Meet our Champion for Sweet Norfolk
Jaime Garbutt. Head Chef and Owner at Figbar, Norwich.
Figbar is a modern meeting place, where pre-theatre pick-me-ups shine and first dates don’t have to end. It’s a place to eat, drink, and socialize after that relaxing sigh with a first bit of exactly what you’ve been craving. We aim to amplify your sweet tooth and bring dessert into focus.
How long have you lived in Norfolk?
I moved to Norfolk when I was 14, when my mum and step-father relocated here. My first job was at Norwich institution Pedro’s, and I then moved on to head chef at the Waffle House, and worked at Fizzbuzz, (now Bishop’s) and the Broad House Hotel. After moving to London to work with Marcus Waring (at his and Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus), I returned to Norfolk to work with Galton Blackiston and Richard Bainbridge at Morston Hall, and then I moved on to run Metfield Bakery. I returned to London to work as a pastry chef at Ottolengthi, and then I opened the restaurant Made in Camden, followed by relaunching the Playboy Club in Mayfair with the executive celebrity chef Judy Joo and Chef Andrew Hales. The three of us then partnered to open Jinjuu in Soho and Hong Kong.
I’m now back in Norfolk because, when my gorgeous wife Stephanie found out she was pregnant with our second daughter Ariele (now 7 months old), we were looking for a place to raise our growing family while still doing what I loved. Steph did all her postgraduate studies at the UEA, so we both had a strong connection to the Fine City. My ties to Norfolk are family and food related- and you can’t love a place more when those are the reasons to be somewhere!
Explain the story behind your business…
Figbar began as a concept when I started to specialize in pastry. I love making sweet things, desserts, cakes, and pastries. Stephanie (my wife) worked at Champagne bar and Michelin Restaurant bubbledogs & kitchen table in London, and she has a bit of love for wine pairings. Being able to mould together our everyday passions and our family life is what we really wanted to express with Figbar. We wanted a business that we could grow with our family, which includes both the girls and the local community, which is one of the reasons we adore our location on the Norwich Lanes. Our daughters’ come help us set up in the morning, and they charm orange juice off the Madder Kitchen and bites of cheese from Les Guirregues next door. A cheeky treat from Stranger’s Coffee House and a few chips from Grosvernor Fish Bar, and they are well fed for our walk home through town!
Ella in particular is our chief taste tester, and it is the best thing in the world that Steph and I are able to teach her (and soon Ariele) how to cook and appreciate produce in the way that we do through our business as well as at home.
Figbar is a special place because we only serve what we love and what inspires us. We keep our menu small because literally every element is designed, tested, and made here in our open kitchen. We make each cake, pastry, ice cream, and everything in between. I love that there is an open kitchen so I can chat to everyone who comes in and discuss the science behind the baking or the thought process behind a dish.
Plated desserts are definitely my passion- I love creating the perfect combination through all the senses- taste and texture in particular. Playing around with flavours, savoury to sweet, is such a joy. I’m so grateful that Figbar allows me the opportunity to share this with the Norfolk community.
What gets you up in the morning?
Literally, my children. I had no idea when becoming a parent that 5am would be the new ‘lie in’! Figuratively, my children are also the answer. Those two little girls are just the loves of my life alongside their beautiful mother. The benefit to the early wake up call is that I have time to prepare a hot breakfast for the family before we have to leave the house- generally waffles (we may as well call Ella ‘Buddy the Elf’ for how much she loves maple syrup!) or pancakes, but omelettes and porridge also make frequent appearances. Homemade butter is a great way to get early morning energy out of kids. I never realized how well a little mason jar filled with cream could work as a rattle- and then provide fresh butter for our breakfasts!
Where are we most likely to find you enjoying a meal with family and friends?
Currently, Woolf and Social in Norwich is our go to for brunch on Sundays or a sneaky date night. We’re often at Shiki in Tombland (Norwich) as well. Of course, Benedict’s is also a date night favourite. Hawthorn Bar on the Norwich Lanes is a must visit- and we often do- as owner Richard has so much passion and imagination with his cocktails.
When we are able to make it further afield, we definitely visit Wiveton Café, River Café, Tichwell Manor, and White Horse in Brancaster. Cromer for some fish ‘n chips at Mary Janes is a must.
Oh, and the Anchor Inn in Morston after a visit to the seals. Just love it!
What’s your favourite Norfolk tipple and why?
Redwell Steam Lager- anything made with unicorn tears just adds that extra element!
My wife Steph’s favourite tipple is Bullard’s Gin. Made right here in Norwich! She’s got a wicked recipe for a sweet pea gin and tonic which, for us, is a British summer classic.
Last, but by no means least, what’s your best-kept Norfolk secret (supposing you’re happy to share it!)?
This is only staying a secret because, for the life of me, I have no idea what the name of it is. If you go out past the Norwich airport, down the road, turn left, and then left down another road- there’s this little walk where my daughter and I love to walk my mum’s pugapoo, Bobbie. You park the car, and then walk into a forest of birch trees which feels mystical and like a fairy-tale. Then you suddenly emerge to find sheep grazing lazily in this huge open field. After a walk along a fence, out of seemingly nowhere, huge fir trees, which look like they’ve been planted in these gorgeous straight lines, invite you in- it’s all a bit Alice in Wonderland. The undergrowth is soft and graceful, and there is generally some form of foraging to be done. Ella loves cooking with whatever we find.
Figbar - 23 St John Maddermarket, Norwich NR2 1DN. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org