Reviewed in Feast issue 44 – March 2020
Nestling in the gentle countryside near Burnham Market, the atmospheric Creake Abbey has developed into quite a tourist attraction since Diana Scott took charge in 2003.
The ruins of a 13th century abbey set the tone for this spot which is set in luscious water meadows, teeming with wildlife. At the centre of it all is a food hall, packed with local produce from many of our favourite suppliers, such as Norfolk Brewhouse, Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard and Yare Valley Oils – and Wells butcher, Arthur Howell, is in charge on the extensive butchery counter. Also expect to see fresh bread, antipasti, eggs, cakes and more, and hampers are always available.
Much of this produce is used in the adjoining café which opens daily, with the odd Friday and special event evening opening, too.
It’s a friendly, buzzy sort of place, packed with all types, from muddy walkers, like me, to smart lunching ladies – which I aspire to be. It’s very light and airy, with big windows and lots of colourful artwork on the walls for sale. Expect wooden floors and chunky tables and chairs, too.
There’s a regular menu, with all your favourites, like soups, sandwiches, fish and chips, fishcakes, and salads, plus a daily specials board where you’ll find a few more options, too. Emphasis is, of course, on seasonal dishes and all dietary requirements are catered for, with several gluten free dishes always available.
I spied whitebait on the specials board which is a real favourite of mine but instead started with a bowl of soup – celeriac – before quickly moving on to a Norfolk platter at £15, which mixed up three lovely local cheeses including Norfolk Dapple and Binham Blue; a Bray’s pork pie; ham from Field Dalling; Candi’s Spiced Carrot Chutney; plenty of juicy olives and a stack of toasted sourdough bread from Krusty Loaf in Fakenham. Heaven!
Himself had half a sandwich and a bowl of soup. His soup was curried parsnip and his sarnie was cheese and homemade chilli jam, and both were quickly declared hits.
Lots of cakes and sweet treats are on display so you can have a good nosey before you buy, with a new addition being a chocolate cake with an avocado buttercream topping which is delicious.
There is coffee from Mid Norfolk artisan roasterie Black Cat, and tea from Wilkinson’s of Norwich – and don’t miss the homemade lemonade which is a perfect refreshment in the warmer weather.
Once you’ve tucked into your breakfast, lunch or just coffee and cake, make sure you explore the six or so shops on the site. They offer a pretty diverse mix, from the classic countrywear shop, Christopher William, to Home by Annie Lambert, where you can have a snoop around wonderful items from all over the world – a real emporium.
It is a gentle stroll to the abbey ruins, now looked after by Historic England, and you can even borrow a pair of binoculars to look out for the resident barn owl.
It’s a really charming spot, with plenty of space for all, even when it’s super busy in the height of summer. There’s plenty of parking and a good circular walk which takes in Burnham Thorpe and the Holkham estate.
- Creake Abbey stages one of the region’s biggest farmers’ markets on the first Saturday of each month, so the next one will be March 7.