In the ultimate expression of narcissism + materialism + sexism, Karl Lagerfeld has teamed up with American toy brand Mattel Inc. to create an ultra fashionable incarnation of the most famous doll in the world, Barbie – in his own image. Due for release on the 29th September during Paris Fashion Week, the doll will be limited edition and sold at $200 each in select outlets including Net A Porter, more normally a bastion for the selling of fashion apparel to clothe living, sentient women. However the match is superficially a good one for what is Barbie if not an entity that buys, has and sells things, including whole lifestyles and attitudes to a (mainly) female audience apparently eager to lap it up?
WWD have released a promotional image of Barbie looking up to Herr Lagerfeld who is blissfully unaware of the fact that Barbie would be unable to hold up her own head let alone gaze adoringly at him, should her body shape and measurements be scaled up into actual, um, real human woman size. Her neck would be totally unable to support the weight of her head. In an earlier study, Finland’s University Central Hospital in Helsinksi even found Barbie lacking the appropriate percentage of body fat required for menstruation and if Barbie were a real woman, her measurements would be 36-18-38. Maybe Herr Lagerfeld could design a nice line of Chanel pearl and camellia encrusted neck braces and surgical appliances for this anatomically challenged doll?
In Barbie, Lagerfeld has found his perfect fashion female- voiceless, unable to hold any bothersome opinions, devoid of messy bodily functions (especially having to eat, something Lagerfeld has in the past expressed his own distaste for) and never ever at risk of gaining an extra pound of weight on her improbable frame. To add insult to injury, this latest incarnation of Barbie cannot even express herself through her clothing. She is dressed as doppelganger of the sartorially predictable Karl who applies none of his admittedly stellar creativity to his own Chrome Heart encrusted, leather gloved perma tanned self.
“Fashion is about dreams and illusion” he said back in 2009 in an interview with Focus magazine. It is also about selling those dreams and illusions to the emerging lucrative markets in China and Taiwan, Japan, Middle East and Russia, playing off of their love of the kitsch and playful. This is marketing kitsch and archness to adults but sadly losing some of their original, achievable appeal at the same time, for make no mistake, these dolls are not to be played with and nor are they everyday acquistions. They possess even less of the hopes and dreams and displaced aspirations of the millions of little children who once played with them.
In being marketed as intended for fashions pedestal, Barbie has lost all of the qualities that her creator Ruth Handler, co-owner of Mattel, stated she saw in her when the doll debuted at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959.
“Barbie has always represented that a woman has choices. Even in her early years, Barbie did not have to settle for only being Ken’s girlfriend or an inveterate shopper. She had the clothes, for example, to launch a career as a nurse, a stewardess, a nightclub singer. I designed Barbie with a blank face so that the child could project her own dreams of the future onto Barbie,” Handler said in her book, “Dream Doll.” “I never wanted to play up the glamorous life of Barbie. I wanted the owner to create a personality for the doll.” “ she said.
Sadly, Lagerfelds Barbie has now been totally stripped of those sartorial choices, no longer even in possession of her own admittedly blank, face.
As a child I often drove past the roadside marker commemorating the execution of a witch near Hadleigh in Suffolk, causing me to develop a horrified fascination with this unpalatable aspect of East Anglian history. If I had known aged ten that the largest single witch trial in England took place in Bury St Edmunds in 1645 when 18 people were executed by hanging, I’d have flatly refused to travel there with my grandparents on market days.
Many people remain unaware of how Bury St Edmunds in particular influenced witch hunting and trials all over Europe and particularly in the United States. The presence of Matthew Hopkins, the self styled ‘Witchfinder’ led to East Anglia becoming synonymous with witch hunts and his continued activity was guaranteed by the fiscal benefits it offered- he made a small fortune because local parishes paid him a fee for his investigations. Suffolk and Norfolk had been made prosperous through the wool and other trades – the villages of Long Melford and Lavenham are testimony to this with their astonishingly dramatic churches built from wealth, and locals had money to spend in pursuit of proof of Puritanical compliance and religious devotion. It has been estimated that over 100 executions happened across East Anglia that can be attributed to the work of Hopkins. The 1603 Witchcraft Act brought an end to this in an era that had till then provided a ‘perfect storm’ of factors- a civil war, politics, religion and a belief in the supernatural underpinned by a collective external locus of control, which made Hopkins and his ilk so persuasive and successful.
This frenzy that gripped the Bury area in the 17th century served as template and encouragement for the Salem witch trials in the States resulting in around 200 witch trials in the area in the mid-17th century- another more grotesque link to add to the already strong connections between New England and East Anglia.
Says James Sharpe, professor of early modern history at the University of York and author of the books Instruments Of Darkness and The Bewitching Of Anne Gunter on the BBC Radio Suffolk website-
“It’s a very important part of the history of Bury St Edmunds. I think there’s a recognition that the trials were important for the development of law and the price paid by innocent people because others had accused them of witchcraft.”
Thingoe Hill in the town was the usual gathering place for crowds to watch the public hangings and burnings of witches- in 1662 two elderly widows from Lowestoft were put to death after being accused of casting spells upon the daughters of a local fish merchant, Samuel Pacey. Amy Denny and Rose Cullender were stripped naked and Cullender was seen to possess a growth on her body that was believed to be a teat used to suckle her Devil’s familiar (a pig, a cat or a toad, usually) which, added to other ‘evidence’ – misfortune suffered by neighbours, the deaths of horses, pigs and cattle, and a man being infested with lice, sealed their fates. The eminent men who sat in judgement on the women, a respected doctor and an esteemed local judge meant the trial and its proceedings acquired the status of ‘case law’ and in Salem, the presiding American magistrates studied the report of the Bury trial and modelled their system of inquiry and judgement upon it.
As a result, East Anglia has a plethora of visitor attractions and events that seek to remember this interesting period of history from museums to special attractions at local stately homes and parks. In Bury St Edmunds, the local museum on Market Hill called Moyse’s Hall has well curated exhibits of witch bottles and accoutrements, dead cats and shoes, either donated or recovered from houses where they were bricked up behind walls to ward off witches/evil spirits. Usually single shoes and not pairs were entombed near doors, windows and chimneys. Sometimes other items were hidden with the shoes- coins, pipes, spoons, pots, toys, goblets, food, knives, gloves, chicken and cat bones.
Standing on one corner of the market place for over 900 years, Moyses Hall dates from the 12th century and can boast a rich and varied past as the town gaol, workhouse and police station. Serving as a town museum since 1899, it recounts the creation of the early town from the building and dissolution of the Abbey, to prison paraphernalia and artifacts of witchcraft and superstitions.
The numerous house cats that were buried alive in the 17th century in the hope that they would repel witches still turn up in East Anglia as old buildings are reclaimed and restored. The Mill Hotel in Sudbury, overlooking the Millpond and famous water meadows immortalised by Gainsborough and Constable, has on display its own mummified cat, walled up behind protective glass at the rear of the main reception. Remains of a cat were also found in at the Dukes Head Hotel in Kings Lynn, in room 10 during October 2011. Elizabethan House on Great Yarmouth’s South Quay has, in its attic, a perfectly preserved skeleton of a cat underneath the floorboards (The attic is not open to the public but they generously sent us a photo which is below). This ‘little palace’ as Daniel Defoe described it is located in the heart of the heritage quarter and showcases life in Tudor times through hands on displays.
Cats weren’t the only anti witchcraft technique used by domestic home owners. At the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum near Norwich, staff will tell you about how old pairs of trousers were found stuffed up a chimney, possibly to stop witches from flying into the house. When you consider the cost of fabric, the time it took to make and repair clothing by hand and the income levels of many working class families, their talismanic status is better understood. Giving up a pair of trousers was no easy decision.
Halloween saw Gressenhall Museum celebrating all things spooky with their ‘Witches in the Workhouse’ over two days a few years ago and this year they have ‘Ghostly Gressenhall. Discover objects of superstition from the museum collections and spot the bats hiding in the collections gallery then take a witch-rich tour and hear chilling tales in the dark corridors of the workhouse. Among the museum’s artefacts collected from all over the region to illustrate life in Norfolk down the ages is a witch bottle from the 17th century. Found near the Tumble Down Dick public house at Woodton, these bottles served as talismanic protection against actual or threatened illness. They were usually filled with urine or nail clippings, sometimes from the sick person, with nails, pins, or threads added in too, tightly corked and either set to heat by the hearth or buried it in the ground. This, as Joseph Blagrave wrote in Astrological Practice of Physick (1671), ‘will endanger the witches’ life, for … they will be grievously tormented, making their water with great difficulty, if any at all’
Great Yarmouth’s Tollhouse Museum, a 12th Century medieval former merchant’s house has been transformed into one of the town’s most important civic buildings with a vibrant timetable of family friendly activities and many exhibits commemorating the towns past history of crime and punishment, often with a maritime flair. Built about 800 years ago, grand home of a rich merchant with its sturdy stone walls, finely carved doorway and arched windows, it was acquired by civic officials whereupon it served as courtroom for various different types of courts, the town gaol with the notorious dungeon known as ‘the hold’, and a police station. Over the years it has been home to pirates, robbers and murderers as well as countless common crooks. It has been attacked by rebels and rioters and gutted by enemy bombs. Staff here can tell you the story of Marcus Prynne, a local gardener accused of witchcraft in 1645; not all witches were female, a commonly held misapprehension, and the gaol cells are the site for spooky Halloween story telling as visitors ‘meet’ the witches on trial and find out their grisly fate in atmospheric evenings of costume drama.
Drive up to the North Norfolk coast to Davenports Magic Kingdom in North Walsham and visit the largest collection of magic and allied arts memorabilia in Europe- a time-travel tour through the history of British magical entertainment and the place of one unique family in that story. Admission cost includes the ‘Witches to Wonder’ exhibition, a 30-minute live magic show, live Headless Lady sideshow and a visit to the re-creation of Davenport’s 1915 shop with its very own magician demonstrating magic tricks from the period.
‘Witches to Wonder’ artefacts on display include a first edition of ‘Discoverie of Witchcraf’t, written in 1584 and now recognized as the first published material on conjuring, and the full-size reproduction of Harry Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Tank, built for the film Death Defying Acts starring Catherine Zeta Jones.
The oldest known bridge in Norwich is at Fye Bridge, down the road from ancient Tombland leading to Magdalen Street. A 13th century structure, it was rebuilt in 1829 and later widened and was once the site of a medieval ducking stool that was used for witches and if they survived they were burned to death. The Norwich author, George Borrow, writing in the 19th century commits to paper, some of the horror of Lollards Pit in Norwich where people were burned to death for their religious beliefs. Walking through the thronged crowds from the Guildhall Jail over the Bishopsgate Bridge they would spy the faggots of wood piled high on their pyre and be handed over by the church to the authorities and executed. The location married both symbolism and practicality. The pits were formed after the excavations for the nearby cathedral and so proved handy, avoiding the need for the removal of bodies at a time when disease could easily be spread and their location was just outside the city walls, symbolising the casting out of the condemned from the church and decent society.
Today the Bridge House pub (built over the holding cells) stands where once the pits and execution place stood and a plaque commemorating those who died so awfully is fixed to its wall. On the other side of the road, on the riverbank, is another plaque, hailing the executed as martyrs, naming up to a dozen who died all those centuries ago. It is said the screams of the people are still heard and witches can be seen crossing the bridge.
Moot Hall in Aldeburgh archives the life of this famous Suffolk seaside town which, around 1662, did not enjoy the relative prosperity and regard that it boasts today. Outbreaks of smallpox, loss of livelihood to marauding pirates, the three Dutch trade Wars (1652-74) which culminated in the terrible Battle of Sole Bay fought off Southwold in 1672 and the influx of sailors requiring help all caused hardship. Add to this a declining population less able to work and imbue the town with wealth and it is not surprising that the town was caught up in a wave of hysteria against so-called ‘witches’ which swept through East Anglia. Matthew Hopkins, self-styled Witch Finder General, and widow Phillips, his search woman, were employed by the Burgesses to flush out witches in Aldeburgh. Seven women were imprisoned in the Moot Hall’s prison in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record. They were prevented from sleeping and watched for proof of their guilt – that is for the coming of their familiar spirits. Eventually, cold, hungry and exhausted, they may well have confessedand were all hanged in February 1646.
Framlingham Castle moat formed the backdrop to the ‘swimming’ of another suspected male witch named John Lowes, the elderly vicar of Brandeston who was accused of witchcraft in 1642. After being ‘swum’ in the moat, and found guilty after floating to the surface, Witchfinder Hopkins (Yes, him again) “kept Lowes awake several nights together while running him backwards and forwards about his cell until out of breath… till he was weary of his life and scarce sensible of what he said or did”. Ultimately, Lowes ‘confessed’ to sending imps to sink a ship near Harwich and allegedly proclaimed that he “was joyfull to see what power his imps had”. Lowes was hanged at Bury St Edmunds in August 1645. A plaque dedicated to Lowes can be seen in Brandeston’s All Saints Church and an image of his hanging is on the village sign. The castle itself makes a dramatic day out for families with its majestic turreted buildings set at the edge of the small market town, surrounded by grassed park, a small pond and numerous places to eat and drink. The end of each October sees the castle putting on Halloween events based on witch hunting with children invited to participate in an interactive adventure.
The Millers Tale has gathered together some of the region’s best Halloween events in a guide here. From ghostly walks around Norwich to Scaresville at Kentwell Hall, there’s something for every age group.
‘I Had a Black Dog’ is a comic, fun and heart wrenching story about one man called Joe and his own struggle with the multifaceted entity known as depressive disorder. Originally written by Matthew Johnstone, an artist, writer and photographer, the book is a radical and humane departure from the traditional self help format of many books about mental health and illness. Sometimes we need to NOT be advised in an overt manner; rather we need to walk alongside somebody who just ‘knows’ and this book (alongside the theatrical version in development) is just that. Acknowledging that depression can mess with a persons ability to ingest and digest information-although intellect is left intact- the book offers non patronising and intelligent pictorial depictions of the ways in which thought, affect and feeling can all be warped by the illness. This is as important for carers, friends and relatives to understand as it is for the ill person to know he has been understood.
Small Nose Productions is developing The Black Dog Project via a series of research and development sessions (a total of 3) held at local theatres and arts centres in front of small audiences. The New Wolsey hosted one of them under its #Scratch banner at their High St Gallery venue in Ipswich, a beautiful multi -use art gallery. Mark Curtis from Small Nose, in a previous interview, told Stage Review: “The project is about trying to raise awareness about Mental Health issues – and begins with this first 30 mins (a scratch production) of the best selling book. The company hope to take it to a full length version later this year”.
Watching the project in its rough format followed by a Talk Out/question & answer session provided us and the cast with a valuable opportunity to pool knowledge both lived and learned, offer feedback and share our experiences about an illness that has no definitive truth or any one narrative. Mirroring the book, the Scratch production clearly values that lived experience and the intra-personal above others and gains emotional resonance with its audience as a result. Spending time talking with audiences helps them manage powerful feelings brought back into now by what they have seen; shows such as this can be cathartic but only if one is given the space to make sense of what has been felt and thought.
Developing a theatrical production from such a simple book contains its own challenges – reflecting the evidence base, keeping the simplicity of the concept which was consistently cited as one of THE main points of success whilst layering in subjective and individual experiences. Building in humour was vital too. Outreach work conducted by Small Nose Productions told them that their initial audiences needed their experiences acknowledged; they had to see themselves in the main character but how to avoid building a composite that ended up reflecting nobody? Audiences do not want a’ Greatest Hits of Depression’. The work of Doctor Stuart Brown into the neuro-psychological effects of laughter was another important building block. Alongside the plain old enjoyment of a good laugh, the humour here has a more vital role- there needs to be a leavening too without making the laughed with, laughed AT. Our own experiences of a former career in mental health alongside living with PTSD shows us that the dark humour of staff and service users needs to be celebrated; it is dry, observational, political and astute.
Said Johnstone of Small Nose: “Their chaotic approach, constant search for the correct balance between laughter and something more poignant and their audacity for things that are silly and at the heart of us all, makes this company the perfect eclectic mix for dealing with the dark world of the Black Dog.”
The uses of comedy in the early production was multi-faceted. It lightened, it played with our feelings of inclusion and exclusion and it played with the characters inclusion and isolation. At times the humour tangibly pushed Joe aside and at other times it united us. Should the literal depiction of the metaphorical ‘Black Dog’ be less comedic? Some feedback suggested the dog lacked the overtly oppressive nature of depression, that it was too approachable or not ‘nasty’ enough or that it needed to be approachable and comforting because the heavy blanket of depression can in itself be a comfort. Hard for non sufferers to sometimes grasp, people speak of depression as an identity with gains at times; provision of a ‘get out’ clause for everything they find too difficult or taxing, hence the feelings of apprehension and even fear at thoughts of recovery and all that this entails. At least Depression is known. There is a difficult kind of solace in that and so we have a furry, cuddly playful dog leaping into the lap of Joe, throwing its arms around him and draped all over him, limbs splayed and not quite under its control, a playful clown mitigating the oppressiveness of the illness. Think Boxer or Spaniel rather than lupine and dark.
At times the laughs of the audience at the boisterous expressiveness of the Black Dog and its total unawareness and lack of control of its own corporeal body was unbearably poignant in that it highlighted the essential disconnect that lies at the centre of the world of the person with depression. On stage all was busy and social (in the restaurant) as life and the world moved and morphed around Joe. The audience seemed to be in collusion with the Dog against him and he was at a still point outwardly whilst his mind was clearly in turmoil. Disconnected from the world, from his own body (he did not inhabit it comfortably), from other people, his only consistency to be found was in his own intrapersonal relationship- the one with himself and his depression. We found it very hard to look at Joe as he sat there because he inspired feelings of guilt in us that we had laughed in the face of such inner turmoil.
We saw the beautiful subtlety of a facial expression that was really a non expression, a terrifying combination of both blankness and inner confusion. No confusion on his face but we knew it was there. Exacerbating this even more was the dogs vital engagement with us, playing to the crowd, prancing, clowning and making us feel uncomfortably disregarding and dismissive of Joe’s alienation. The dog was like a black hole, drawing all attention and life towards it. We were in the moment and Joe was not. He was scarcely in the play. The dog became less a reflection of his feelings, more a case of reflecting all that he was not and no longer acting as metaphor for his illness. We wondered then ‘should the dog be just a dog and if so, should it be more dog like?’ Using a more lifelike mask (with a better budget maybe?) might help us manage the conflicting feelings about what the dog is but on the other hand, this uncertainty accurately mirrors the larger questions about what depression actually is and what it is not. Indeed is that something we should even need to delineate? Managing dissonance in an audience is tricky and we will be interested to see how this plays out as the project develops.
The use of space and props has huge potential and already encapsulates some of the Depressive imagery and metaphor. Kicking off with Joe having a restless night, we see the lights go up on a sparsely inhabited set; bed, a set of drawers, a wardrobe, a bathroom, a desk for work, a kitchen table / restaurant table….Illuminating the different room spaces and activities sparely and sparsely draws us into Joe’s inner life and the subsequent terrifying lack of. Having Joe and his Dog move the set around is part reflection of budgetary constraints and a deliberate feature. The actor playing the dog morphs into the waiter, the secretary and Joe’s girlfriend with his/her costume changes contributing to the comedy and Joe’s disconnect from it and our reactions. We laugh at the ill fitting wig, the crooked moustache, and throughout this Joe remains painfully and terrifyingly removed from it all. It is not that depression = feeling miserable. In fact depression can mean = feeling nothing at all. What on earth must it be like feeling nothing at all?
One problem we could see with the idea of Joe and the Dog having to do the set changes themselves is that we lose some of the chronology of his illness. One of the ways in which depression affects a person is by changing the way they move, speak, think and act. The biological signs of a depressive disorder can include changes in sleep, appetite, sex drive and how we move- do we slow down (retarded movements) or do we speed up and become more agitated? Joe wound down like an old clock; he became less purposeful, less methodical despite trying to cling to routines and to us, this appeared commensurate with what we know to be the symptoms of some types of depression. Seeing Joe move the set around to reconfigure the furniture in a fast, strong and purposeful way (because of time constraints) interrupted this progression and we suggested that the company employ theatre students as interns dressed in the customary black to act as stagehands. Having Joe lost and still in the midst of a set change might enhance our sense of his life unfolding and renegotiating apparently without his consent or understanding. Or Joe could be more ineffectual at set changes which would reflect the unravelling of his life- the end of his relationship with his girlfriend, the changes in his job that he found so hard having previously arranged work to best suit his nature. He is not managing these well so he should not manage the set changes well either.
As the play approached its conclusion we were apprehensive that Joe’s final wresting with his illness, the all at sea analogy was actually leading towards suicide and this was compounded by our obscured view of the scene- a problem of the venue, not the play. Unsure as to whether anybody else in the audience interpreted it in this way, we felt anxiety at how on earth the play could come back from this story development despite the fact that this is sadly not that far removed from reality for some people with mental health problems. The actual ending, Joe developing ways to live with his depression reflected the book but the lack of explanations as to how Joe achieved this left us feeling a little adrift. It risks being seen as a hasty ‘wrap up’ rather then the truth of the book that inspired this play. Finding ways to bridge this gap we feel, is important whether via play content, talk out or within the programme notes.
We are greatly looking forward to seeing the finished version of The Black Dog Project and are grateful for the opportunity to both see and contribute to the development of the show. Thanks to the New Wolsey Theatre and Small Nose Productions.
This is the open letter to the Trust board of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust that kicked off the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in our two counties.
This open letter is being presented to the directors of Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) by members of the campaign at the NSFT Board Meeting in Bury St Edmunds today. We are doing what we agreed at our first meeting and challenging the Board to change or be removed. The Board has lost the confidence of service users, staff and the public. Our opinion poll shows that 96% visitors to the campaign website believe that the NSFT Board is incompetent.
Print this letter, give it to friends and colleagues, put it up on noticeboards, in cafés and on the back of the bathroom doors. Forward a link to this page to everyone who will be concerned about the crisis at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Contribute in our forums and help us expose the crisis in mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
OPEN LETTER TO NSFT BOARD OF DIRECTORS
There is a serious crisis in the delivery of mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk. Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has challenged the use of the word ‘crisis’ but in so doing has shown how far out of touch it is with the views of its own service-users, carers and front-line staff. The recent extensive media coverage, both local and national, dating back to at least last August, also gives the lie to the Trust’s official statements. The warnings from the emergency services and professional bodies such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists should be heeded. Over 300 people attended our launch meeting on 25th November (many more could not get in) and a resolution of no confidence in the management of the Trust was passed unanimously. Given this, the NSFT Board of Directors should either take urgent action to rectify a situation which is in danger of spiraling downwards, or resign.
In order to restore some degree of confidence, the Trust needs to act quickly in six key areas:
Call a halt to the policy of bed closures and reopen wards wherever possible, until community services can actually show in practice that a number of inpatient beds are not needed.
Withdraw the proposal to reduce the number of qualified Band 6 staff in the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) teams. Continue with the proposed policy of boosting the home treatment capacity by employing more support workers. Give priority to providing a sufficient level of medical input to CRHTs so that access to a psychiatrist is readily available in a crisis.
Restore link workers and carry out an urgent review of the role of Access and Assessment teams, especially in relation to CRHTs.
Restore Early Intervention In Psychosis (EI) teams in Suffolk, in line with the Department of Health and Schizophrenia Commission recommendations.
Establish a caseload management system so that care coordinators and lead professionals in community teams do not carry individual responsibility for excessive workloads.
Carry out an urgent review of the prevention of suicide strategy, which should include a major rethink around the abolition of specialist assertive outreach and homeless persons’ teams.
The Trust board members need to ask themselves why there is such a gulf between their perception of the state of affairs and that of front-line staff and service users. Denying that a problem exists will not bring about a solution. The Trust, the CCGs, Health Minister Norman Lamb, have all been in denial for some time. It’s no longer good enough to blame one another. We need decisive action from all. If you cannot provide it, you should go!
On behalf of the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk on 19/12/2013
An absolutely fabulous cafe-restaurant discovered quite by chance en route to North Norfolk and completely family friendly.
The proprietor has made the decision to maintain an airy, spacious interior with plenty of space to move around in and decent sized family tables placed in a sunny room. There are squishy leather Chesterfield sofas underneath the front windows with well stocked bookshelves nearby and free Wifi. Conveniently, the WiFi code has been displayed on a chalkboard saving customers the bother of having to ask for it.
We sat outside on wooden benches it being a sunny warm day but there is also a large covered outside area too. The parking area surrounds the restaurant but is sufficiently separate so children (under supervision of course) will not be near reversing vehicles.
The test of a home cooked menu is its length- the longer the menu, the less likely it is to be freshly prepared. Browns clearly home cooks fresh food to order with its well chosen A4 side of options. Breakfast includes a full English with eggs from local producers John Allen (two days old!) and bacon and sausage from Scotts Field rare breed large black pigs. We ordered scrambled eggs on toast(photographed below) and a bacon roll with the aforementioned bacon (which was eaten too fast to be photographed!).
They were superb- bacon that actually tasted of pig, with perfectly rendered crispy fat in a fresh and home baked bread roll- three large rashers too. The eggs were creamy, just set on excellent quality hand sliced bread. Prices are very good for such high quality food – just £3-95 for the roll.
Service was swift, friendly and discreet. Bathrooms are very clean, spacious and there are baby changing and disabled facilities easily found too.
We will be back to try out the Mature Norfolk cheddar, broccoli and red onion tart with caramelized onion chutney and beetroot salad and the glazed Norfolk blueberry and almond tart with homemade (HOMEMADE!) vanilla ice cream. Or the fresh whitebait from Kings Lynn spiced Spanish style with home made bread and the Fresh fish cooked in Peroni beer batter and thrice cooked chips from Adrian Garrett potatoes.
The proprietor Mark Clayton deserves thunderous praise for his lovely restaurant and amazing food. Check out their coming website- browns-kitchen.com and follow them on twitter @brownskitchen.
Browns restaurant did not solicit this review and we paid for our own food.
We are very lucky to have this Portugese owned cafe and market in our town which serves fresh food, pastries and snacks for the local expat community and those lucky enough to have discovered it. A bit of a hidden gem, not helped by its position around the side of Angel Hill out of the sight line of people coming down Abbeygate St towards the Abbey Gardens, Torrejano is incredibly welcoming. It was busy with families eating together when we arrived (3pm) with a chiller cabinet packed with unusual and fresh baked deli items, cakes and pastries. The deservedly famous Pasteis De Nata (Portugese Custard Tarts) were piled onto stands with a choice of cinnamon topping or not- this was initially what lured us here.
As per usual ended up ordering far more than we could eat for take out- the custard tarts and a slice of Torta De Naranja; eggy and heady with an orange syrup soaked semolina filling, resembling an exotic Swiss Roll. Also for sale were coconut stuffed and topped pillowy yeast raised buns, empanadas filled with meats and salt cod (bacalao) and more syrup and sugar drenched pastries that resembled baklava, being layered, pleated and folded like edible origami. They do tend to sell out pretty fast and the only reason we got them was because they had just completed a second baking session as it was the weekend.
Go downstairs to find a mini market of Portugese products including white port at £17 a bottle and tawny port around £12 stored next to great metal vats of olive oil floridly patterned in reds and oranges. There are boxes of farina flavoured with Banana for babies and other Portugese cereals and jars of pimenton dulce and other local spices and herbs that would make great gifts for food loving friends. Most interesting were the freezers packed with whole sides of bacalao and packs of freshly made salt cod Fritters (we bought these), boxes of sardines, fresh scallops, clams and prawns plus all manner of prepared caldo’s and other stews. The counter assistant gave us plenty of ideas and advice about frying the fritters- much appreciated.
We hope the residents of Bury St Edmunds make the most of CastleTorrejano. It is refreshing to find something a little different so instead of buying your Pasteis De Nata from the chain bakery up the road (Patisserie Valerie) why not buy the real thing made by those who have grown up making (and eating) them?
24 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 1UZ
The store did not solicit this review and we paid for our purchases.
We visited just after Christmas on a frigidly cold afternoon and walked in to a decidedly un-frigid welcome- friendly and enthusiastic. The vibe is NYC diner in an old building minus the trad Brooklyn pressed tin roof yet there is nothing staged about this place.
The choice offered on the menu is not overwhelming, seemingly predicated upon the catering principle of offering less and doing it better. (The best indication of freshly cooked food being a small menu anyway.)
The hotdogs and burger meat come from highly regarded local sources, the chile relish is from the local Black Dog Deli and all food appears to be freshly prepped and cooked to order.
We chose some pretty authentic sounding pure beef hot dogs (The Pimp Steak) w/ sauerkraut, onions, chile relish, mustard and skinny fries. There are optional extra toppings and few limits on customisation other than the size of your mouth when trying to fit the hot dog into it. The burgers come with the best type of bun- a Brioche, lightly grilled with salad, pickles and cheese spilling out from underneath. The fries are the crunchy skinny type (in size only) and can be ordered with blue cheese, Cajun spices or Howlin’ Hot chile. We wimped out and had them straight up.
Sadly having to drive home meant we had to bypass the decadent sounding ‘Hard Shake’, a malted milkshake with shots of Kahlua, coconut rum and golden rum. We also had to bypass the seductive cocktail menu full of variations on a Mojito, Margarita and Martini theme. A range of craft beers are sold too including ‘Thunderstruck’ from local brewery Hellhound in Hadleigh, Suffolk and the incredibly popular Brooklyn Beer. There are juices, sodas and some voluptuous sounding malted shakes- millionaires shortbread and the more usual vanilla, chocolate and strawberry made with malted milk and dairy ice cream. You can go left field with these with an added shot of Nutella or Banana.
East Coast Diner also has a fine range of pizzas with toppings both usual and less so. We have never had a Pizza with walnut, beetroot and Binham Blue cheese but are going back to have one washed down with a Bumbleberry Slushie style Froz-Z-zen. We haven’t seen the Bumbleberry mentioned outside the West coast of the USA before and only heard about it because Pascale Le Draoulec mentioned it in her road food book ‘American Pie.’