Norwich: Sanctuary Cafe
PUBLISHED: 09:07 09 January 2013
It's a warm and welcoming sanctuary in the heart of Norwich, serving good honest food at low prices. SIMON PARKIN pays a visit to the volunteer-run café at All Saints' Church.
When a few months ago when the name of the café at the All Saints’ Centre in Westlegate was changed they couldn’t have picked a better one than The Sanctuary Café.
This humble and friendly haven from the everyday hustles and bustles of day-to-day life inside All Saints’ Church is the epitome of warm and welcoming.
What they do here is nothing fancy or flash, instead it offers people somewhere to chat and meet friends – and help the homeless at the same time.
The re-branding was done in a bid to draw attention to the venue and to encourage more people inside. Luring people looking off the street into what looks like a church for lunch is perhaps a tricky task, but I suspect once inside they’d find it welcoming.
Run largely by volunteers, the café serves meals, hot drinks and snacks. It is part of the centre which also boasts a quiet room, a chapel, a Christian lending library, cards and gifts, second-hand books and bric-a-brac and a Traidcraft stall.
Centre manager Karen Maidstone said: “We wanted to change the name to the Sanctuary Café so people realise it is for anyone to come in here. We want people to come in here to help us and to help the homeless. We are great for prices and people who come in say it’s a great and friendly place. We just want people to be aware we are here.”
The menu boasts mainly lunchtime snacks and light lunches — sandwiches, baked potatoes with various fillings and old school favourites like poached eggs on toast, all cooked to order. They also do an excellent cooked breakfast, served until 11am.
Many people pop in for a tea or coffee and a toasted teacake or scone but others are after more substantial fare. The choice of lunch mains isn’t huge but it always includes a pasta bake and salad, a cheese ploughman’s and cooked on the day dishes on the specials board.
On our visit we ordered the cheese and potato bake, which came molten hot — a bubbling dish of flavoursome cheddar with mashed potato containing sweet caramelised onion, plus a side of baked beans. It was filling and super warming on a winter’s day. Meanwhile two poached eggs on toast were cooked just right and were a welcome change to the lunchtime sandwich.
As we waited for the food it was the vibe that really struck us. Diners took shelter from the cold; volunteers bustled about; while a woman on the next table gave friendly advice to another with troubles. It felt like, well, a sanctuary.
All Saints’ Church
Open: Mon-Say 10am-4.30pm
Prices: Sandwiches about £2.50, light snacks about £2.75, mains about £3.75
Vegetarian options: Lots
Wheelchair access: It’s an ancient church, so tricky, but they’re very helpful