Saturday, 2 October 2010

Station Bistro, Wymondham

The Station Bistro in Wymondham's historic railway station was formerly known as The Brief Encounter Refreshment Room and Restaurant, then taking its name from the classic David Lean film. Unfortunately, this didn't mean that you were going to catch Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard making discrete comments about their feelings for each other in clipped Cholmondley-Warner English every time you went there. What is did (and still does) mean, though, is that you're going to encounter (see what I did there?) a tea shop with a vintage railway theme and brimming with memorabilia.

As it's former full name suggested, the Station Bistro is divided into a refreshment room and a restaurant. The former has walls that are crammed with prints of old locomotives, mostly steam, and other paraphernalia relating to the Norfolk rail travel of yesteryear. The latter is the big draw though - essentially the restaurant is decorated as if it's a train carriage, with authentic, reclaimed train seats to sit on... complete with proper luggage racks overhead. And with windows overlooking the station platform (which, despite the "historic" name is still a functioning mainline railway station, popular with commuters) you could almost be on a train.

I suppose I'd better talk about the tea, given the nature of this website. There isn't a lot of choice - English breakfast or Earl Grey. I had the former, and though I had to let it steep for a bit it tasted good (in the end). At least it came in a proper pot, as you can see on the left. It was nicely served too - on the day of my visit the waitressing staff were all very smiley, which makes such a difference. And although the choice of teas might be quite limited (I guess there were no decaff or fruit teas in Celia Johnson's day), the options for what to have with your cuppa are varied: as you can see, I went for the crumpets with mine, and am happy to report that they were excellent. The usual scones (including a cream tea option), sausage rolls, cakes and tea-cakes were also available, and all sounded quite tempting. There's also a reasonable main meal menu which, although pretty standard fare, at least promises home cooked food. Always a good thing.

The core ingredients for a good tea shop are all in place then, but it's really the setting and theme that makes Brief Encounter stand out as special. If you're interested in trains, or love the film, or simply just enjoy a bit of general nostalgia, then this is the place for you. Especially so in the restaurant, with the train carriage furniture and fittings. My only quibble is that surely they could push themselves a bit harder and do more with the railway link? Maybe tie in themed meal evenings or link up more with the nearby Mid-Norfolk Railway, which runs steam trains to Wymondham (though not to this station)?

All in all though, this is a tea shop which deserves a longer encounter...

Contact them: 01953 606433 | station-bistro-wymondham.co.uk

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