Well it is a full moon tomorrow. What tempted me? It would seem, everything: From Pub Fine Dining, Chilli Dogs and The Best Bacon Sarnie in Norwich. Who’s really to blame? The Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015. (Seriously, who am I kidding?)
This weekend I managed to squeeze in an unearthly amount of good food and break my vegetarianism 3.5 times, all within 36 hours. I’ll be honest, whenever I’m eating out, there’s only one thing I ever really truly fancy. All I can say Your Honour, is that I think perhaps the pending full moon must have something to do with it. Good food just seems to be tempting me from every angle at the moment. We’re very lucky here in Norfolk.
Including today, which sees the official release of the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015. It’s the nation’s best-selling restaurant guide, one which reflects the high standard of dining in the UK. This year it features a total of 85 restaurants, pubs and cafés from the East of England, not to mention hundreds of other eateries from across the UK.
Temptation #1 – Rustic Dining & Local Produce
I was really pleased to learn that this year’s guide features several of my favourite pubs and restaurants in the region including Roots, which was one of three restaurants in Norwich and the only “Local Gem” in the City, to be listed in the guide. You can see my recent review of Roots here.
Incidentally, it was at Roots on Saturday where my indulgent “meat-fest of a weekend” began, with some breakfast from their new take-away counter. See below. This is me, the bad vegetarian, hiding behind Norwich Market devouring one of Roots’ Norfolk-reared bacon sandwiches. The bread was ridiculously fluffy and cloud-like, I was basking in a very happy place. And the bacon? Well, as a vegetarian, I couldn’t possibly comment. (It was bloomin’ delicious! Sweet, salty and unforgivingly thick.)
I digress. Back to the Waitorse Good Food Guide. In addition to publishing a Top 50 Restaurants and a Top 50 Pubs list, there is also a regional readers’ choice award. So, at the weekend, we thought we would see what the food was like at the East of England’s Readers’ Award winner 2015, The Ingham Swan – Ingham, Norfolk.
We had a wonderful evening at this idyllic thatched pub, which was less of a gastro-pub cum watering hole – which was entirely what we’d been expecting – and more of a relaxed fine dining experience with outstanding service and a very friendly chef called Danny.
The food didn’t disappoint either:
Amuse bouche: Celeriac and Girolle Mushroom Soup. Simply divine. I could have eaten an entire pan-full, mopped up with their homemade bread rolls – which were so similar to my Mother’s own, that I was tempted to see if she was hiding in their kitchen.
I chose the White Cromer Crab Meat and Cromer Crab Cake with Lemon Puree, Kings Lynn Brown Shrimps and Cockles (pictured above). For me, the brown shrimps and cockles were the highlight on the plate. The dish didn’t contain strong flavours but simply allowed the local, fresh shellfish to speak for itself.
My favourite of the two starters was of course what my other half chose: Crispy Baron Bigod Cheese Beignet with Beetroot and Raspberry Puree, Pickled Beetroot, Hazelnut Emulsion and Pea Shoots. A classic combination of flavours, it was actually the textures of the breaded cheese with the crunchy hazelnuts, which really made this dish complete.
Ok, so, if like me, you’re going to eat beef four or five times a year, then make sure this is the dish you chose. Melt-in-the-mouth, Suffolk-reared Chargrilled Fillet of English Beef with Roast Celeriac, Buttered Spinach, Sautéed Girolle Mushrooms, Parisienne Courgettes and Rich Red Wine Jus (pictured above) and served with Copper Pot Dauphinoise Potatoes (pictured below). For me, this was the highlight of our evening, which rendered me speechless for the duration of the course.
My other half went for the Peppered Monkfish with Crispy Crab Cakes, Buttered Samphire, Buttered Spinach, Cockle and Brown Shrimp Beurre Blanc. Not being a shellfish fan, the head chef kindly accommodated us and tailored the dish to suit.
The Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée, Raspberry Gel, Salt Caramel Macaron and Raspberry Sorbet, can be likened in authenticity to the dessert course of a stylish, Parisian woman’s supper club. What a treat.
Temptation #3 – Chilli Dogs
With my vegetarianism having taken a nosedive this weekend – and what with finding myself at an all-American Diner (Zaks in Mousehold) on Sunday evening (in for a penny) – I ordered the beef chilli dog, topped with homemade chilli, melted cheese, sweet onions and served with cheesy fries, a bottle of Brooklyn Lager and some sour cream on the side thank you very much.
NB: Zaks isn’t listed in the guide, but after all that splendid food, it felt like the best way to finish one hell of a weekend.
Waitrose Guide Notes:
(1) The Good Food Guide is the UK’s longest running, bestselling restaurant guide. In its 64th year of publication, the Guide is now owned by Waitrose and includes independent reviews of the best dining establishments throughout the UK, from pubs and cafés to restaurants and fine dining. The Waitrose Good Food Guide does not accept any sponsorship, advertisements or freebies.
(2) Waitrose Good Food Guide 2015 publishes on 8th September 2014, priced £17.99, and is available in all good bookshops and in Waitrose branches (priced £12.99). See www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk for details. Limited advance copies and pdfs of each county are available for journalists but all other content is embargoed until 2nd September 2014.
(3) The East of England region includes the following counties: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.
(4)The full breakdown of new entries, restaurants in the top 50 listing, longest-serving restaurants and award winners in the East of England are as follows:
New Entry – The Croft Kitchen, Biggleswade
Top 50 Restaurant (45th) – Paris House, Woburn
Top 50 Pub (16th) – The Plough, Bolnhurst
Top 50 Restaurant (12th) – Midsummer House, Cambridge
New Entry – Le Talbooth, Dedham
New Entry – The Square and Compass, Fuller Street
Longest Serving – The Pier at Harwich (36 years)
Wine List of the Year – The Sun Inn, Dedham
New Entry – Water Lane, Bishops Stortford
New Entry – The Bricklayers Arms, Flaunden
New Entry – The Fritton Arms, Fritton
New Entry – Marriott’s Warehouse, King’s Lynn
New Entry – Roots, Norwich
New Entry – The Duck Inn, Stanhoe
New Entry – Stoke Mill, Stoke Holy Cross
New Entry – The Mulberry, Thetford
Top 50 Pub (7th) – The Gunton Arms
Top 50 Pub (50th) – The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe
New Entry – The Swan, Stratford St Mary
New Entry – The Hadleigh Ram, Hadleigh
New Entry – The Packhorse Inn, Moulton
Longest Serving – The Great House (25 years)
Top 50 Pub (23rd) – The British Larder, Bromeswell
Top 50 Pub (37th) – The Bildeston Crown, Bildeston
Best Set Lunch – Tuddenham Mill, Tuddenham