Food Review: How does the food at this revamped Norwich pub measure up?
PUBLISHED: 13:21 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:52 26 February 2020
It’s Saturday night and the trees are thrashing about as Storm Ciara makes her way across the county. Bitterly cold, and with the temptation to stay indoors with Netflix strong, it’s certainly not a night for straying far from home. So then, a neighbourhood pub beckons.
It's Saturday night and the trees are thrashing about as Storm Ciara makes her way across the county. Bitterly cold, and with the temptation to stay indoors with Netflix strong, it's certainly not a night for straying far from home.
So then, a neighbourhood pub beckons.
Located just off the Unthank Road in Norwich, The York NR2 lights up Leicester Street with its welcoming glow, happily offsetting the menacing creak of the pub sign swinging in the gale.
Since reopening under new management in October 2019 - landlord Andrew McNeil has run The Crown in Southwold and The White Horse in Blakeney - the revamped pub has made much of its food offering. The young head chef Nick Trataris has previously worked at The Bicycle Shop, Eaton Park Cafe and Bishop's, Norwich.
With nearly a quarter of the UK's pubs shuttering between 2008-18, it's little wonder that when a local boozer reopens with new management the question everybody is tentatively wondering is: how long will it last?
During other recent drinks-only visits I've glanced enviously at neighbouring tables' plates, and am hopeful that the new landlords can last longer than the previous ones.
It's clear that The York NR2, which is owned by the UK's largest pub group ei Publican Partnerships, prides itself on being 'not like the other pubs'.
This isn't your time-worn local with wood-panelled interiors, velvet carpets and faithful regulars lining the bar. There are exposed brick walls, mid century-style armchairs and light fixtures, and not a jar of pickled eggs in sight. Everything is shiny, bright and still smells new.
We're led through to the dining area at the back, which feels less relaxed and more like we're playing at restaurants. I sort of wish we could sit in the main room by the warmth of the fire, but at least the menu distracts with an appetizing line-up of modern pub fare.
Starters include Brancaster mussels; halloumi fries; mackerel ravioli; a pear, walnut, beetroot and gorgonzola salad and chilli tiger prawns, and mains such as a buttermilk chicken burger, pork belly, sirloin steak, salt baked beetroot and Norfolk fish and chips.
To start, we have the guinea fowl croquettes and the pear, walnut, beetroot and gorgonzola salad. 'How is everything?' The waiter asks, shortly after the food arrives and we report that the croquette (only one arrives) is a hit. It's salty, crispy and comes with a rich homemade mushroom ketchup - all perfect for washing down with a pint. In other words, it's exactly what pub food ought to taste like.
The salad, less so. It's heavy on the lambs lettuce and rather ungenerous with its pear, while the gorgonzola lacks that characteristically punchy strength. A nice idea, but it comes off insipid.
Next, we go for the buttermilk chicken burger, which comes with maple cured bacon, gem lettuce, chive aioli and a (slightly superfluous) fried egg, and the venison, beef and cranberry burger, which comes with local Binham Blue cheese, black garlic aioli and pickled shallot.
The cutlery is reset slightly self-consciously, before each burger arrives in a brioche bun with a serving of twice-cooked fries. There are only two other tables dining and the food arrives quickly, so it's a surprise to discover that the venison burger is actually quite burned, and the fried chicken looks like it's been left in the fryer a few minutes too long.
We get home-cooked potato chips with the skins on rather than the billed fries, while the thoughtful accompaniments like the Binham Blue and black garlic aioli aren't strong enough to be discerned. It feels like the promise of the menu isn't quite delivered on.
The lovely but slightly overattentive waiter fills our water glasses, telling us he'll be back in five minutes to check everything.
What's the surefire way to remedy an underwhelming meal? Pudding, of course. Even though we're pretty full, the prospect of faithful comforters like chocolate brownie, apple and blackberry crumble, sticky toffee pudding, a dark chocolate torte and a cheese platter consoles.
We go for the sticky toffee pudding and the bread and butter pudding. The sticky toffee pudding is a refined affair with salted caramel sauce and a small scoop of ice-cream, and we try to figure out what's familiar about the bread and butter pudding. Is it made from croissants? After conferring in the kitchen, the waiter tells us it's actually made with… Yorkshire puddings. While I applaud a kitchen that imaginatively repurposes its waste, the news that they'd had a load of leftover puds made me silently wonder "From when? Last weekend?"
After paying up (the meal comes to £74.90, which includes three courses and two alcoholic drinks each and added service) we go back out into the cold February night.
We observe that if The York NR2 could just relax into itself, it could be a great neighbourhood pub rather than a slightly confused pub-restaurant hybrid. After all, who wouldn't want a local with a menu that's generous, comforting, joyful and unfussy; the perfect place to escape another night of cooking and washing up at home? I hope that The York NR2'S self-consciousness can be ironed out, and we'll be back soon to see.
Because the right ingredients are already there - the inviting heat of a wood burning stove, attentive staff and a desire to serve delicious modern pub food.
The York NR2, 1 Leicester St, Norwich, NR2 2AS. 01603 628683.
Located on Leicester Street, just off the Unthank Road in Norwich.
The York NR2 prides itself on being a modern pub, with exposed brick walls, mid century-style armchairs and light fixtures and not a jar of pickled eggs in sight. The cosy wood burner is alight during our visit, with a cute Vizsla sprawled beside it.
The front door opens wide enough for a wheelchair, but there's a small step into the pub and no designated disabled toilet. The toilets are accessed via a corridor with several corners, which would be tricky for a chair to navigate.
The pub is located on a residential street within a controlled parking zone, meaning you'll need a permit to park.
Good and clean, with two separate bathrooms for male and female.
Well-stocked with a selection of cask ales, lagers, plenty of Adnams labels, spirits, wines, cocktails and soft drinks.
Good, if a little over attentive.
Value for money
The bill comes to £74.90, which includes three courses each, two alcoholic drinks and added service.
The guinea fowl croquette was salty, crisp and delicious and I could easily have inhaled another.
A bright, welcoming boozer which will hopefully soon find its feet with modern, delicious and unpretentious pub fare.
Disclaimer: Our reviews are conducted without a restaurant's prior knowledge and are an independent account of our visit.