Norwich: The Earlham Arms
- Credit: Archant
After numerous make-overs and name changes, the Earlham Arms is now in the capable hands of well-know chef and restaurateur Chris Coubrough. ROSA MCMAHON paid a visit.
If the Earlham Arms was a person, it would be an insecure woman who has been transformed.
For years and years she wanted to change who she was. For most of her life she has tried to be something and someone she just is not.
Looking on enviously at her friends as they thrive and prosper, whilst she, trying to emulate their stylish ways, falls at every hurdle.
You see, the Earlham Arms, on Earlham Road in Norwich, has had its fair share of make-overs, make-unders, name changes and shutting downs.
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It's answered to The Schoolhouse, The Fountain, The Pickwick, Hoofers, and now the Earlham Arms again.
The large, attractive building on the edge of the edge of the city has not been nurtured in the way that it should.
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The great space ideal for dining, drinking and socialising has been overlooked for its more gregarious city counter-parts.
The building which was so unsure of itself that it once traded as a random nightclub for teenagers has finally been restored to what can only be imagined as its former glory.
Well-know chef and restaurateur Chris Coubrough of Kiwi Inns has truly transformed the place into a pub for local people to drink, but also as a special place to dine.
The sister of The Crown at Wells, and The Ship at Brancaster and many more, this city eatery is exemplary of what an eating and drinking experience should be like.
Stressing itself as a 'pub with food' does not need to be done, as the staff wish to.
Branding themselves as a pub with food, rather than a restaurant, seems to want to allay any preconceptions of up-market dining.
But really, it isn't necessary.
The quality of the food, and the reasonable price does just that, without saying a word.
I had met friends for a drink in The Earlham Arms a few times before managing to get a table.
We started with an aperitif in the bar. Its buzz is inviting and could have persuaded us to stay and eat there.
The high tables, sofas, and dining tables offer all kinds of eaters, drinkers and readers the place to do what they do best.
We opted to eat lots and so headed for the far room.
There it is romantic, yes, with the warm blue walls and cosy seating.
But still we could still see the food we were nibbling on, as hummus and ciabatta (£2.50), sun blushed tomatoes (£1.50) and parmesan crumbled mushrooms with garlic aioli (£3) came to our table, and went again very quickly.
Lunch and dinner is served daily, and I hear the Sunday roasts are wonderfully comforting, and reasonable.
For main we had the rabbit, pigeon, pancetta and mushroom pie, with roasted new potatoes and vegetables (£10.95) and the catch of the day which was sea bass on a bed of potatoes, with a curled courgette topping and a wonderful creamy sauce (£13.50).
Both were the exact meals we were craving. Me, a light fish meal, and my fellow diner, a hearty plate.
For a Friday night treat, the price was far from pricey, and after a heavy week at the office, and a large carafe of Saint Jean red (£10.20), we felt pleased with our choices, and relaxed in our surroundings.
The staff were clearly well trained and chatty, if a little rushed off their feet on a Friday night.
Too full for dessert, we opted for coffee.
As thoughts came away from food, the large clock on the wall struck us - we had been at the 'pub with food' for almost three hours, and it was nearing midnight.
The Earlham Arms' beautiful transformation was done to perfection, but come the 12 o'clock chimes, would she change back?
But a day on we returned, and saw to our relief that she was still transformed, serving lunch, dinner, tappas or a casual pint, with the ease and grace she was born with.
THE EARLHAM ARMS
Open: Food served Mon-Sat 12pm-2.30pm/6.30pm-9.30pm, Sunday 12pm–8pm
Prices: Starters from £4, main courses from £8.95, desserts from £4.95
Vegetarian options: Yes
Wheelchair access: No