This week Alex caught up with Desmond at Wiveton Hall. Located between Blakeney and Cley-next-the-Sea, Wiveton Hall is a beautiful manor house. Here you will find a café with views over the marshes, a pick your own fruit farm, farm and gift shop, art exhibitions and beautiful gardens. You can also stay here in one of the holiday cottages, try a little glamping in a bell tent or for larger parties, you can hire out the West wing.
Desmond and his team were in the BBC 2 programme Normal for Norfolk. Season one aired back in 2015. A producer and cameraman followed life at Wiveton Hall through the summer and into winter. This was such a success that a second series was made following them through the Autumn of 2016 though to Spring 2017. You can view some of the episodes HERE.
Desmond, tell us about your business…
Currently we have a farm, a selection of holiday cottages, a cafe and a shop, but due to forced closure during the Covid 19 plague, we have spent some time re-evaluating our business and what we can offer for the public in the future. Given that things will inevitably be very different with social distancing becoming an important feature of day to day life, we are planning to reopen as more of a park with a top drawer food offering in takeaway form so you can come along, collect your delicious picnic type meal and sit within the grounds enjoying the surroundings and views over the marshes and the sea - at a safe distance from everyone else! This will hopefully mean we can continue to offer the food and atmosphere that people seem to love but on a new bigger scale. We have also discussed the potential to provide a unique wedding venue and special, restaurant style evenings in the future when it is safe to do
In your opinion, what is the best thing about living in Norfolk?
I would say the countryside and nature. I love spending time walking, watching the birds on the marsh and the deer walking across the fields in the morning.
If you could learn anything new what would it be?
To play the piano.
Dead or alive, who inspires you most?
My grandfather - Captain Dick Buxton. He bought the farm in 1944 and brought his pedigree Friesian cows here and farmed the land until the 1970’s.
What would your perfect day off look like?
A day of shooting or fishing, perhaps in Scotland.
What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Probably just to believe in myself, although I am much better at giving advice rather than taking it!
If you were recommending Wiveton Cafe to someone who has never been before, what would you tell them about it?
Lots of delicious food, and an abundance of beautiful space to sit and enjoy it.
What is your favourite season for local produce?
Luckily we are inundated with seasonal produce on the farm and we use so much of it, it is hard to pick one but probably Summer for the Mulberries, especially when the chef makes Mulberry sorbet!
Do you have a favourite item on your menu?
The aforementioned Mulberry Sorbet, or sometimes I take to the stove myself to make my signature creamy fried eggs on toast. The chef loves it when I do that!
Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve this year?
To re-open and launch our new park/cafe, hopefully with lots of animals about. We would also like to develop and launch our wedding venue offering.
What does your ideal weekend away look like?
A long version of my perfect day off, they are both so rare!
If you could give your 15-year-old self one piece of advice what would it be?
Never do yourself down.
How do you balance work and family?
I actually manage to combine the two. Life at Wiveton, whether you live or work here or both, is unlike anywhere else. It is almost like it’s own micro community with the residents and staff.
What would you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
A successful and thriving farm, a wonderful park and for keeping the roof on Wiveton Hall!
What are your top three foods you couldn’t live without?
Pheasant, crabs and homemade mayonnaise.
What do you love most about your job?
The variety of each day and the multitude of staff. I love to nurture them to their full potential.
Your favourite podcast/Netflix show or book right now?
The one with the Borat man in The Spy, and I love Homeland and Floyd on Fish!
Would your Chefs be happy to share a recipe with us?
Of course! I would be delighted to...
Wood fired Lamb Shoulder - any combination of spices will work in the rub so use imagination if you like.
Ingredients:1 bone in lamb shoulder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 garlic bulb
A handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
Salt & fresh ground black pepper
A little rapeseed oil
Combine the spices, salt and pepper and enough oil to create a thick paste.
Pierce the lamb shoulder all over with a knife and rub the paste all over forcing some into the holes you created.
Leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours - the longer the better.
While you wait for the marinade to do its job get the barbecue or pizza oven lit and up to a high temperature then let the fire burn down so the temperature drops to around 140-160 degrees celsius. You can use an oven at 140 degrees celsius if you don’t have a wood fired appliance.
Once the barbecue is at the right temperature cut the bulb of garlic in half horizontally and lay it on some tin foil with the sprigs of rosemary. Lay the lamb shoulder on top and wrap it up.
Place it on the barbecue for around 6 hours or until the meat starts falling away - make sure you keep the temperature the same by checking and adding wood or charcoal as required.
You can then open the parcel up for 20 minutes or so to get a bit of extra smoke into the meat if you like. Pull it apart to serve.
This would be great with a fresh tomato and mint salad.
Well Desmond, thank you so much for you time, you have so much to offer. I cannot wait to get back for a visit when you re-open, my daughter loves nothing more than the pick your own strawberries followed by a slice of cake in the café! I am now off to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for this recipe, and will be pulling out the BBQ this bank holiday weekend!