Chris Avey tells us all about his vegetarian restaurant near Norwich
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Chris Avey and I’m the current owner and head chef at River Green restaurant in Trowse, near Norwich.
Where is River Green and when did it open?
The restaurant was started in 2011 by local vegan entrepreneur Mike Hill who now runs One Planet Pizza, and vegetarian chef Jan Wise who owns The Walnut Tree vegetarian pub in Suffolk. After working in professional kitchens around Norwich and owning and running a small café, I joined the team as co-director in 2016, buying the business outright last year. The ethos of the restaurant has always been to provide customers of all persuasions with vegetarian and vegan dishes that would impress even the most committed meat eater.
Why did you choose to run a vegetarian restaurant?
There are many reasons for choosing to cook or eat vegan or vegetarian food: it can be healthier, certainly more sustainable environmentally and cruelty free, but in any case, you don’t need meat to create imaginative and tasty meals!
What is your background?
I have been a vegetarian for more than 30 years. For most of that time, I cooked for friends and groups on an amateur basis, finally becoming a professional chef when I was 39, when my children were more independent. That was accompanied by gaining distinctions in my professional qualifications, and being in charge of my first commercial vegetarian kitchen within 18 months.
Tell us what we can expect.
The menu at River Green is tailored to seasonal produce, and we celebrate and support local producers. The seasonal menu includes tried and tested favourites, but there is also a constantly changing specials board. All the dishes are made in house by our small, dedicated, creative brigade. We cater for special diets, and most of our menu is not only vegetarian, but gluten free.
How important is local produce – both food and drink – to what you offer?
Choosing local produce in season means the food is both fresh and more sustainable. We also have a selection of products and drinks from local producers and breweries. As an independent business of a reasonable size, we see it as part of our responsibility to support and showcase these businesses, especially as Norfolk has so much great produce to offer, including cheeses, beers, wines, chutneys and much more besides.
Anything more planned?
This year we are starting our cookery school in a teaching kitchen built for this purpose. Customers have been asking for years about whether we could teach vegetarian and vegan cookery, and now we have created a space in which to do it! There will be classes for beginners (those new to veganism or lacking confidence in the kitchen), right up to advanced learners. There will also be themed workshops, and a couple of kids’ cookery days! We’re also teaming up with Uber Eats to bring a delivered version of our menu for the first time since we opened.
How has Norfolk Food and Drink been able to help you?
We’re new to the Proudly Norfolk scheme, but have been signing up suppliers from amongst its members for a couple of years. We’re glad of the attention the Proudly Norfolk label has created and look forward to being able to proactively promote more local suppliers in return.
Published in Feast issue 23 – February 2018