'A delight of a discovery' - the Norwich pub where the food is worth travelling for
PUBLISHED: 10:16 09 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:34 10 January 2019
Living on the other side of Norwich, The Black Horse is far from my local.
But when a colleague - repeatedly - raved about its food and drink, its appeal grew. A quick glance at its mouth-watering sample menu, filled with short rib, chicken shish and maple-glazed ham, and I was sold. It was time for a trip to Earlham.
Hungry and tired after the first work day in 2019, we ordered with abandon, choosing the sizeable meat board, £17.50 for two, as our starter.
After a reassuring 10 to 15 minutes (platters arriving after a couple of minutes leaves me fearful of a microwave job), we tucked in to a smorgasbord of meat, bread and what I assume were a garlic aioli and red onion chutney.
The chicken tikka skewers were smokey, tender, falling apart and packed with flavour, while the trio of honey and mustard glazed sausages were juicy and rich in mustard spice.
The crispy chilli beef was excellent - sweet, spicy and crisp like the takeaway classic, but juicy, plump and, for lack of a better word, proper. All the flavour without any sense you were eating something bad for you.
The board surpassed my expectations - every element was stand out and of extremely high quality, and nothing felt as though it had been added for the sake of it.
For mains, I ordered the confit rolled Norfolk pork belly, with black pudding mash, apple pureé, tenderstem broccoli, red cabbage and a red wine gravy, £13,50, while my partner chose the pancetta wrapped chicken supreme, with honey and mustard new potatoes, tenderstem broccoli and wholegrain mustard sauce, £15.
The rolling of the pork belly meant every bite was a crunchy gateway to pull-apart, melt in the mouth meat. The black pudding mash was wonderfully savoury, the red cabbage sweet and spiced.
Even the broccoli was noticeably well-seasoned, and continued the impression that the kitchen team care about every element.
The review across the table for the chicken supreme was as positive - well-cooked, juicy chicken, with a flavourful mustard sauce and crispy potatoes.
At this point, we were stuffed. I laughed at the thought of getting dessert, but 10 minutes later found myself tucking into a café au lait crème brûlée, with a chocolate chip shortbread, £7, as my partner enjoyed a banoffee brioche bread and butter pudding with ice cream, £7.
It was my first crème brûlée so I am without comparison, but I savoured every mouthful - thick, creamy, without any of the bitterness coffee can bring. Spooned up with a soft cookie, it was completely indulgent.
The banoffee brioche pudding also went down a treat with a dedicated banoffee fan, who left the plate clean.
As journalists, we’re used to writing stories with balance, giving both sides of the story - and in a review it’s crucial to be honest.
But it was, really, very hard to fault The Black Horse. Even my partner, who is much harder to please, said it was the best meal he’d had out in “donkey’s”. I agree.
Starters ranged from £6 to £7.50 and mains from £12 up to £26, so it’s not the cheapest option, but we certainly didn’t feel it was overpriced. For three courses each and three drinks between us, we paid £66.
The pub is massive, and beautiful. Inside are woodburners, wood panelling, a massive bookcase and fairy lights everywhere (I suspect some from its Christmas decorations). Absolutely the sort of place you could host a wedding a reception, or a birthday party.
Very relaxed. As the night went on the pub became busier, which for such a big space on a mid-week night was nice to see.
Excellent. Our waiter was very friendly, attentive and not at all pushy.
We only had a half of Oakham Citra as we were driving, but they had Dark Star Hophead and Beavertown Gamma Ray on tap. There’s a wine menu, and two for one cocktails until 7pm on Wednesdays.
It’s a sloped entryway and a very big space, so plenty of room to manoeuvre for those with mobility issues.
There’s a big car park out the back of the pub, but there’s easy public transport links to Earlham Road and it’s a 15-minute walk from the city centre if you’re not a driver.
Clean, nicely decorated and all in working order.
The food. All of it.
A delight of a discovery. I suspect its location, by the busy Earlham Road, may actually mean it doesn’t get the trade it deserves, but it’s a stand-out pub with a brilliant menu and a great setting. Do give it a try.
This is an independent review.