A labour of love and foodie heaven in the centre of Norwich, Wholesome is a celebration of the best in local produce. STACIA BRIGGS left feeling - well, wholesome.
All too often, I feel very far removed from Wholesome after dining out.
Easily tempted by dishes which leave me feeling sickly, it's a real delight to find somewhere to eat where I left feeling I'd been virtuous without feeling short-changed in the 'treat factor' stakes.
Wholesome has a small, but perfectly formed, menu full of dishes which are healthy, local and deliciously tempting.
On Swan Lane, Wholesome offers breakfasts, brunches, lunches, afternoon tea and cake and the opportunity to buy produce from the very best local suppliers.
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We ate downstairs, which offers you a glorious platform for people spotting through the large windows, on a table boasting its very own vintage swan.
My dining companion chose pie, mash and parsley liquor (you can choose between a creamy vegetable pie or a steak and ale pie made by local butcher DJ Barnard), �7, while I chose a mature cheddar, red onion marmalade and salad leaves roll served with Fairfield Farm crisps and a selection of Wholesome's brilliant salads, �5.50.
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It was a difficult choice for both the meat eater and the vegetarian – we could have had vegetable broth, mushroom soup served with a roll, a selection of salads, a lovely array of sandwiches, sausage and bacon stew, a Mrs Temples' Cheese ploughmans, a vegetable pie with pickles, a Norfolk charcuterie platter, pate or Brays Cottage pork pies – all worthy candidates for a lovely, local lunch.
Everything at Wholesome is also offered as a takeaway option – even the pie and mash – for a slightly reduced price, but it was raining and there are few nicer places to sit and while away your lunchtime than on Swan Lane.
The steak and ale pie served with mash and parsley liquor was a simple, but delicious winter warmer, flavoursome and plentiful.
My roll was a lovely blend of sweetness from the red onion and the tang of cheese and the salads were fabulous, especially the giant cous-cous salad with roasted vegetables and cashew nuts and the puy lentil salad with fresh vegetables, mixed herbs and apricots. I'm generally not keen on cous-cous, but giant cous-cous is an altogether different matter, holding on to flavours like tiny, nutty pasta.
There's been some real thought put into the menu: even the sandwiches sing with exciting fillings – goat's cheese and chilli jam, lamb, butternut, apricot and almond chutney and rocket, turkey, gooseberry and coriander chutney and rocket, hot salt beef, mustard and pickles. Other establishments should take note.
For dessert, it was another tough call between a slice of three-layer chocolate or Victoria sponge, �3.50, or one (or two) of Dr Tim Kinnaird's marvellous macarons (�1.50 each).
Having just had some of the latter a day or so previously, I went for the chocolate sponge or, as it should be called, three steps to heaven. Dense, moist, delicious.
My companion chose the blueberry and orange cake, �2, which I imagine contained two of his five-a-day, so packed with fruit was it.
One of the things I really like about Wholesome is the feeling that it's at the heart of Norwich Lanes – there's always something happening or about to happen there.
Current plans include hiring upstairs for Christmas parties, wine tastings with live music on Thursdays in December, a Secret Supper Club on Fridays in December and a Sunday Social Club where you can enjoy entertainment and the Sunday papers while you eat your croissants.
I do like an establishment which is constantly evolving.
We left Wholesome, as ever, feeling – well, Wholesome. (All that salad cancelled out the wickedness of the chocolate cake, right?)
1 Swan Lane
Open: From breakfast until early evening.
Prices: From �3.50 for mains (less for takeaway).
Vegetarian options: Very good
Wheelchair access: Access available