Eaton Park Café is now OPEN
Saturday 26 March may have been an ordinary day for most, but not for the people behind Cellar Boy Ltd, the company that owns The Bicycle Shop on Norwich’s St Benedicts Street.
Last winter, 145 companies and individuals sent in applications in a bid to win the right to run the café in Eaton Park, a beautiful round Grade II listed building that has been empty for what seems like an eternity. Competition was stiff; ideas were varied, with a group of homeless people also entering the race along with other more lucrative concerns. But the team behind the Bicycle Shop stood out the most.
“Rob and David who run The Bicycle Shop are clearly entranced by the café building,” says Helen Mitchell from Friends of Eaton Park, the company that maintains the facility. They understand the importance of the community side and are already ahead of the game when it comes to using local suppliers, recycling and being energy efficient.”
This pristine park just off The Colman Road in Eaton boasts 80 acres of space including a rectangular pond for ducks, a lake for motorboats, a large crazy golf area, a bandstand and an extremely large playground built entirely on sand (guaranteeing a soft landing for adventurous kids – genius).
Now that the café is open (hand me some scissors please [cuts ribbon] applause please), Eaton Park has everything families and couples could wish for. Muddy Stilettos was invited for a first look at this exciting (and important) new development.
Firstly, it’s hard to believe that such a gorgeous space could have been left deserted for so long – even the shutters have ornate metal leaves on them. French doors line either side of the room, with the beautiful bandstand on one side – with its bright blue-green domed lid – and the tennis courts on the other. As far as views go, I’m sure you’ll agree, they are pretty impressive.
A chalkboard welcomes people in, artistically outlining the menu, which – on the morning of my visit – consists of pastries, free range eggs, homemade granola and black pudding and bacon hash. By a little picture of a dog reads the words “Dogs rule, okay… but there are dog rules, okay?” Basically, put your dog on a lead and they’re very welcome.
Inside, the café is both homely and on trend, with a serving area at one end – complete with chandelier, shiny coffee machine, homemade pastries, shelves of healthy snacks and fridges serving cold drinks and water. A huge wooden sideboard separates the serving area from the main room, adorned with ‘help yourself’ cutlery, jams, sauces and napkins, as well as dog bowls which the friendly staff will fill with water for you.
The main area has wooden floors with rugs and a mish-mash of wooden tables and chairs and, at the back, a Chesterfield couch with armchairs, a rug, a coffee table and a 1930s style lamp stand. It’s all about comfort and relaxation.
I order a flat white, a Pain au Chocolat and a brownie, which comes quaintly wrapped in brown paper and tied with a piece of string. Daffodils sit on each table, while crockery reminds me of being at my nan’s house on a Sunday afternoon – vintage and completely unmatched.
In the summer, the lovely waitress tells me (despite the serving area, there is table service too), all the French doors (of which there must be 12) will be flung open and chairs and tables placed outside overlooking the tennis courts. More excitingly, the summer will be welcomed by an alcohol licence with bottled beers, wine and Gin and Tonic added to the menu, as much supplied locally as possible.
G ‘n T overlooking the tennis courts anyone? How very British! Count us in Eaton Park Café, count us in.
Eaton Park Café, Eaton Park, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4. friendsofeatonpark.co.uk