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Friday, January 20, 2012
Being vegetarian can often leave diners feeling like second class diners. STACIA BRIGGS visits a meat-free Norwich restaurant were you don’t have to search for ‘V’ on the menu.
I can’t tell you how exciting it is to go to a restaurant where you can choose from anything on the menu and not have to hunt for the ‘V’ next to a handful of dishes.
Pulse Café Bar is aptly named, being a vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the heart of Norwich, a stone’s throw from the marketplace.
I visited with a friend, who also happens to be a brilliant professional chef, during a weekday lunchtime. In truth, we’d been heading for The Waffle House, but the queues were too daunting on a cold day where we’d have been stood, waiting, by the door.
I’m glad there were queues: Pulse was great.
The café itself, above Rainbow Wholefoods in the brilliantly-named Labour-in-Vain Yard, Guildhall Hill, is based in part of an old fire station, but has a modern, warehouse-like feel, very airy with accents of bright colour.
Virtually empty when we arrived, Pulse filled with diners over the hour and a half we were there to the point where, Waffle House-style, they were queuing for a table.
From a very tempting menu (where each course costs the same price, a nice touch), we chose a starter of Vietnamese sweet potato and butternut squash spring rolls with peanut dip, £4.50.
Other choices included spicy Moroccan bean and rice soup with bread, tomato, basil and mozzarella salad with black olives and rocket, a sharing platter packed with olives, guacamole, hummus, sundried tomatoes, smoked Norfolk Dapple, goats cheese terrine, shallot and cucumber chutney and ciabatta (£8.50 for two, £16 for four).
The spring rolls were crispy and had just enough of a kick to make the peanut dip, which appears to be runny peanut butter, a welcome addition. Sweet and spicy, there was just enough for us to share.
For our main course, I chose the margherita pizza while my friend went for the spicy bean enchilada with guacamole, sour cream, tomato, iceberg lettuce and coriander salsa, both £7.95 each.
Again, there were some great options: pumpkin and chickpea burger with coleslaw and sweet potato chips, green bean and roasted red onion strudel with puy lentils, penne pasta with sweet garlic, peas, crème fraiche and vegetarian parmesan and potato, onion and goat’s cheese tart topped with pea shoots to mention just a few.
My friend’s serving of enchiladas was really generous (although he said he could have done with less iceberg lettuce) and they were fairly spicy and densely packed: perfect comfort food for a cold day.
The pizza was really good – surprisingly good (I am used to non-pizza restaurants serving non-tasty pizzas). A thin base, a great sauce and plenty of cheese. Top marks.
I’m afraid to say that dessert had to be passed on (due to fullness) which is a real shame, because there were some great-sounding options: espresso chocolate cheesecake, chocolate, cherry and walnut brownie with hot chocolate sauce, Moroccan orange cake with compote of oranges and cardamom cream, all at £4.95 each.
I’d have struggled between choosing the cake or the brownie, but would have forced my long-suffering dining partner into ordering both, so I could have half of each.
The chef (a confirmed meat eater) was impressed. I was impressed. Go, even if you’re a fan of flesh – as an advertisement for vegetarianism, Pulse has definitely got my green light.
PULSE CAFÉ BAR
The Old Fire Station Stables Labour in Vain Yard Guildhall Hill Norwich 01603 765562 www.pulsecafebar.co.uk
Open: Mon-Tues 10am-5pm, Wed-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 11.30am-4pm
Prices: Appetizers £4.50, mains from £6.95, desserts £4.95.
Vegetarian options: Everything is vegetarian, some food is also vegan and gluten-free.