Last month I sadly had to say goodbye to my beloved university town and move back down saaaahhhth for good. I was heartbroken, to say the least. Norwich is one the most weird and wonderful places in the world, in my opinion, and I became pretty attached to it after spending 4+ years wandering its cobbled and crooked streets pretending to be studious at UEA.
There’s the Alan Partridge jokes, the questionable farmer lingo, the out-in-the-sticks nomad mentality of its residents, sure. But there’s also the rich literary history, the cute independent shops, the green spaces and the incredible live music scene. And after a while the un-coolness becomes cool, by virtue of it being integral to building the city’s unique character.
It’s quirky, welcoming, humorous, more relaxed than Manchester or Birmingham and there are enough pubs to drink at a different one every day for a year.
And, perhaps most importantly, it’s vegan foodie heaven.
As I heaved what felt like the millionth box into my parents’ car on that sad Saturday last month, deflecting absurd comments about my hoarder tendencies (I own lots of books because I have a DEGREE in books, Mum. And owning four different editions of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire isn’t excessive YOU’RE EXCESSIVE) I felt my stomach start to grumble. If I was going to leave the city that had fed and nourished me through the difficult stages of abandoning cheese and going full vegan, there was no way in hell I was going to leave without eating everything veggie in sight first.
So. This is where we arrive at the foodie review bit. Enter Norwich’s finest vegetarian and vegan establishment (in my humble opinion) – Wild Thyme.
I’ve probably only been to Wild Thyme a handful of times, which isn’t surprising considering how many great veggie-friendly food places there are in this tiny city (shout out to Namaste, Loving Hut, Frank’s Bar and The Belgian Monk). I’ve tended to save my visits for more special occasions, so I have an excuse to really treat myself and order everything off the menu. Once or twice though, I’ve gone in just for a vegan brownie and a cup of tea on a rainy mid-week afternoon.
Oh crikey, the brownie. But we’ll get to that later.
So let me set the scene. Whilst Wild Thyme is located right in the heart of Norwich city centre, it’s a little bit tucked out of sight in Labor in Vain Yard, by the clock tower. The building used to be old fire station stables, so it’s pretty picturesque – the seats by the curved windows are always popular, as you can watch the world go by but also take a few great Instagram shots, if you like.
My parents and I arrived at around 3pm, hoping we’d missed the worst of the Saturday lunchtime rush. No such luck. There was already a queue of at least four tables-worth of diners ahead of us, but we decided to stick it out and wait anyway, perched on the steps that lead down to the health food shop below the restaurant. Even though waiting for a table when you are absolutely starving-Marvin is the WORST, a packed restaurant always bodes better than an empty one. If there are this many people willing to waste their Saturday afternoon in a queue, I thought, general consensus says the grub is going to be good.
By the time we sat down we were rearing and ready to go, having already scrutinised the menu and selected our choices (and nearly dribbled on the dessert list, in my case). With no messing around, we went straight in for the main courses. Behold: some pretty pics of our lunch.
Mum went non-vegan, which is totally fine as she’s not even a veggie anyway, and opted for the herbed polenta cake with braised lentils, wild mushrooms, seasonal greens and a soft free range egg. I stuck a fork into the lentil base and can confirm – it was absolutely delicious. Well-seasoned, with herbs that complimented each other nicely, it tasted Good For Me, as if I could feel the healthiness sinking down into my belly. Which is a very pleasant sensation, really.
I decided to go for the sweet potato & vegetable ramen noodle bowl with shiitake, pak choi, scallions and coriander. A little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, a big bit TASTY. The portion was huuuuuuuge but my stomach loves a good challenge, and I managed to devour it without stopping for breath, only giving one begrudging forkful of noodles away for Dad to try.
And let’s talk about Dad’s choice. Although we agreed all three dishes were incredible and well worth the wait, Dad’s meal was the best of the lot. He went for the daily special, the Vietnamese curry with peppers, green beans, deep fried tofu and jasmine rice. Again the portion was massive but I managed to help him out (I am a bottomless pit when it comes these kind of situations) and I could probably have gone for even more after. You could taste how fresh the veggies were, as if they had been picked that very morning, and I’m still dreaming of that creamy red sauce. Mmmmm.
As you can’t go to a vegan-friendly restaurant without indulging in some vegan cake, puddings were next. Mum opted out of the dessert game (boring) but Dad ordered the raw vegan chocolate orange and coconut cheesecake, and I chose the best damn brownie in the whole world – vegan or non-vegan.
Seriously. We need to talk about this brownie. It deserves a whole blog post in itself.
JUST LOOK AT IT.
I’ve ordered this brownie for dessert every time I’ve eaten at Wild Thyme. They won’t tell me the secret recipe, but I suppose that makes sense as it ensures I always go back to them, craving chocolate and sugar and sweet sweet vanilla. Eating this brownie is a religious experience.
Served warm, with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream (I suspect Swedish Glace), it’s super chocolate-y due to the high cocoa content and lack of milk, insanely gooey due to the presence of coconut oil, and perfectly fudge-y with a crispy top. Each time I’ve eaten this brownie I’ve been sent to another realm. It does funny things to my brain. Here’s a picture of me experiencing heaven on Earth, gazing down at my food in awe.
I’ll probably miss Wild Thyme’s vegan brownie the most out of everything in Norwich – and that includes the cheap rent and the Norwich Puppet Man that stands outside Primark.
For now, it’s onto my new adventure as a journalist in The Big Smoke (aka Holborn), but Norwich and Wild Thyme will always hold a special place in my heart. What a perfect send-off. Now, I WILL crack that secret brownie recipe one way or another …