Friday, April 19, 2013
A famous name and great location; why the Edith Cavell in Tombland isn’t more popular is a mystery. New owners have put their faith in good food and hot rocks, SIMON PARKIN finds.
For a pub in such a prominent position, The Edith Cavell, on the corner of Tombland and Prince’s Street, has had a chequered recent history. Despite its tourist and nightlife-friendly location, and a historic name that many establishments would die for, it has never really caught on. It has paid its way, but never become a destination — even when Tombland was the place for a night out.
Indeed for more than 18 months no pints were pulled or meals served at all in spite of receiving a major refit by owner Enterprise Inns. Until that is two Norwich businessmen decided to test the waters again and reopen it at the end of last year.
Ben Edwards and business partner Phil Tompkins have re-thought it as a downstairs bar and an upstairs restaurant dining area with both daytime and evening menus.
And they arrived with a novel concept for the restaurant, branded Prime, the choice of having your favourite cut of steak or selection of seafood served to the table on a sizzling hot volcanic stone. They’ve even installed a special oven to get the rocks to a truly molten temperature.
It’s not a totally novel concept, but unusual enough to be a talking point.
Head chef Alan King said: “The hot rocks – where we serve the steak or seafood to the table on volcanic rock, heated to 380 degrees, allows the customer to cook their selected meat or fish to their liking. It adds something theatrical to the dining experience.”
Despite my doubts that it was a gimmick, having experienced the arrival of my sirloin steak furiously spitting on the molten-hot square rock and tasted it succulently continuing to cook, I’m convinced.
The pub, of course, bears the name of Norfolk’s famous war heroine, Edith Cavell, who was shot by a firing squad in 1915 for helping British and Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium.
The Swardeston-born nurse is buried in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral and a statue of her stands on Tombland. The pub also still includes a stained glass portrait of her.
There are two menus. The downstairs lunch menu includes sharing platters, a ploughman’s and a selection of sandwiches and paninis.
The evening menu includes a selection of six starters — including mussels in white wine, cream and garlic, sweet chilli pork and baked camembert. Main courses include homemade burgers, Cajun seabass, rack of lamb and slow roasted pork belly.
Pride of place however inevitably goes to the hot rocks. There are five steak cuts to chose from (prices range from £14.95-£24.95) — each coming with a choice of butters and sauces, plus the option of adding prawns; or if you’d prefer a seafood selection, tuna or salmon steaks.
My sirloin (£16.95 for a 10oz steak) came slightly under my preferred taste which proved perfect as it continued to cook on the ridiculously hot rock as I carved succulent slices off it, mopping up garlic butter and wedge-like chips. It also came with a small salad.
My fellow diner’s burger came in a rustic cob with season chips and salad. It was tasty, well presented and, if you wanted, there was a selection of cheeses to top it.
Despite its past, based solely on this food the pub should have a bright future. Rock on…
THE EDITH CAVELL
01603 765 813
Open: Mon-Thurs 9am-11.30pm, Fri-Sat 9am-1am, Sun 12pm-11pm
Prices: Starters from £4.95, hot rock steaks from £14.95, mains from £9.95. Lunch menu mains from £7.95, paninis from £5.95
Wheelchair access: Limited, step and restaurant upstairs