Norwich: The Dining Rooms

Andy RussellAfter a minor hiccough caused by a wine list mix-up, ANDY RUSSELL finds the food, the setting and the atmosphere at Cinema City's Dining Room much to his liking.Andy Russell

After a minor hiccough caused by a wine list mix-up, ANDY RUSSELL finds the food and setting at Cinema City's Dining Room much to his liking.

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I once had a debate with a friend over what makes a good restaurant. He insisted fancy food was everything. I suggested that while food is obviously important, atmosphere is also a key part of the overall experience.

To be honest, I had forgotten this conversation until we went for a farewell meal for our younger son ahead of his Far East travels.

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We have our favourite restaurants but had heard good things about The Dining Rooms at Cinema City and decided to give it a go.

If you are looking for an atmospheric setting, it fits the bill, housed in vaulted rooms of the restored Sucking Hall and a smaller Georgian panelled room.

It was busy the evening when we went, with a pleasant buzz as we passed through the bar to the smaller restaurant area.

Seated at our table and perusing the mouth-watering menu, a waitress came to take a drinks order and we asked for the wine list, but were not shown one as it wasn't up to date because some wines were not available that night.

We inquired what wine they did have. 'Red, white and rose,' she pointed out. We narrowed it down to white and inquired further. 'A chardonnay, chenic blanc…,' she replied.

This could be a long job so I ordered a chenin blanc - a safe choice, although at that time I had no idea how much it was.

It was a little disappointing because one of the pleasures of choosing wine is reading through the wine list but, fair enough, these things happen. And I probably would have thought no more about it…until, bizarrely, the couple at the next table were given a wine list which had been sitting on a small table behind us.

But it was soon forgotten again when our starters arrived and the South African chenin blanc, incidentally it was �16.50 and was crisp and refreshing.

My elder son declared the seafood with chorizo paella with roasted peppers and basil - which had tempted me - delicious, I went for the roast sardines with beetroot silk, caper and almond salsa and wasn't disappointed with the sweet beetroot silk combining well with the succulent, fleshy sardines.

My wife thoroughly enjoyed her tian of smoked mackerel, trout and salmon with pickled dill relish while younger son Tim soon devoured his duck terrine with chutney and toast.

The starters had been accompanied by a small loaf of homemade bread and a dish of butter - and very tasty it was too so it was a shame there were no butter knives on our side plates.

Main courses were to the same high standard as the starters, beautifully presented and arranged nicely on the plate.

My younger son was impressed with the pot roast poussin with red pesto, lemon, marjoram and sour cranberry relish which smelled wonderful and tickled the tastebuds too. I knew Ben would go for the local lamb, black pudding, apple and sage with white bean ragu and saut� kale which he clearly enjoyed but would have liked more than two lamb chops.

My wife had the slow-cooked collar of ham with white sauce, sweet potato batons and fried duck egg while, as a fish-lover, I surprised myself by foregoing the cod, sea bream or sole and chose the beef brisket with foie gras, braised onion and porcini mushroom polenta.

It was a wise choice with the halved small red onion sitting atop a beautifully-cooked brisket which flaked under the knife. And having tasted the accompanying kale which was cooked to perfection and still slightly crisp I wish I had had a side order of the seasonal greens. I'd ordered a rocket leaf salad with parmesan and capers but, with hindsight, we ought to have ordered a couple of side dishes of vegetables at �2.50 each although that might have left us struggling to finish.

Instead it meant we had room for desserts. The lemon meringue martini, could have done with more meringue and less cream topping. The stem ginger and poppy seed cheesecake with mixed berry compote dotted around the plate was a work of art and an interesting combination of flavours and colours. While the sticky date and orange pudding with toffee sauce and ice cream was everything I'd hoped for - rich, tasty and extremely filling.

Apart from the wine list hitch, The Dining Rooms lived up to its promise, serving good food at prices that are not out of the way for a special occasion - work on about �30 a head for three courses with side orders - and I expect we'll return for a repeat performance.

t The Dining Rooms, Cinema City, St Andrew's Street, Norwich, 07504 356378,

t Prices: Starters from �5.50, mains from �13.95, desserts �5.50

t Vegetarians options: Two starters and two main courses. Tell them about any special dietary requirement or allergies - they were very accommodating about my wife's wheat intolerance.

t Wheelchair access: Yes


Food: ****

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ****

Family: ***