Norwich: Pulse Cafe Bar
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 Caf� 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 caf� 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.
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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, cr�me 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 CAF� 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.