Experts pick restaurants of 2009

The economic times were tough but there was still some superb food being were served. DEREK ROBERTSON asks some of Norfolk's leading restaurateurs where they most enjoyed dining out in 2009.

The economic times were tough but there was still some superb food being were served. DEREK ROBERTSON asks some of Norfolk's leading restaurateurs where they most enjoyed dining out in 2009.

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So that was 2009 and it would be fair to say that no one predicted that my venture into the world of catering would be so short-lived.

My pop-up restaurant idea, while good in theory (that is to say, in my head) in practice (that is to say, in the real world) proved to have many flaws.

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Just like Bryan Gunn I had the backing of the board, the location and the big-name performers, but not the skills for the job in hand. Quite simply, I didn't have the foggiest clue how to pull it all together.

Perhaps if I had opened another bottle and closed my eyes and just gone for it, known in the trade as the Keith Floyd approach (and how sad to see him pass away this year) then I might have pulled it off instead of just putting it off.

No matter, there's always next year for me to make a prize tit of myself.

Back to the day job. Earlier this year I did a quick straw poll among customers and friends involved in the restaurant trade around the county to find out where they go and eat and the clear winner was The Last Wine Bar, which still manages to cook up great grub and provide both excellent service and a buzzing atmosphere.

So here we go again. This time I have asked a handful to give me their favourite place to eat, the only proviso being they can't chose their own restaurant.

As for me, well I nailed my colours well and truly to the mast last January by saying 103 would be the hit of the year. I see little point in switching from my original prediction.

103 has certainly got everything you want from a busy neighbourhood eatery, a great atmosphere, fantastic food and a real buzz of excitement as you walk through the doors. As you can tell it is not scientifically conclusive, however I'm off to 103 for a glass of fino sherry and some duck egg and morcilla.

t James Sawry-Cookson: The Last Wine Bar

If I am working and in the city then it is The Hub, where Sam's uncompromising personality shines through in his food. And if I am not working then it is 103, I like the people who run it, its local and convenient and the food is good.

t Chris Coubrough: The Crown at East Rudham among others

It's been a hectic year but when I do get the chance to get away from the kitchens, I like to head over to Burnham Market and The Hoste Arms. It has a great atmosphere, good food and I've always been a fan of Paul Whittome.

t Brendan Ansbro: 103 Unthank Rd

I literally have not been able to get away from this place all year. My most memorable meal has been at Barrafina in London, possibly the most perfect tapas experience in the capital'

t Vanessa Scott: Strattons Hotel

Favorite dining experience was this December, turning up at Mother's Garden in Spain to sample a beautiful supper dish which was absolutely scrumptious and proof positive that the oil we buy from Martin Kirby and Maggie Whitman is the most fantastic ingredient. As for favourite eating places in Norfolk this year, I'd say The Hub because Sam is a bloody good chef and Titchwell Manor because of Eric and the fact it's a fantastic experience and never boring with excellent food and thankfully unstuffy service.

t Galton and Tracey Blackistion: Morston Hall

We love eating at 103 on Unthank Road. The food is terrific and innovative. There is nothing else like it in Norfolk. The atmosphere is always buzzing more and we like the informality of it. Importantly for us though, is the fact that it is kid-friendly and the kids like it too.

t Sam Hanison: 103 Unthank Rd

Baby Buddha in Ber Street is my favourite place to eat, no frills no- nonsense, down-to-earth dumplings, good honest food you can keep ordering and grazing with no rush.

t Kevin and Jacki Mangeolles: The Neptune at Hunstanton

We have lots of places we like to eat when not working here. Morston Hall is the best restaurant in Norfolk. We like to eat at The Victoria at Holkham, but our favourite everyday place to eat is the Rose and Crown at Snettisham, a big pub that serves simple well-cooked food.

t Roger Hickman: Restaurant Roger Hickman

103 is the place I go. It's good value, consistently good, something different with a vibrant atmosphere. If I have the kids with me then it's the Waffle House or Pizza Express.