Is Jarrold's Food Hall Norfolk's Fortnum and Mason?
There are some people whose job you really envy – and Judith Finney is one of them, reports the Norwich Evening News.
She is the buyer at Jarrold in Norwich with the responsibility of curating the Food Hall, filling it with the most delicious food and drink made in Norfolk and beyond.
And with it having recently undergone an expansion – including the addition of a refrigerated cheese room – she can support more local producers than ever before.
Judith joined Jarrold from Marks and Spencer, where she worked on its Food to Go range – and she’s obviously hit upon a winning recipe at Jarrold as it’s the second time that the Food Hall has grown in recent years.
Incorporating the cookware department, two wine bar delis, a speciality coffee shop and The Exchange Italian-inspired restaurant, in addition to a huge range of produce, the whole of the basement floor is now completely dedicated to all things food.
A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, there are tables laden with beautifully wrapped Christmas panettones and brightly coloured boxes of chocolates, and the deli counters are packed with tempting baked goods, cheese, and charcuterie, plus there’s a huge selection of wines, spirits and beers.
You could call it Norfolk’s answer to Fortnum and Mason.
As Judith explains, they were keen to make the Food Hall more of an elevated shopping experience.
So, at the deli wine bars, you can take a break from your shopping and sit and enjoy a local cheeseboard, a Marsh Pig charcuterie platter or exclusive dishes made by award-winning Norfolk chef Richard Bainbridge.
The Exchange serves wood-fired pizzas and a range of pastas.
Or you can stop off for a cuppa and a mini work of art in The Coffee Bar, where your latte might come decorated with teddy bears, cats or more.
Judith is in her element taking the EDP on a tour of the Food Hall, which is opening until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays in the run-up to Christmas.
We start at the deli counters, where you can take home or eat in produce from Intwood Farm, Archer’s, George Morris, Southwold’s Black Dog Deli (their Scotch eggs are already legendary), arancini from Norwich-based Pasta Fresca, tarts from Tarts, Cakes and Bakes, rocky road from Heidi’s Delight, Tim Kinnaird’s macarons and Richard Bainbridge’s egg tart – and that’s just for starters.
You’ll also find Kinder blondies and pumpkin blondies made in Great Yarmouth – and of, course, Jarrold’s famous cheese scones.
“I support local very heavily, I’m passionate about it,” says Judith.
“We’ve also got lots of local cheese, like Norton’s, Mrs Temple’s, and St Helena‘s and Baron Bigod from Fen Farm.”
Plus there’s much more in the cheese room, which is like stepping into an old-fashioned grocery store.
Judith says that it’s already proved to be a hugely popular addition, with staff happy to curate cheeseboards, which will no doubt be much in demand for people’s festive table.
“They’re very knowledgeable on their cheese,” she says, adding that she’s looking forward to a huge parmesan arriving from Italy soon.
There’s a freezer cabinet stocked with Farmyard Frozen’s handcrafted fine dining ready meals – and an extensive range of Italian, Greek, Spanish and Mexican culinaries, including pastas of all shapes, olive oils in collectable bottles and tinned fish in bright, retro-style packaging.
Even in the international section Judith supports local producers where she can, so you’ll find olives by the Suffolk-based Greek Olive Company and artisan pasta by Truly Unique at Woodbridge.
Then we step into Christmas, with large sections devoted to local chocolatiers Booja-Booja and Gnaw, amid the marzipan fruits, chocolate liqueurs, stollen, Charbonnel and Walker truffles, panettones, biscuits and more.
Judith also likes to stock something that bit different, so they also have more unusual offerings such as Cristal champagne – which comes in a real crystal bottle, magnums, and an extensive range of ports and dessert wines.
With such an array of produce to choose from, does Judith have any favourites?
“My favourite local products are the peanut bar and Tim’s macarons - and then the Black Dog Deli Scotch eggs are to die for,” she says.
The Food Hall, The Exchange and the wine bars at Jarrold are open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays until Christmas. Entrance is via the doors on Exchange Street. See jarrold.co.uk for more.