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The Library, Norwich, restaurant review: ‘Needs a little TLC’

American style grill at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

American style grill at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

Archant

We visit a historical city centre restaurant.

Chickpea burger at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.Chickpea burger at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

Food

I bumped The Library up my list of places to review after hearing a mixed bag of diner’s experiences there over the last month or so.

On arrival, the restaurant’s interior was rather lovely and, as we were seated and ordered our drinks, we were having a really nice time and I thought, ‘so far so good’; maybe what I’d heard had been wrong.

Then the food arrived.

Winter kale, beetroot and shallot risotto at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.Winter kale, beetroot and shallot risotto at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

I don’t want to say it was terrible, because that wouldn’t be totally fair; it was passable but very mediocre.

I had the winter kale beetroot and shallot risotto and it was not a risotto. Rather, it was a small splattering of mushy and overcooked rice in a lot of beetroot juice. Resembling a soup, I was fishing for rice among giant chunks of slightly undercooked beetroot. My food editor suspects that a soupy base was made and rice cooked separately to order before heating up the soup and mixing in the rice. To make matters worse, it completely lacked any flavour, other than beetroot and was very bland.

The chickpea burger with halloumi, red onion and homemade pesto was probably the best dish we had but the chickpea burger was stodgy, gloopy and again really seemed to skimp on flavouring. The coleslaw tasted pleasant at first but left a metallic aftertaste in everyone’s mouth.

An American mixed grill comprising a sirloin steak, southern fried chicken wings, BBQ ribs and a mini slider burger with maple bacon BBQ sauce and skinny fries was also very disappointing.

American grill at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.American grill at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

All meat elements were very overdone and despite asking for the steak to be medium rare, it was coloured the higher side of medium. The slider was way too big for the bun and quite charred. Overall, the whole plate was lacklustre. The one thing that can’t be knocked was portion size, all meals were very large and the meals were presented nicely.

The best part of my meal was the side order of roasted root vegetables: carrots, parsnips and celeriac all cooked well and enjoyable. The skinny chips that came with the grill and burger were nice. Side orders of garlic bread were generous with four slices each but sadly parts of it were burnt, one piece extremely badly. We told our waiter and he came back to tell us he had removed it from the bill – very gracious!

Drink

There is a quality drinks selection with an eclectic wine list.

Garlic bread at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.Garlic bread at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

Service

The waiting staff were truly excellent. Service was attentive, charming and friendly. It’s a shame the food let down such lovely staff.

Ambiance

Also very pleasant, there have been reports of the restaurant being very cold recently but we didn’t find it too bad. We found the overall atmosphere delightful.

Garlic bread at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.Garlic bread at The Library. Photo: Emily Revell.

Loos

The women’s were a little untidy with toilet rolls on the floor in every stall and not on holders. There were paper towels for drying hands which was a nice touch and an attractive mirror and sink area. I’m told the men’s (I resisted peeking) seemed quite modern and updated.

Parking

The closest car park would be St Giles multi storey. St Andrews multi storey and The Forum car park are a short walk away.

Location

Opposite Guildhall, the restaurant is situated in the city’s old library.

Price

Averaging around £14 for a main course, going up to the high teens and early twenties for a grill or steak. It seems reasonable, but the quality of the meals left me feeling it was overpriced.

Highlight

The service.

In summary

The Library has the potential to be excellent; it has all the elements there bar, in our experience, the food. But it’s nothing a little TLC can’t fix.

A note from The Library

Dear Emily

Thank you for your review of The Library obviously we are so disappointed that the food was not up to its normal standard, we have as a team have been really concentrating on quality and it seems on this occasion this was not the case . We have taken positive steps to recruit a very accomplished head chef who will start in the new year. Over all we have had a really good Christmas with many happy Christmas parties and lovely thank you emails. This review is a wake up call we just need to be better and we look forward to welcoming your mystery diner once again to prove we can deliver on all aspects of a restaurant dining experience.

Yours sincerely,

Jayne and Nigel Raffles.
This is an independent review.

Read more EDP food reviews.

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