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Saturday, October 6, 2012
Workshop 53 is a shabby-chic hang-out with an easy-going vibe. But ROSA MCMAHON finds it also serves up a tasty and unusual menu too.
53 Earlham Road
- Open: Mon 5pm-11pm, Tues-Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 12pm-10:30pm
- Vegetarian options: Plenty
- Wheelchair access: Yes
Perched on the Earlham Road, on the edge of the Golden Triangle sits an eatery-cum-bar with a continental feel just a 10 minute walk from the city centre.
It is far less flashy than its neighbours in the affluent Golden Triangle, but its understated atmosphere and a menu like no other any where in Norwich I have ever tried, makes it a gem for lunch, dinner, a snack or even just a cheeky gin and tonic.
The Workshop, formerly Trads, was taken over seven years ago, transforming the small space from a pizzeria into a cozy eatery.
I went for dinner with four friends to say goodbye to one who was leaving for the bright lights of London, so the stakes for good food, atmosphere, drinks – and always important for me, service – were high.
Having had snacks and coffee, at what I had often misconstrued for a café, we were impressed and brilliantly surprised by not only the food, but the relaxed and non-pretentious atmosphere in which we sat quite happily for a few hours.
The small space which holds both diners and drinkers is certainly not a turn off, and with a shabby-chic sofa, a vast book and board-game selection, and art on the walls, it might be easy to think you’re eating in a friend’s home, rather teetering on the city centre.
With this in mind, we made the most of the continental menu which offers huge pizzas as well as a vast selection of tapas and decided to, as one friend put it, “go meze”.
Each of us chose a small dish, and quickly agreed on a large and renowned Workshop pizza and shared it all without a knife or fork in sight.
Not only was the pizza huge and fresh, but served authentically on a wooden board, covered in sun-dried tomatoes and salami (£16).
We shared the beast between the four of us, but did think ourselves a little greedy an hour later, whining about our fullness.
The choice of meze is small, but each one we tried was delicious dishes.
Salty halloumi cooked in butter, with spinach and toasted pine nuts butter (£3.50) is a favourite of mine and with the soft crust bread which came with it, I could have eaten five more.
Then came the grilled aubergine, baked with mozzarella and artichoke, with tomatoes (£5), and the unusual dill and feta fritters with a cucumber and mint yogurt (£4.50).
But without a doubt the highlight of the meal, was the sticky and sweet chorizo and apple cooked in cider and honey (£4.50).
The staff are relaxed, helpful and don’t invade what your eating and talking space, leaving you to eat and drink the evening away.
And some night they have entertainment from musicians to poets
For an indecisive person like me, the young man behind the bar is patient and helpful when advising on drinks - ending up with a, pretty strong, Hendricks Gin and tonic, which was infused with cucumber – a perfect alterative to a classic choice of Rosé .
What the Workshop manages to do, which so many restaurants fail at, is serving up a tasty and unusual menu, but minus the stuffy atmosphere which screams ‘middle class pretentiousness’.
With chain restaurants too much of the city’s streets, a place like the Workshop is a saving grace for a place to read the paper, meet friends for a coffee, grab a snack, or have a full blown evening meal, and very often there’s no need to book, making the whole affair even more relaxed.
But seriously, watch out for the gin.
Follow me on Twitter @rosamcmahon