As lunches go, this one was a bit different; no extensive menu, no wine, and no double damask dinner napkins. But for all that it was one of the most enjoyable for different reasons.
Hempnall Mill really is an old windmill, with additional extensions built in 1979 by The Hempnall Trust (a registered charity) forming the big main room and associated offices and excellent catering kitchen. On four days a week the building is used as a day care centre for residents of Hempnall. As the centre remained unused on Mondays the decision was taken to open as a café, once a month (first Monday10 am – p.m.) for snacks and light lunches – and this is the part I am writing about.
The cafe was started 3 years ago to provide a local venue for socialising for all ages regardless of where they live indeed when we were there, we saw two young mums with pushchairs. It continues to be successful both in terms of providing social interaction and inexpensive, excellent food. It also helps with the financing of the Mill which has become more difficult over the years. Snacks are available, and light lunches including homemade cakes.
Food is sourced locally wherever possible. Meat is from the Hempnall Butchers and fruit and veg is from The Horseshoes Farm Shop. Fresh food donations are gratefully received from the allotment holders and other gardens in the village. Lunch is cooked and served by a team of volunteers who, at the end of the meal take the weight off their feet, eat up whatever is left over, and discuss how the day went and plan the next one.
As to the lunch we had, well the description ‘light lunch’ is a misnomer; I had a superb curry made from butternut squash and chick peas, and the friend I was with had Boeuf Bourguignon which she told me was delicious. There was nothing small about the portions either. For afters I had fruit compote with ice cream, and my friend had Homemade Syrup & Lemon Tart. As the choice of food is dependent on what they have on the day, it is difficult to tell you what to anticipate, but you can expect a good old fashioned, two-course lunch in the company of extremely friendly people.
Thus fortified we continued our journey to the garden centre and on the way back, thought we would look in and see if there was any chance of coffee and some of the delicious looking cake that we had spotted earlier. They were officially closed for the day, but despite the fact that all the volunteers were seated rounded the table finishing off the leftovers and having a well-earned rest, they still found time to pack up a couple of pieces of cake for us to take home.
The Mill Centre is also available for casual and regular bookings and has the advantage of offering a full catering kitchen.
Hempnall Mill Cafe
Mill Road, Hempnall, Norwich, NR15 2LP
For Orders & Enquiries (on cafe days only) 01508 499766
Deputy Chair - The Hempnall Trust, 01508 499421