Norwich: Butterfly Cafe

The Lady Julian bridge has breathed new life into King's Street. SARAH BREALEY visits the Butterfly Cafe, where simple freshly-made food is the order of the day.

King Street has seen more change in the last century than most bits of Norwich. Where once were breweries and families living close-pressed with shared toilets there are done-up flats and houses and a new Lady Julian pedestrian bridge to Riverside.

It still has a funny feel of a borderline place, or what school geography lessons taught us to call a 'zone in transition'. There are some leisure venues — the Waterfront, Dragon Hall — and a scattering of shops, but it feels divorced from the city centre.

The Butterfly Cafe has alighted just opposite the new bridge. It is small but perfectly formed, a modern-looking outside with a striking purple sign. Inside there are mauve walls, images of butterflies and a mixture of deep comfortable chairs and new wooden ones. On a shelf there are travel books and CDs that you can buy for bargain prices.

The food is all freshly made and is mostly focused on sandwiches, salads and pancakes, plus breakfasts. There is usually a home-made soup too – on separate occasions I had the broccoli, which was creamy with a distinct but not overpowering broccoli flavour – and tomato soup, which was scarlet and vibrant-tasting, full of the rich summery flavour of tomatoes. Both came with a sprinkling of cheese and a fresh basil leaf by way of a garnish.

I also had a mozzarella and avocado ciabatta, which had been anointed with olive oil and was very pleasant. The other half had the special grilled chicken sandwich, which also contained bacon, salad and quite a bit of mustard.

On a different occasion I couldn't resist one of the pancakes, which are large, elegantly folded and come dusted with Parmesan. Sadly they had run out of spinach, so I was unable to have the delicious-sounding spinach and feta option. But you can choose your own combination of pancake fillings (they do this with sandwiches as well) so I went for a Mediterranean medley of feta with olives and sundried tomatoes. The pancake was thin and light and quite generously filled.

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The other half had one with ham and smoked cheese (there is a chicken and smoked cheese option too) which also featured some fresh tomatoes and herbs.

There is an enticing array of sweet pancakes with fillings like apple and cinnamon, served with ice-cream, and usually two or three baked items – well-priced scones, pecan plaits and carrot cake, for example. Carrot cake is one of my favourites, and this was a good specimen with a gently spicy inside and creamy icing.

The only criticism was that the outside edge was a bit dry, which could have been solved by putting icing down the sides as well as on top.

In addition to the usual hot drinks (the black coffee comes in quite small cups but is very strong, halfway to an espresso, and is very good) there are herbal and fruit teas. You can also get home-made smoothies with yoghurt and fresh fruit.

Prices are generally quite reasonable, with most dishes under �5. You can get a freshly-made sandwich to take away for a bit less than the cost of eating it in.

The cafe is open six days a week from 8.30am to 4pm on weekdays, 10am to 3pm on Saturdays, 11am-3pm on Sundays. It is not the sort of place where you book a table, though it does fill up some lunchtimes, so you might occasionally have to wait. But the food comes quite quickly – although it takes a few minutes for the pancakes to be made – so it is ideal for a working lunch, or for some refreshments before or after visiting Dragon Hall.

I hope the Butterfly stays around whatever future changes lie in store for King Street.

The Butterfly Cafe

King Street


Open: Mon-Fri 8.30am-4pm, Sat 10am-3pm, Sun 11am-3pm

Prices: Ciabattas from �2.30, salads from �5.70, pancakes from �2.90

Vegetarian options: Lots

Wheechair access: Yes