As its name suggests, Expresso is great for coffee, according to the cappuccino-loving parents of SIMON PARKIN. But there is more to it than that.
They may not be trained barista, and they swear they're not caffeine addicts, but my parents have so far spent their retirement becoming experts on cappuccino.
Not a day goes by when they don't frequent a caf� or coffee shop seeking out cups (they don't like mugs, and consequently Starbucks) of frothy coffee sprinkled with chocolate.
Everytime I see them they've got a new favourite coffee haunt. Get them on the subject and they've usually got a long list of reasons why their latest hangout is the best. One thing never changes though. Whenever they come to visit me in Norwich they always insist on frequenting this lunchtime favourite on St Georges Street.
Sometimes even when they're not planning a visit they still bring it up, marvelling back at fantastic cappuccinos of years gone by.
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Much as I'd like to trump their coffee expertise by insisting their barking up the wrong tree, I can't. They're right, the cappos (their phrase, not mine) here are great. Great coffee, just milky enough with lots of froth and chocolate; plus a cocoa wafer on the side, for extra indulgence.
However where I can take issue is that the coffees aren't the best thing about Expresso, despite its name. They don't do a big menu — actually there is no menu at all — but what they do is perfect lunchtime fare (they are also open for breakfast too).
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Great thick rustic ciabatta sandwiches filled with things like sweet chilli chicken with mixed pickles; mozzarella, oven-baked tomatoes and pesto; roast Norfolk ham, emmental and tomato; hummous, Mediterranean roasted vegetables and goats' cheese, plus the speciality Expresso Reuben sandwich, packed with pastrami, sauerkraut, gerkins and cheese.
There is also a great daily home made soup including things like black bean with a tomato and corriander salsa, bacon and parmesan split pea and lentil, chicken and courgette, and Callaloo, which includes coconut milk, chicken, prawns and butternut squash.
Like I said it's always interesting and they make a point of using local ingredients and produce wherever possible too.
No wonder the place is always packed between midday and 2pm.
Expresso has been a popular spot for over a decade now — helped in no small part by students and lecturers from the art school just down the road who give the place an arty vibe. They have regular exhibitions too, with artworks by local artists on the walls.
With a central serving area, the caf� itself isn't that big and consequently can get a little overly busy at times, but there is a small conservatory out the back, window seats and, after a long running planning battle, tables outside that are great to watch the world go by.
On out latest visit they had a great potato salad which made a great side to my emmental, red onion and mango chutney toasted sandwich, though it was filling enough on its own. And that day's vegetable curry soup was think, filling and spicy enough to warm a chilly day.
We pushed the boat out more than we would on a normal lunchtime by also indulging ourselves from the selection of cakes.
Baked by themselves, Expresso cakes are scrumptious. No two days is the selection the same, but particular favourites to look out for include the three tier carrot cake, chocolate brownies white chocolate, pear and raspberry sponge and a gluten-free passion cake not forgetting home-made choc-chip cookies, flapjack, biscotti and whoopie cakes.
Whole cakes are also available to order too, should you want to pass one off as your own!
A naughty but nice indulgence. And my parents will be happy to know it was washed down with a cappuccino.
St Georges Street
t Open: Mon–Sat 7am–5.30pm, Sun and Bank Holidays 9am-4pm
t Vegetarian options: Good selection
t Wheelchair access: Yes