Cookie’s Crab Shop, Salthouse

The Norfolk coast is famous for its crabs and lobsters – they feed off the world’s longest chalk reef, just off Cromer, which makes them incredibly tender and flavoursome.

And one of Zena's favourite ways to enjoy some of the best produce the county has to offer is to take a trip to Cookie's Crab Shop at Salthouse.

On the A149 coast road, it’s been selling shellfish for more than three generations, and is bursting with character. On a sunny day, their garden overlooking the salt marshes is the prime spot, but they have an indoor dining room for chillier, greyer days too. They serve a selection of salads and sandwiches (and you can bring your own beer or wine) - but it’s the brilliant value and slightly retro platters that are Zena’s go-to.

“Cookie’s is still going strong after the turmoil of Covid and people thinking they weren’t back open again,” she says.

“We went six months ago and still love the very 70's-ish style lobster platter - at 90’s prices. You even get a smiley face made out of olives.”

The Kimchi, Brigg Street, Norwich

When it opened in 2019, Korean restaurant The Kimchi quickly became a word-of-mouth hit, with queues to get a table.

However, says Zena, it tends to fly under the radar a bit. Perhaps it's something to do with its location, tucked away up a flight of stairs.

“The Kimchi goes unnoticed and when I tell people Norwich has a Korean restaurant, I have to explain where it is,” she says. “Opposite the old Debenhams on the first floor, 4a Brigg Street - look for the almost hidden doorway and staircase up.”

Now we know where it is, which dishes should we try?

North Norfolk News: Bong Ha Kim and Jung Hee Park are the owners of Kimchi in NorwichBong Ha Kim and Jung Hee Park are the owners of Kimchi in Norwich (Image: Archant)

“They make a Korean comfort dish called toppoki which is spicy with amazing soft gnocchi-like rice noodle dumplings - it’s the textures that do it for me,” says Zena.

“But you can never lose with their KFC - Korean fried chicken.”

North Norfolk News: Cocktails galore await at Norwich's ArboretumCocktails galore await at Norwich's Arboretum (Image: Archant)

Arboretum, St Benedicts Street, Norwich

If you thought that The Kimchi put the hidden into hidden gem, then Victorian-style cocktail bar Arboretum, which has a secret entrance, will pique your curiosity even more, says Zena.

“It’s almost invisible, with mystery boarded up, blacked out windows,” she says.

“And you walk into what reminds me of my great aunt Doris’s living room from Victorian days - but darker. Greg will mix you a cocktail to your liking - it’s just so unique.”

Cheese Kottu, Catton Grove Road, Norwich

Cheese Kottu opened almost exactly a year ago and was the city’s first Sri Lankan restaurant.

It’s named after their signature dish of fried roti with shredded cabbage and carrot alongside cheese, egg and sometimes chicken, which is then topped with a curry sauce.

“There is nothing more unique that exotic flavours from around the world you can't find anywhere else,” says Zena.

“While on holiday in Sri Lanka we enjoyed egg hoppers (thin, bowl-shaped rice flour and coconut milk pancakes, which are served with eggs and can be topped with curry or dahl) for breakfast, so it’s great to find somewhere who makes them locally.”

And there is much on the menu to excite the palate.

“I must admit when I went last time some of the dishes were on the hot side for me - they certainly like their chilli,” says Zena. “So it’s not for the korma lovers amongst us.”

The Beach Hut, the esplanade, Great Yarmouth

It’s not just Zena who has fallen for the charms of The Beach Hut on the esplanade at Great Yarmouth.

On a recent trip to what she calls the ‘Vegas of the east’, our food editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis raved about the Caribbean-style seafront shack’s breakfast ciabattas which you can mix and match with everything from sausage, egg and bacon to hash browns and mushrooms.

North Norfolk News: The legendary hot chocolate at The Beach Hut in Great YarmouthThe legendary hot chocolate at The Beach Hut in Great Yarmouth (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

The hot chocolate – which is so thick you can almost stand your spoon up in it - comes highly recommended too.

The location also gets a big tick.

“They make banging breakfast baps while you sit outside and look across the long expanse of golden sands towards the sea. That beautiful view will stay in your memory for life,” says Zena.

Socius, Foundry Place, Burnham Market

Since Socius was named the AA’s Restaurant of the Year England for 2022, the phone has been ringing off the hook with diners keen for a taste of Dan Lawrence and Natalie Stuhler’s top-notch tapas.

Some have been booking up to a year in advance, so it’s safe to say the secret is well and truly out.

North Norfolk News: The word is well and truly out about Socius at Burnham MarketThe word is well and truly out about Socius at Burnham Market (Image: Archant)

Here sharing plates meet fine dining in a casual setting, says Zena.

“All foodies will know about it, but it’s the sort of place that if you don’t know about it, you should,” she says.

“I can honestly say they served us the best bread and butter and the crispy, caramelised prawn fritters for starters look sensational. We shared all sorts and loved everything – it's sort of unassuming because it’s a modern, purpose-built restaurant in the middle of a car park. That makes it unexpected.”

Sweet Tree Patisserie, St Johns Close, Norwich

Zena’s last choice, Sweet Tree Patisserie, comes with an apology.

“I’m a fan that probably mentions it too much,” she says. “I’ve become friends with the owner, Magda, who’s from Poland and I’m such a regular that I’ve even been trained to use the coffee machine, so that if she has a rush while I’m there I can step in.”

And the reason Zena is such a fangirl? One word: cake. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the place for you.

“It’s a hidden gem, because it’s in Lakenham, in the row of shops just after the old railway bridge. Being just out of the city means it never bustles, so you can always get in. And the reason you would want to go is that Magda makes all her cakes fresh on site and there is always a minimum of a dozen, up to 18.”

Can Zena choose a favourite?

“Chocolate fudge cake,” she says, without hesitation. “For a few pennies more, you can order half and half and have two cakes on your plate. Now that’s a gem.”

North Norfolk News: Norwich food blogger Zena Leech-CaltonNorwich food blogger Zena Leech-Calton (Image: Zena Leech-Calton)

See Zena's food blog at and follow her on Instagram @love_norwich_food