Friday, April 5, 2013
A modern no-theme restaurant and top quality steaks, burgers and grills, Middletons gets the steakhouse revival spot-on. SIMON PARKIN visits a Norfolk chain in the making.
There is no shortage of restaurant chains that have arrived in Norwich as just their latest outpost on the road to global domination. It is a nice novelty therefore to turn that on its head and visit a local restaurant that’s a chain in the making.
Middletons Steakhouse and Grill first opened in 2010 just outside King’s Lynn. Since then they have established themselves as a favourite over in west Norfolk.
Now they have opened their second restaurant in Norwich, taking over the large two-story building formerly occupied by the Castlegates pub — and before that the Malaysian Delights and Chi-Chi’s restaurants — on Timberhill.
It’s an impressive transformation they’ve pulled off too, reconnecting the two floors into a single restaurant once again — including making the most of the balcony, allowing you can peer down on diners below — and giving it a great contemporary feel. Big bright red leather seating booths, wood surfaces and a spider’s web of dangling lights give it a warm atmosphere, without the risk of it being over themed.
They’ve also got the personal touch sorted out too with a surprisingly large number of staff offering brisk, efficient and friendly service, without being intrusive or fawning.
Even accounting for the novelty value, it seems to have gained fans already. The fact that we almost couldn’t get a table in a restaurant this size on a mid-week early evening tells you how popular it’s become in a short space of time. But what about the food? Well it’s a steakhouse of the type that were popular in the 1970s and 80s before they were given a bad name by the god-awful Garfunkel’s chain then killed off by the BSE crisis.
It’s a model — good quality, well cooked steaks, top class burgers and an emphasis on grilled dishes — that has long been ripe for a comeback. It’s nothing that re-invents the culinary wheel, but could so easily have been done very badly. The fact they’ve got it spot on is worth cheering.
The menu is spilt into easy sections — burgers, seven choices in 6oz and 8oz options; prime grill, including a Norfolk mixed grill, surf and turf and even a half lobster; pasta and seafood, including a beer battered fish and chips that comes in a bag.
Star of the show though is reserved for the 28-day hung steaks. There is a choice of sirloin, ribeye, fillet and T-bone, in three different sizes, plus a porterhouse or, if you’re pushing the boat out, a chateaubriand (a think tenderloin cut) at £45 for two people sharing. They all come with a tomato, mushroom and a choice of fries, wedges, jackets or new potatoes, plus a range of sauces at £1.70 extra.
There is a good range of light bites or starters too ranging from sticky ribs and chicken wings to devilled whitebait and baked camembert.
Our shared dish of piri piri king prawns were a spicy appetiser and an excuse to get fingers involved as we striped the deliciously cooked prawns.
It teed up main courses of steak and spice — a grill mix of ribeye steak and piri piri chicken breast — and a bacon and cheddar burger.
One fad that Middletons seem to have fallen for, and which we could have done without, is serving meals on wooden boards, with fries coming in zinc mini buckets. I blame Jamie Oliver. That aside both meals were excellent. The steak was melt in the mouth tender and perfectly cooked. The well stacked burger a cut well above the average. Even the fries were fantastic, crisp outside and buttery and fluffy inside.
The portions were value but without being ridiculous which left us room to share a wedge-like slab of gooey chocolate brownie and ice cream.
It’s interesting that this branch is being overseen by Rob Spillings and head chef Adam Mott, both graduates of Norwich City College’s Catering Academy. It’s just another excuse to hope it’s a success. And if it does go on to be a larger chain, we’ll be able to say we got there first.
MIDDLETONS STEAKHOUSE AND GRILL
Open: Mon-Sun 12pm-11pm
Prices: Burgers £7.75-£9.50, steaks £10.25-£23, other mains from £8.50, desserts from £4.50
Vegetarian options: Given that it’s a steakhouse, surprisingly good
Wheelchair access: Yes