PUBLISHED: 19:59 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:46 17 August 2018
While it might seem an odd thing to enjoy, I love cafés and restaurants with concise menus.
Fat trimmed and dud dishes cast aside, a concentrated menu of excellent dishes not only brings hope for high quality, but makes ordering much easier.
The Ber Street Kitchen, which opened in July, has just that. A short but sweet list of all-day breakfast dishes, a few lunch offerings and a clutch of deli salad plates.
Visiting just before 9am, as much of Norwich hurried to work under grey skies and drizzle, a lazy coffee and leisurely breakfast was in order.
Though I was tempted by the full English (any fry-up which includes chestnut mushrooms, black pudding and hash browns is worth a look), I’ve found it’s scientifically impossible for me to refuse eggs Benedict if it’s on offer – particularly when it comes with smoked bacon steaks.
We all know there’s plenty of eggs Benedict pitfalls – overpoached eggs, a split hollandaise, stringy bacon, over or undertoasted muffins. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a popular breakfast out – the stress of cooking it at home ruins an otherwise relaxed Sunday morning.
Thankfully, the Ber Street Kitchen chef sidestepped the risks, with little to criticise. Both eggs were runny, hollandaise rich and indulgent, with the occasional bite of chive and mustard giving it a wonderfully savoury kick.
The bacon was cooked well – I’d have had it a tad crispier at home – and had a gorgeous sweetness, as though it had been maple glazed, which complemented the tang of the hollandaise.
Over the table was the Portuguese hash, a mix of chorizo, potato, onion, tomato and spinach, topped with a fried egg and shavings of Parmesan cheese.
I’m delighted that hash breakfasts (steady on) are on trend – anything that sees great ingredients tossed in a pan and topped with cheese and egg has a solid chance of being delicious in my books.
Feedback was positive – it had a nice spice throughout, with nuggets of chorizo giving it bite and the indulgent creaminess of runny egg yolk on top.
The only criticism was on the potatoes – my partner would have liked to see them slightly crispier, and less of them in general (a bit silly to me – who complains at having too much potato?).
Everything was pulled together by a small bottle of hot, tangy peri-peri sauce, made by Norfolk Garden Preserves in Dereham.
Soon, both plates were clean, coffees drained and spirits a little perkier.
Its menu, location and food should be enough to secure its future, but Ber Street Kitchen has followed the wise trend of offering more than the basics, with shelves filled with artisan goods from tea and coffee to pesto and olive oil.
In a time when coffee shops are ten a penny, expanding its uses for customers can be no bad thing.
We visited on a Tuesday morning at the tail end of rush hour. With a constant flow of cars outside, Ber Street Kitchen felt like a relaxed bolthole away from the rush. We were joined by a couple of other tables having breakfast and a few people popping in for a coffee, enough to create a morning buzz.
There’s bright artwork on the walls, exposed light bulbs and nice wooden furniture. A relaxing spot I could imagine myself enjoying with friends or setting up camp in to work for the day.
Friendly, but not pushy. We were looked after, but not hurried.
There’s a range of soft and hot drinks, including sparkling elderflower, coconut milk and orange juice. It was still pre-9am for our visit, and in need of caffeine we had a latté and cappuccino.
Wide pavements to get to the café and relatively straightforward to enter. As with most cafés, navigating tables and chairs might prove difficult, but there’s plenty of space.
Clean and at the back of the café. No complaints.
There are timed parking bays on Ber Street you can nab if planning a shorter visit, but there’s various city centre car parks nearby. If you’re travelling from further afield, bus services drop off at the nearby bus station or Castle Meadow, which are a 10 minute walk away.
Reasonable – about what you’d expect. Two breakfasts and two hot drinks came to just shy of £20. Plenty of options for those on a budget.
The food. I have an Achilles level weakness for eggs Benedict, and it was great. I have also, on a previous trip, tried one of their black pudding sausage rolls (a second weakness), and would definitely recommend that too.
I’ve long thought there’s a missed opportunity to see Ber Street become its own community like that of Magdalen Street. Despite some great eateries – Baby Bhudda and Ciscoe’s included – its location, and limited nearby housing, does seem to hold it back. If given enough support, Ber Street Kitchen could be the draw for people to step just outside the city centre.
Ber Street Kitchen, 141 to 143 Ber Street, Norwich NR1 3EY