We arrived back from New York on Wednesday morning and drove three hours to up to Norwich, the location for Delia Smiths cookery courses. Steve gave me the “Dinner Party for Friends” day last Christmas so we’d been looking forward to it for awhile.
We decided to stay near Norwich the night before. I had the brilliant idea it would be nice to stay somewhere on the coast so we headed straight for Great Yarmouth as it looked like it was relatively large and close to the city.
Mistake number one. By the time we got there we were too tired and jetlagged to find an alternative. The brochure proclaimed it as the “Entertainment Capital of the East Coast”. What it should have added is “for old age pensioners”. This picture pretty much sums it up. We couldn’t believe that such a place existed in the UK. Or anywhere outside Vegas really, although apparently its not a patch on Blackpool (the entertainment capital of the West coast?). Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a picture of the impressive array of neon lights along the beach front but you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Mistake number two. The hotel. We asked the tourist office to find us a hotel with a double bed. That was the only requirement – I didn’t think it was that demanding. This was the result. Two single beds hardly distinguishable among the profusion of floral curtains, wallpaper and carpet. We were a looong way from the Hudson.
Hotel in Great Yarmouth
What the picture doesn’t show is the special disabled lift up the stairs and the two coach loads full of grey (and blue) haired ladies having their dinner at 5pm in the restaurant. And it doesn’t really show the towelling sheets to their full effect either.
The “huge range of international restaurants” in the brochure included a steakhouse, Mexican and Pizzeria. Luckily we were able to find quite a good Indian which helped quell the rising hysteria.
Feeling slightly traumatised by the whole Great Yarmouth experience we drove to the Norwich Football Club the next morning where our cooking day was held. We thought we were early (20 minutes before the start time) but were the last of about 70 people to arrive. I quickly realised this was serious business. All the seats were taken but luckily for us the host for the day shared the same name as Steve and he rallied to find us some comfortable bar stools on the side and we had a great birds eye view of the demo. It turned out that we were sitting next to the chef, Alex Mackay who was from NZ so he and Steve instantly bonded and we got a bit background beforehand.
We had a whirlwind demo of 6 dishes over the two hours with lots of handy tips and tricks. The dinner party theme meant an emphasis on dishes to cook in advance which was handy and provided ideas for two different three course meals. Alex was hugely entertaining and enthusiastic. This led me into a totally false sense of security when attempting one of the recipes but more on that later.
Chef Alex McKay
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.
After that we had a wine tasting and delicious three course meal. We were seated with some hard core Delia fans and picked up even more cooking tips. (e.g. whatever you do don’t attempted her Fallen Chocolate Prune Cake recipe. It is Not Good. Well with a name like that….). And we also got a strict warning in undertones not to mention the “incident”. Steve was quite outnumbered but there were probably more guys there than I would have expected and they weren’t all dragged along by their partners either.
During lunch the original UK TV cook herself arrived and came around to each table for a bit of a chat. “Hello”…”Having fun?” ……”Buy lots of my cookbooks”. No she didn’t really say that last bit but it seemed to be implied by the huge table of Delia merchandise at the front door. So of course I obliged. I just couldn’t resist the Chocolate one. Or the Soup one. Or the new Kitchen Garden one. But then I made her sign them all which she did with a friendly chat. It was really a fantastic day and we were even given goodie bags stashed with cooking goodness to take away.
Lunch at Deliah Smith Course
Originally uploaded by Hells Bells.