09:10 17 July 2012
The latest addition to Norwich’s Little China is Harvest coffee shop. SIMON PARKIN stops off for lunch and marvels at their amazingly elaborate cakes and addictive bubble tea.
Ber Street is rapidly turning into Norwich’s version of Little China. As well as boasting two grocery stores specialising in oriental ingredients (if you’ve ever been stumped for something for a Chinese recipe they are the place to head), it also now has two eateries.
Amazingly, neither is a straightforward Chinese restaurant either. Baby Buddha, which has been open for a few years now, styles itself on a tea house and has a menu offering a host of more unusual dishes as well as some fantastic dim sum.
As well as adventurous diners, it is frequently packed with Chinese students seeking a taste of home and has been so successful that the owner expanded by taking over the former Horse and Dray pub next door — and it is still often too busy to get a table.
The latest addition is Harvest, a more straightforward coffee shop-cum-café which seeks to balance British tastes with Chinese touches.
Based next to the entrance to the John Lewis car park, at the top of Thorn Lane, the cafe is the baby of Susan Lai, Grace Yan and Mandy Li.
The trio of businesswomen specialise in making handmade speciality cakes to order for occasions or just for a slice in their shop, and already have takeaway businesses in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
And why they say speciality cakes they are not joking. Elaborate, minute in their detailing and frequently ridiculously colourful, they are a sight to behold. They boast a great selection of names too — Children’s Wonderland (with two teddy bears on top), Soul Mate (very pink, in the shape of a heart with a kissing coupl eon top) and Golden Harmony (with your names in Chinese letters).
Anyone who has been to China will recognise this love to the sweet, colourful and to western eyes slightly kitsch style of confectionary. That’s probably why Harvest has also quickly become a popular hangout for the city’s Chinese community.
All the full size cakes are handmade with fresh ingredients, cream and fruit and can be ordered with prices ranging from £9.80 for 6in to £98 for 16in.
Happily they also sell slices to eat there and then, together with some other intriguing Chinese cakes like Red Bean Pudding, BBQ Pork Pastry and the excellent sounding Wife Cake.
The Strawberry Cheesecake and Ginger Sponge Fairy Cake we tried were sweet treats with great ginger flavour though the bright green icing looked better than it tasted.
Away from the cakes, Harvest is more straightforwardly British serving all day breakfasts, pies, pasties, sandwiches made to order and very un-Chinese dishes like beans on tea.
The décor is modern and funky, with a few Chinese twists, and the service was very friendly. They do a good coffee, but if you’re after a real Far East treat try the pearl milk tea. Better known as “bubble tea”, they’re a Taiwanese treat — milky drinks containing small chewy tapioca balls. Weird, but totally addictive.
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm
Prices: Breakfast £3.50, sandwiches approx £2.70, cake slices from £2.20
Vegetarian options: Lots
Wheelchair access: Yes