We were on our way home from Norwich at 12.30, so decided to stop for lunch at a local farm café. This is an interesting set-up. Only three years ago, the owners started a small herd of Jersey cows. They leave the calves with their mothers for at least six months and only take the surplus milk, which they sell raw and unpasteurised. They also keep chickens for eggs and rare breed pigs. To start with, they had a shed with a couple of fridges and tables and an honesty box. This was always full of change – there must have been £30-worth at least, quite apart from the money from sales, which you were asked to write down in a book. If you bought meat, you might spend £20 or so and just left it in the box.
It seemed to work because they got a bigger shed. Then, last year, they expanded considerably to have a shop and a café. We went in for lunch last November, having shopped there a couple of times, and it was very good. The waiting staff were a bit inexperienced but the place was busy – full and on second sittings by 1 o’clock. We ordered our Christmas goose from them, which wasn’t reared there but at another, named Norfolk farm.
As you drive in, geese, ducks, guinea fowl and peacocks scatter in front of the car. Today, there were a couple of pigmy goats in a paddock, polishing off the remains of a Christmas tree. Goats love conifers. They have planted a field with grape vines, which intrigues us – vines are a lot of work and we wonder if they’re leasing the land or planning to do the work themselves and sell the grapes to a winery.
We had an excellent lunch. I had falafels and Tim had a steak sandwich. We bought some sausages to bring home and I spotted wild rabbits and a hare on the butchery counter. Hares have been struggling with a form of myxomatosis but I’ve been told that they’re overcoming this, around here anyway, and numbers have recovered. So we bought it and I’ll marinade and casserole it. I asked the butcher what the rare breed of pig was? He looked a bit nonplussed. “They\re black ones,” he said. “Um, Berkshires?” I asked, because they’re the only black breed I can name. He didn’t know, though.
We are very well served here for food. There are several good bakeries, though I normally make my own bread. There’s another excellent small farm the other side of Yagnub and the greengrocer has a fridge to sell their meat. Opposite the lovely greengrocer is the wholefood shop, the wet fish shop (and the chippie too) and the deli, which has a range of great cheeses, in particular our local Baron Bigod and St Jude. They also sell Norfolk salami. You can get your own containers refilled with washing up liquid, shampoo and so on at the wholefood shop so you hardly need to go to the supermarket if you don’t want to.
Anyway, what I really came here to write about was our waitress today. She was very much on the ball and efficient. And what I noticed was the way she kept an eye on every table. Tim and I spent some time looking at the menu and the specials board, then the drinks menu. I saw her spot us put them down and sit back. Seconds later, she was at the table to take our order.
I’m sure you all have been in restaurants where the waiting staff never catch your eye. There seems to be a time, usually when you’ve been asked if you want anything more and you’ve said no, when there’s a strange reluctance to bring the bill. However many waiters there are, they’re all focussed on what they’re doing and eyes never go to right or left at all. But the good ones’ eyes are all over the place, however busy they are. They know exactly who might want another drink or need some attention. They don’t bother you but they are right there if there’s anything you need. She was one of those. As I paid, she asked me if we’d enjoyed our meal and I quoted Tim, who’d said his steak sandwich (with salad, red onion relish and aioli) was the best he’d ever had. Later, having fetched our meat and a cauliflower, we went to the shop till. They don’t have someone there all the time but there’s a bell to ring when you want service. Having waited a few minutes, I rang it – and as soon as a diner had paid for her meal, along came our waitress to serve in the shop too. Whatever she’s being paid, she’s worth it and more.