Inside Norfolk's new cheese and wine lounge
- Credit: Brittany Woodman
Tom Brady has loved cheese for as long as he can remember.
“I'd raid mum and dad’s fridge when they went to bed, and walk round the French hypermarkets, coming out with big Bries and blues,” he says.
Tom worked in fashion wholesale for Barbour and would often visit boutiques in north Norfolk, including in Holt, Wells and Burnham Market.
He and his girlfriend, florist Nik Southern, who has family here, would holiday in the area too.
Having fallen for the county’s charms they moved from London to north Norfolk a couple of years ago.
And last year, Tom opened Star Plain Stores in Holt.
Based in a former pub, he’s created a deli specialising in three of his favourite things in life: coffee, wine and, of course, cheese, alongside a range of other thoughtfully-curated epicurean delights.
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Now he has opened the Cheese and Wine Lounge, where customers can sit in and savour a sharing board or some small plates with a glass or two in laid-back surroundings.
As Tom explains, it had always been part of his long-term plan for Star Plain Stores.
But customer demand meant he’s been able to do it sooner than expected, expanding into the space in the building where Nik had temporarily been running a Norfolk outpost of her successful Hackney florist and plant shop Grace and Thorn.
“Over the last year, customers have been saying that they want an alternative place in Holt to go and drink in the evening, have a glass of wine and some light snacks – and even during the day people were popping in wanting cheeseboards, so it was a natural progression,” says Tom.
It’s open during the daytime on Mondays and Tuesdays and then from 10am until late on Thursday to Saturday.
There are 25 seats and Tom promises “a really relaxed vibe” with some “nice chilled music” playing, ranging from Gregory Porter to Depeche Mode and his favourites New Order.
So, what’s on the menu?
“The star dishes are the cheese and charcuterie boards,” says Tom. “We’ve got a really good cheese counter, so every cheeseboard is different and it depends on what’s good at that point. We have local cheeses, we have British, French, Swiss, Italian...it’s a very mixed cheese offer.”
So, for example you might find the Swiss mountain cheese Appenzeller, French Langres, which comes from the Champagne region and is made with a divot to allow Champagne to be poured over, and Italian Stravacco.
Alongside, you might find local favourites including Mrs Temple’s Copys Cloud and Norfolk Tawny from Ferndale Farm. And Tom wants to start making his own cheese at some point – so watch this space.
Other dishes might include boquerones (marinated anchovies) on toast and smoked duck rillettes and kimchi – and they’ll be adding toasties in winter.
When it comes to wine, Tom likes to support independent vineyards, and he’s on first name terms with his suppliers and producers.
His current favourites include Ginger, a fresh orange and biodynamic wine made by Mas Theó and supplied by Hugo from Hackney, Sassi Rosato, a bright red with plenty of crunch and acidity produced by their Italian supplier Luca, and the crisp Tinston Sparkling produced by Liam in Brighton.
“He also produces amazing fine cider too,” says Tom.
Tom is clearly relishing getting to know his customers and finding products he loves and he thinks they'll enjoy too.
If there’s a specific cheese his customers are looking for, he’s happy to help them source it.
“I set the shop up because I love cheese and I’m getting to explore cheese myself," he says. "I’ve been learning everything myself this year. The suppliers are amazing – they've been on hand to teach me stuff and give me advice.
Lots of exciting things are happening on Holt's food scene. In February, Meadowsweet was awarded a Michelin star and other recent openings include a branch of the growing Two Magpies Bakery chain.
Moving to north Norfolk has given Tom and Nik the opportunity to combine enjoying great food and spending time exploring the great outdoors.
They have three dogs who are loving having the space of Norfolk’s beaches compared to the parks of central London.
“After work, we normally go to the George in Cley, and then go to the beach there,” says Tom.
“Or I’ll just jump in the car, drive to Wells beach and run them on the beach. I love Socious, in Burnham Market, that’s our favourite restaurant, probably. And also the Suffield Arms, we love going there.”
The Cheese and Wine Lounge at Star Plain Stores is open from 10am to 5.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays and from 10am to late Thursday-Saturday. It is also open on Holt Sunday Market days on the first Sunday of the month. Find out more and book a table at starplainstores.com or follow on Instagram @starplainstores