Norwich: Cafe Waring

A toasted panini, a coffee, a slice of cake — and would you like the table and chairs with that? SIMON PARKIN enjoys lunch at a unique Norwich caf�.

It's not often you can buy the chair you're sat on while you enjoy your lunch. But then Caf� Waring is a rather unusual coffee shop.

Norwich-based Warings Furniture, run by husband and wife team Graham and Rachael Waring, has been supplying furniture and fittings to restaurants, hotels, bars and the like since 1986. If you've ever stayed at a Travelodge or eaten at Pizza Express, chances are you'll have plonked your bum on one of their chairs or tucking into a meal from one of their tables.

Recently they've been helping TV chef Jamie Oliver give diners a flavour of his pukka food after winning contracts to furnish a Jamie's Italian restaurants. When the celebrity chef's latest restaurant opens soon in the Royal Arcade, it will be Warings suitable continental style furniture that you'll see.

The firm harboured an aim to transfer this corporate success into selling the same furniture direct to the public, and they've branched out into the retail sector by opening their first furniture store at the iconic Crystal House on Cattle Market Street.

And when you've spent years fitting out other people's restaurants and cafes, I suppose it is only a short stretch to opening your own. So amid the tables, chairs, sofas and stools, part of the downstairs of the glass fronted building has been given over to their coffee shop.

Rachael Waring said that to make the furniture store work they felt they had to widen its appeal. 'To make it work we felt we needed to add further appeal and it was immediately apparent that a cafe would work fantastically well.'

Most Read

The building itself is fantastic, light and airy with great acoustics and a nice vibe. Despite this it is in a slightly cut off spot from the city centre with limited footfall. However it already seems to have won a loyal following — and they are mostly there for a sandwich rather than a sofa.

The menu isn't huge. It is basically coffee shop fare with sandwiches, paninis, some homemade pre-prepared salads, pies and some yummy looking cakes.

'There are usually three or four choices of panini, and we have a selection of salads during the summer months,' said Rachel. 'We always have a variety of pastries and scones and a constantly changing array of freshly baked cakes.'

The toasted ham and cheese Paninis we tried were excellent, if a tad on the pricy side at �4.30. Generous slices of lemon drizzle and chocolate cake were moist and moreish.

There is a large coffee selection — all properly done to order by the barista, rather than button pushed machines, and, speaking as someone tried more than my fair share, they serve a mean cuppa.

'We use Teapig teabags and for coffee we use a family firm in Newmarket who have been roasting their own coffee beans for decades,' said Rachel. 'We are the first and currently only venue in Norwich that sells coffee from their 100% Arabica beans, but I'm sure we won't be the last, as the quality is fantastic. The classic latte and Chai latte are our most popular drinks.'

With free wi-fi access and newspapers, the caf� has already become a meeting place for workers from the offices nearby, and they have plans for tables and chairs outside.

There is also a library of interior design books that customers love browsing through. And of course, the caf� is part of our store, so you can buy home accessories, furniture, fabrics, wallpapers and even paint. There aren't many cafes you can say that about.

And once you get up from your chair, maybe you'll decide to buy it…


Crystal House

Cattle Market Street


01603 766777

Open: Mon-Fri 7.30am–6.30pm, Sat 9am–6.30pm, Sun 10am–4pm

Prices: Paninis about �4.50, cakes about �2.40

Vegetarian options: Yes

Wheelchair access: Yes