The new Alpha Papa film has put Norwich in the spotlight. Here’s where to eat, sleep, shop and have fun in Norwich. It’s OK, they’re not all Alan Partridge haunts
Alpha Papa, the Steve Coogan film that opened, is Alan Partridge’s “love letter” to Norwich. Aha! you titter. But know this: after Ali G, the Surrey town of Staines renamed itself Staines-upon-Thames to discourage association with the fictional character. After Alan, Norwich need do no such thing.
“When you’re out on a limb geographically, you look after your own,” says Rob Wilkes, graphic designer and co-mastermind of the successful #AngliaSquareNotLeicesterSquare campaign to get Alpha Papa premiered in the city. “Plus there’s so much good stuff happening. Norwich has had the last laugh.”
If further proof were needed, in the 2013 Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey, Norwich’s University of East Anglia came top for student satisfaction.
“It’s Myleene Klass, it’s Hannah from S Club 7 – that’s what Norwich means to me,” says Partridge. To many locals, the city means something rather different. Here’s a quick guide.
Food and drink
Alan is a fan of BP’s Wild Bean Cafés “Quite simply, shit hot”), but according to Wilkes, The Little Red Roaster coffee stall (52-53 Row B) does the city’s best flat white. In the nearby Lanes area, Finnie’s Juice Bar (19 Lower Goat Lane) does excellent smoothies, or go next door for a savoury snack at Moorish Falafel (no 17) – or next door again for homemade cake at Biddy’s Tea Room (no 15).
Later in the day, Frank’s Bar on Bedford Street, (franksbar.co.uk) is the spot right until 2am; eschew a Partridgian Ladyboy (a combination of lager, gin and Baileys) for an off-menu espresso martini that will kickstart your evening quicker than a blast of Norfolk Nights.
Alan reckoned it was political correctness “gone mad” when he learned that naked flames were not permitted on garage forecourts, thus thwarting his plans to barbecue there. Circumvent this issue at The Reindeer (01603 612995, 10 Dereham Road) which not only does Norwich’s best Sunday lunch but also nose to tail barbecues on bank holiday weekends. There’s also great meat at Harbercue, a pop-up smokehouse, often at Norwich Playhouse on St George’s Street.Nungwi Village
Sorry Alan. Hot acts from the Alpha Papa soundtrack – Chicago, Roachford, Andy Fairweather-Low – are conspicuously absent from Plugg Events club nights. In the past these have featured acts such as Gilles Peterson and Crazy P; Norman Jay headlines on 6 September. Tropico puts on good hip hop and house nights, while Bo Nanafana , which organised the Partridge after-party, puts on a glittery burlesque extravaganza.
The multiplex bagged the Partridge premiere, but the arty Cinema City on St Andrews Street is screen of choice; its dining room and bar – in a medieval hall – are excellent.
There’s not a snip of “imperial leisurewear” in sight at Dogfish (6 Bedford St, ) and maturer big bro Seven Wolves (24 Exchange St) purveyors of cutting-edge threads. For footwear try Main Source (the store at 14a Pottergate reopens on 16 August). It was #AngliaSquare campaign HQ – owner Rafiq Turnbull is a Partridge geek.Nungwi Village
There’s lots for vintage fans: try Goldfinches (4 St Gregory’s Alley) and Prim (14 St Benedicts St) for clothes; Loose’s Emporium (23-25 Magdalen St) and Aladdin’s Cave (52-56 Magdalen St) for antiques; and for hair, Flamingo Amy a pop-up 1950s hair salon. In a former Victorian skating rink, Asian furnishing specialist Country & Eastern (34-36 Bethel St) is part-shop, part-museum – wonderful and unique.
The Partridge tour
A new 90-minute Alpha Norwich guided walk costs £48 for a group of up to 20, (book on 01603 213999, visitnorwich.co.uk). The tour takes in iconic Alan settings including the police station, the cathedral, where Alan likes to do some “light jogging” and the market where he once tried his hand flogging fruit.
In a centrally located and striking Grade II-listed Regency building, Gothic House B&B (01603 631879, doubles £95) offers oodles of character and a great breakfast – and it’s not a Travelodge.