was a lovely moist icing and some dark chocolate crumbled on top. As for the chocolate and raspberry cake, or the lemon and poppyseed — well, I felt real sorrow at not being able to try them.
01603 626 097
Open: Seven days a week, daytimes only
Prices: Soup £5.95, sausage and bacon hash £7.65, cake with tea or coffee £3.30
Vegetarian options: Several including pancakes and Welsh rarebit, and often a daily special. There are gluten-free options too.
Wheelchair access: One step to get in, a bit cramped inside, toilet not adapted