Cafe Review: Owl Tea Rooms, Holt
The antithesis of a stuffy, old-school tea-room, the chef at The Owl prides herself on simple food done well. The perfect stop off for brunch on the way to the coast.
Nestled on the corner of Holt’s bustling high street, just down the road from another Muddy fave (Byfords) and a mere hop, skip and a jump to the super-prestigious prep school Greshams, is the delightful Owl Tearooms.
Rumoured to be one of the oldest tearooms in Norfolk, the cute Georgian façade retains all its quirky charms, as does the interior, thanks to the clear-sighted ambitions of well-travelled restauranteur and chef, Claudia Pollinger (formerly pastry chef to Anthony Worrall Thompson) and her husband Ben Philo, who together bought and renovated the business in 2017.
After you’ve had a saunter about in Holt’s lovely range of independent shops (don’t forget your mask) get yourself to The Owl for a much-deserved spot of quality local fodder.
Entry to the main café/restaurant is via the deli shop, and entices rumbling tummies through a mouth-watering offering of pastries, exotic cakes, quality home-baked breads and sausage rolls, as well as the speciality salad pots for those on a health-kick – err, not today thanks!
The original character and simplicity of the Georgian architecture has been sympathetically updated by opening up the dining space and adding warm contrasting colours with simple wood furniture and a touch of statement interior style – spot the quirky culinary mirror and chandelier.
The main restaurant area is a convivial, airy space housing chunky low beams and a brickwork fireplace. Outside is the raised courtyard garden, prettily adorned with parasols and socially-distance spaced tables.
THE SCOFF & QUAFF
This is simple food done well. The menu is split into cakes & cookies, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Cakes vary from a heavenly sounding pistachio & cherry to exotic spiced beetroot and treacle cake and not forgetting the must-have Norfolk shortcake.
Breakfast ranges from full English to American pancakes and a Muddy favourite – home-made baked beans on pumpkin toast – add feta / chorizo for extra scrumptiousness.
Naturally the first post-lockdown lunch with a girlfriend called for bubbles – seated in the sunny courtyard with mini bottles of prosecco hoisted our spirits straight into holiday vibe – even with the surprising sight of the visor-clad waiting staff, who it must be said carried off the slightly riot police-look with aplomb.
I went for the crab, leek and saffron quiche which was pleasingly light and airy and most definitely crabby and herby in flavour with a dainty, well-baked crust. The coleslaw was generous and creamy and the green salad fresh and well dressed.
My plus-one went for the vegan brunch and wasn’t disappointed – rich in colour, with flavoursome local produce of sweet potato, smashed avocado and balsamic-roasted beetroot and tomatoes with thyme, garlic and fresh coriander, this was brunch to pack a punch.
We spotted an impossible-to-resist chocolate and salted caramel glory on the specials and immediately caved in – to the longing looks of our neighbouring table. The caramel didn’t over-power, but tempted taste-buds in pops of salty delight. For a minute or two we were lost in ice-cream heaven and actually stopped chattering.
Service was attentive without being fussy and it was great to see how busy the place was, with everyone responsibly distanced and wearing masks till they were seated. Top Muddy marks to Claudia and her team – especially for their impressive and comprehensive next day collection online shop, which locals are sure to be thankful for.
Out & About
Holt is one of our top places to live and doesn’t fail to disappoint visitors even in these uncertain times, with an eclectic range of galleries, shops for the well-heeled (Fairfax & Favor) and the groovy vintage hidden gems like Oola Boola Fabulous.
With the recent devastating fire at the town’s only supermarket, Budgens, it’s even more crucial for visitors to get behind local businesses #inlovewithlocal – and there are plenty to enjoy in this picture perfect Georgian spot.
The North Norfolk coast is a ten minute drive where you can immerse yourself in the vast beauty of Holkham and the surrounding coastline, let the kids run mad in the arcades of Sheringham or take a gentle trundle on the adorable local steam train over the stunning countryside.*
The Muddy Verdict
Good for – everyone and anyone wanting decent, well-priced simple food or those with a keen eye for amazing cakes and pastries. Great coffee too – this is a reliable place to fill up after a country walk or grab a quick bite while browsing the shops in pretty Holt.
Not for those after a fine dining experience or those wanting a diverse menu choice. It’s simple stuff done well.
*depending on Covid-19 restrictions
The Damage: Breakfast and lunch from £2.00 – £10.25. Cakes from £3.20.
The Owl Tea Rooms, White Lion Street, Holt NR25 6BA tel: 01263 713232