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A food lover’s guide to Aylsham

27th May 2024

Everyone’s talking about Aylsham’s increasing popularity as a foodie destination. So there’s only one person to check it out: Sarah Hardy

Aylsham has rather hidden its light under a bushel in recent times. It’s one of those places that ticks along nicely, with a strong community spirit, attractive market place, good facilities including a thriving high school, and a growing population.

The town was an early pioneer of the Cittaslow movement ( which emerged in the 1990s, encouraging people to embrace a more mindful, less frenetic pace of life. There are only three in Britain, with the other two in Wales, Mold and Llangollen, and priorities include caring for the environment, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and celebrating the character of a local area and its producers and businesses.

It is an offshoot of the Slow Food Movement, which further champions local produce and is locally supported by Aylsham Town Council. Pat Prekopp is chair of both Cittaslow Aylsham and Slow Food Aylsham and says: ‘This trio has successfully brought together residents and local traders to stage major events like an annual Street Party and a three-day Food Festival, as well as sustaining two weekly markets and a monthly food and craft market. Its reputation as a forward-thinking town brings people to us which, in turn, attracts new businesses, especially in the hospitality industry.’

Aylsham has several well-established foodie businesses – two excellent butchers for a start: Coxfords ( and GF White’s ( who offer high welfare and locally sourced meats, and The Black Boys Hotel (, owned by Colchester Inns, is a hugely popular meeting place, offering everything from breakfast through to very generous evening meals – and bedrooms, too.

Biddy’s Kitchen (, tucked away by the lovely parish church of St Michael’s, is another popular place, with its 60 different types of tea and oversized cakes. It’s a higgledy piggledy sort of place where you can easily spend a couple of hours enjoying one of their excellent afternoon teas. Just worry about the calories later! 

And Keys Auctioneers and Valuers (, a part of the town’s rich history since 1953, has a busy no-nonsense cafe where homemade cakes are very popular with all auction-goers who can also enjoy soups, sausage rolls and other tasty treats! 

Lesley Kinghorn in Keys Auctioneers and Valuers’ café

Yet in the last three or so years, Aylsham has seen a rise in the number of foodie options – with more in the pipeline, too. Bread Source (, one of the county’s leading artisan bakeries, moved into larger premises in Clarkes, the town’s old ironmongers, and added a cafe to their offering while M’s (, a fish deli and cocktail bar run by Emma Payne, also opened next door. This is a really buzzy place, with sharing platters and plenty of laughter!

Emma Payne of M’s

Stamp Pizza & Bar ( opened in the town’s old post office building, offering classic and more alternative toppings, all made in a wood-fired oven, plus plenty of small plates – how about baked burrata? Delicious!

And The Blind Pig (, a wine bar and bistro, is another new opening on Red Lion Street where you can enjoy great Sunday roasts and a tasty menu, including Wagyu burgers.

The Blind Pig’s Wagyu burger 

Just before Christmas saw The Porters Arms (, a micro pub, also opening on Red Lion Street. It is run by Emily Bridges and Elliot Dransfield, who have Malt and Mardle, a similar concept in Norwich, where the accent is on real ales and craft beers. ‘We are all about the drinks,’ laughs Emily, ‘although we are careful to cultivate the right conditions for mindful drinking!’ They serve both local offerings and a changing selection of unusual ones from further afield, and the couple, who are full of praise for the town’s welcome, are looking at converting the pub’s first floor, too.

Elliot Dransfield and Emily Bridges, The Porters Arms 


Just on the town’s outskirts is Aylsham Garden Centre (, run by Gary and Brenda Groucott since 2020. It is home to the Four Seasons Coffee Shop where home cooked food, using local ingredients, draws the crowds. The breakfasts are especially recommended and, as the weather perks up, there is plenty of outdoor seating. Local products, especially chutneys, jams and honey are on sale, too.

Woodgate Nursery ( is another local garden centre with a great cafe, Purdy’s. Situated in a former potting shed, it opens daily and entices people in with decent coffee and freshly made scones. 

Carousel Chocolates (, on Red Lion Street, stocks the most delicious English and Belgian chocolates plus a range of Norfolk truffles and handmade chocolate cupcakes. Add in traditional sweets, kept in those marvellous big glass jars, and a selection of creamy fudge, and those with a sweet tooth are well catered for. Easter is big business so call by for a look!

Harvest (find them on Facebook) is a greengrocer’s and a bit more. There’s always very well stocked fruit and veg displays but look out for added extras like freshly squeezed orange juice and a selection of local food and drink such as Norwich Porridge and Candi’s Chutney. If they have local honey – snap it up!


Look out for Seventeen (, an artisan deli, which recently opened on Red Lion Street. Run by Dan Howes, a former business analyst, this is a new venture for him and his partner Louise Hutcheon. ‘It is all very exciting and we are delighted to be joining such a vibrant community,’ he says. The deli, which features a record player with a selection of LPs for people to play, serves cheeses, charcuterie, oils, chutneys, olives, sausage rolls and other savoury pastries plus sweet offerings including a daily tray bake. It also has an alcohol licence. There are 16 seats available, with some seating within the large front window so people can look out and watch the world go by! 


The Ironmongers, Market Place

The Ironmongers, right in the heart of the town, is an excellent choice. The beautiful 17th century Grade II listed building, formerly the town’s old ironmongers, has been converted into eight bedrooms – all individually decorated and with masses of character. Plenty of original features remain and there’s a definite feeling of luxury – think gorgeous fabrics from sweeping curtains to super plump cushions, crisp white cotton bed linen, power showers, and an eclectic mixture of vintage and modern furniture.

While the building’s noble past is celebrated, it’s a very tech savvy place – it’s keyless, for a start, and you just check yourself in. And then there’s a lot of eco-friendly features from air-source heat pumps to robust insulation. 

It’s owned by local farmer Tim Briscoe and his wife Lynnette who bought the building in 2018 and oversaw every little bit of the extensive renovations until the rooms opened for business in 2021.

I stayed in the Haberdashery suite which boasts a little extra bunk bedroom so it’s perfect for families – and it is one of two rooms where dogs are allowed. With a four-poster bed, underfloor heating and bold splashes of colour, it feels a decadent stopover and, best of all, you have all of Aylsham’s food offerings on your doorstep. We tucked into burgers and Thai curries at The Black Boys Hotel for supper, with pastries and strong coffee from Bread Source for breakfast. A walk at nearby Blickling Estate ( afterwards was a must!

Sarah was a guest of The Ironmongers.

Diary dates

Markets are held every Monday and Friday (follow them of Facebook), while the monthly food and craft market is on the first Saturday of the month.

This year’s Aylsham Food Festival will run from 4 to 6 October (

Aylsham Parish Church

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