Bishop's Dining Room, Norwich

Bishops Dining Room, Restaurant Review, Norwich, Norfolk

Fair-priced Fine Dining in Beautiful Boutique Setting

Exquisite fine palate and yet fair priced dining it consistently to be found at Bishop’s Dining Room on a historic old hill (well lane, this is flat Norfolk after all!) with 14th and 15th-century remnants opposite St Andrews Halls in Norwich.

Run by effusive and welcoming Italian, Allessandro (Alex) Tranquillo, Bishop’s has developed a deserved reputation for great tasting, not overfilling, dishes that show off local produce and well-chosen wines. 

Bishop's Dining Room and Wine Bar, Norwich
Bishop’s Dining Room and Wine Bar, Norwich

The welcome at the bar before being seated is service at its best and always an opportunity to chat with the passionate food and wine-loving owner, and lively but courteous staff. It’s an unrushed moment to down an aperitif or crack open a bottle with some complimentary olives and dried spiced broad bean snacks. You feel as relaxed as being in someone’s front room before a private dinner party.

Somehow, Bishop’s combines the friendly and the formal with the single-room restaurant decked out in crisp white linen, silver and crystal chandeliers yet with an adjacent laid-back front-of-house bar that feels both intimate and relaxed and where it is easy to spend half-an-hour before and after, just chatting among yourselves or with the staff – and of course, drinking.

Like the time taken to present perfect plated dishes, Bishop’s never feels rushed, and even when full, is neither noisy nor pressured. On each occasion we’ve been it has been a clock-stopping evening of sybaritic serenity and savouring of beautiful food and wine that feels like an oasis in our hustle bustle world.

Beef fillet with triple cooked chips, watercress, lemon roasted cauliflower
Beef fillet with triple cooked chips, watercress, lemon roasted cauliflower

The presentation is exquisite without being ostentatious. The excellent chef knows exactly when to stop rather than go over-the-top. The food is closer to just about perfect rather than in-your-face pretentious, as Jay Rayner said back in 2011:

“The simplest things done well and with proper attention to detail. All of which describes Bishop’s perfectly.”  – Jay Rayner

Pan roasted breast of wood pigeon with burnt orange purée, smoked apple, sage fondant potato, watercress
Pan roasted breast of wood pigeon with burnt orange purée, smoked apple, sage fondant potato, watercress

One cannot fault the perky pinkness of the meats we ate and varied styles. On one occasion (Dec 2017) duck, pork, lamb and venison, but pigeon and beef have been equally divine on other visits. The Spring 2018 menu includes beef, venison, pigeon and guinea fowl, as well as cod and turbot.

Previously, for a 50th birthday visit, we devoured three 3-course combos between two of us so that we could try more dishes! It was more that the menu descriptions sounded so delicious than that they were small portions. One does not leave stuffed, but rather, satiated from having fed all of one’s senses.

Venison loin with pickled blackberries, artichoke petals, celeriac gratin, kale, Shiraz reduction
Venison loin with pickled blackberries, artichoke petals, celeriac gratin, kale, Shiraz reduction

We ate at Bishop’s four times in 2017 and the service and food were consistently good.

Our first visit of 2018 in March was as good as ever with three game and four fish dishes on the menu and depending upon what you order, blackberries with every course!

A 3-course dinner is priced at £36.95, lunch just £19.95. Themed nights may include 4-8 courses with wines and be priced £70-£110.

Wine and Spirits List

Eclectic drinks bar at Bishop’s Dining Room and Wine Bar, Norwich

The wine was fairly priced at £6.50 – £8.50 a 175ml glass, and even the economical Trebbiani d’Abruzzo, Cantina Frentana 2015 (henceforth the friendly Joey Tribbiani wine thanks to my Dutch dining partner’s joke) offered up a refreshing buttery citrus as a light aperitif. Sherries, bubbly, and a Champagne & Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant) Kir Royale, are also pre-dinner options from an eclectically stocked bar that also serves up a range of ports and dessert wines.

The La Mancha and Rioja reds, and Mendoza Malbec, are also great once warmed and mellowed in the glass. The French Sauvignon Blanc by the glass was perhaps overly subtle to the point of being dull in comparison to NZ Sauvignons or an upmarket Sancerre.

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Alpha Zeta, 2014
Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Alpha Zeta, 2014

Having previously tried the excellent Morellino di Scansano (Sangiovese), on two visits, we set out to try the “R” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Alpha Zeta, 2014 at £37, on another occasion. The Ripasso technique, passing the wine over the grape skins of Amarone wines for a second fermentation turns the lighter Valpolicella from a medium to a fuller-bodied dark cherry/subtle tobacco nosed wine that is not heavy or overly intense and which superbly accompanies beef and game. It is smooth and quaffable with good legs, swish and swill it around mouth and glass, and the bottle will easily last the meal. Like the environment and ambience, a wine not to be rushed.

April 2017 saw us attend an Italian-themed dinner with wine tastings. It was one of around a half-dozen sell-out themed events that Bishop’s runs throughout the year to tie in with themed wine flights such as New Zealand Sauvignons, Bordeaux, Spanish, or just Champagne! The atypical colour and unusual tasting organic Vino di Anna Palmento, made from Nerello Mascalese grapes which were grown on the north face of Mt Etna – picked by hand and crushed by foot, was an interesting viticultural experience. 

Dessert

Passion Fruit Bavarois with Orange madeleines, pomegranate seeds
Passion Fruit Bavarois with Orange madeleines, pomegranate seeds

A range of 3-4 dishes plus a great cheese board option presented on a wedge of wood or slate square. The cheese boards come with half a dozen grapes with their bottoms sliced off so they stay on the board/slate they are presented on – no embarrassing rolling off when served!

Italian Dinner Zabaglione with grilled fruits and almond biscotti
Italian Dinner Zabaglione with grilled fruits and almond biscotti

Past and present desserts tried there have included a zesty Zabaglione with grilled fruits and almond biscotti; Passion Fruit Bavarois; Scotch Bonnet Chilli and Fudge Brownie with salted caramel ice cream which was light on the chilli but warm on the palate; Carrot cake with orange gel, honeyed yoghurt, blackberries and refreshing orange sorbet.

Turkish delight
Turkish delight

Despite a 1970s fear of Turkish Delight, Bishop’s twist on the dessert was, well uh, delightful. Squishy blackberries, jellied apples and calvados, tasty apple terrine, apple purée, oat tuile, and cinnamon ice cream atop a crumb base as if it was a one-person spherical scoop of cheesecake.

Ratings summary

Quality: Fresh local produce cooked, or in the case of the meats – barely cooked, to perfection
Rating 10 out of 10

Choice:  Good range of food and drink, comprising 5-6 dishes per course, very limited vegetarian options, but a perfect range of in-season game
Rating 8 out of 10

Speed: Attentive and efficient serving
Rating 8 out of 10

Service: Attentive, courteous, friendly
Rating 9 out of 10

Value: Good value within its fine-dining sector, probably the best value of the top-5 restaurants in Norwich
Rating 8 out of 10

Atmosphere: Boutique dining in intimate surroundings
Rating 9 out of 10

Access: A double-step-up to the dining area from the street-level pre-bar area but no ramp and narrow access would prohibit wheelchair.
Rating 6 out of 10

 

Restaurant details

Bishop’s Dining Room & Wine Bar
8-10 St Andrew’s Hill
Norwich
NR2 1AD

Telephone: 01603 767321

Opening times: Tue-Sat: 12pm-2:30pm; 6pm-9:45pm (last orders)

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Trip Advisor Top Fish and Chips at Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich, Norfolk

First for Fish & Chips in Norwich

The Norfolk local EDP newspaper recently reported on an interesting Top Ten of Trip Advisor restaurant reviews in Norwich. To locals, it was probably unsurprising that a fish and chip shop came first, namely, the renowned Grosvenor Fish Bar.

I once saw a queue of some 100 people stretching back 50 yards from their entrance down the street on Fireworks night.

Grosvenor Fish Bar, Norwich
Grosvenor Fish Bar, Norwich

It has attracted over 1500+nearly faultless Trip Advisor reviews, consistently rating it 4-5 out of 5 (1200+ gave it top marks), ranking it #1 of over 600 restaurants in Norwich!

Fish & Chips have been served for 90 years on the site. You can even bring in your own drink without corkage charges or have your fish and chips delivered to you at the Birdcage Pub opposite. Alternatively, you can enjoy your take-out in the summer and sit on the St Gregory’s green alongside or enjoy the 1940s reminiscent 70-seater vintage decor dining area downstairs.

Hints of humour and twists on tradition have been injected into their menu which includes Bass with Sass or Big Mack, Shark Bites or Loony Toony tuna, from their Specials menu, priced at £3.50-£5.50. More familiar items like battered saveloy sausage, pies, peas, burgers, chip butty, or chips and curry sauce are there too. Vegetarians and pescatarians need to be aware that the chips are fried in beef dripping, as many chefs recommend:

“Beef dripping or lard … is the ultimate chip cooking fat because it gives a crisper, tastier result” – The Guardian, ‘How to fry perfect chips

The limited space in the old building would make offering a separate meat-free fryer option for veggie chips difficult. Salads and steamed fish are on the menu, though. The current proprietor is the son of an Italian-born, Welsh-raised, lifelong restaurateur, whose father also ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales,

The current proprietor and co-owner with Duane Dibartolomeo is the son of an Italian-born, Welsh-raised, lifelong restaurateur, whose own father also ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales, frequented by Tom Jones. Christian Motta says:

“We try to place importance on service and ambience as much as the food, along with trying to keep prices down”

Awards

Grosvenor Fish Bar

2014 – Best fish and chip shop in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire

2017 – Co-owner, Duane Dibartolomeo, as 2017 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence Tourism Superstar

Ratings summary

  • Quality: 9/10 – Consistent quality without pretension, no ‘posh’ chips here!
  • Choice: 9/10 – Good range of food and drink, plenty of choice
  • Speed: 7/10 – Can get very busy so only let down by its popularity
  • Service: 8/10 – Friendly staff
  • Value: 9/10 – Great value and portion sizes
  • Atmosphere: 8/10 – Downstairs dining takes you back to the War years!

Restaurant details

Grosvenor Fish Bar
28 Lower Goat Lane
Norwich
NR2 1EL

Telephone: 01603 625855

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 10:45am – 7:30pm (or later); Sun: closed

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Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London

Cafe Pacifico, Mexican Restaurant Review, Covent Garden, London

Traditional Mexican fare in London’s West End

We managed to arrive unbooked at Cafe Pacifico, a long-established, former banana warehouse, Mexican restaurant/cantina despite it being 6pm on a Friday and get a table. Within half-an-hour, the place was packed and the bar buzzing. We sat straight down at an, unfortunately, poorly-lit table, the last between the main floor and the people drinking at the bar, waiting for tables. Fortunately, the drinks list was enticing from the well-stocked bar.

Diverse Drinks Menu

Pear Ocho Reposado Tequila cocktail, Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London
Pear Ocho Reposado Tequila cocktail

We polished off quick Margaritas and a Mexican CabSav/Malbec (2014) which was very smooth and drinkable, meaning I had 3 fairly-priced glasses (although the size was not mentioned on the drinks menu) whilst my fellow diner had a cold Corona, followed by a house cocktail special – the Pear Ocho (Ocho reposado Tequila with peppery mulled spices, cloudy apple juice, triple sec etc), whilst I finished with an Añejo Tequila. Oh, we also ate!

Good food, but not aspiring to greatness

Whilst there was certainly a great drinks list, the Mexican food was good too. It wasn’t pretentious (dressing-up street or cantina food as a la carte) but nor was it an amorphous merged mess either, which some Mexican chains and low-end independents can be, thinking that piling it high in poor lighting under the shadow of a free sombrero will disguise a lack of originality and care in plating-up. Instead, the dishes were cleanly presented and clearly separated, either on the plate or in accompanying small bowls.

Quesadilla, Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London
Quesadilla, Cafe Pacifico Mexican

There were fun sharing options too, with the Antojitos platter for two at £13.75 including Quesadillas, Flautas, Empanadas and crispy crunchy Prawns Tempura in a nice light batter. The Jalapeño Poppers filled with cheese were only mild rather than a medium-hot that I prefer but still tangy with the melted cheese inside complementing the pepper’s bitter skin and breaded crunch.

The roughly £11-each Burrito and Chimichangas, that we had, were both very pleasant. I felt the ground beef burrito had a more robust flavour, but the chicken chimichanga was, nevertheless, fresh and tasty, and a contrast with other stronger flavours. Nothing was too hot (though I perhaps should have asked for optional increased heat and spice), and there were plenty of sides and sauces to dip or daub to add heat or coolness, as desired.

Next time I plan to try the Boquerones Fritos al Chili and the Pan-fried fresh Sea Bass on banana leaves with sun-dried tomato salsa sounds like a fresh option on a Mexican menu.

Postre/Dessert

We finished with Churros dipped in a rich spicy chocolate sauce that had a gentle kick. The waiter spoke Spanish, as did I, so the service was friendly and bilingual; when we needed another member of staff they were easy to get hold of and friendly. The staff looked very busy and quick on their feet. Despite being sat next to a family table with several kids, it was not disturbing as the overall atmosphere was loud and bustling, but not so that you couldn’t hear yourself.

Ratings summary

Quality: Nothing to complain about, nothing to rave about, just reliably good food
Rating 8 out of 10

Choice: Good range of food and drink, plenty of variety including from 20-60% vegetarian options per food category
Rating 8 out of 10

Speed: Quick and efficient serving
Rating 8 out of 10

Service: Courteous and friendly
Rating 8 out of 10

Value: ‘Optional’ 12.5% service charge added to bill even for 2 people dining. Pear Ocho felt overpriced (albeit with ‘free’ mug). 25% off and 2-for-1 selected Margaritas on Sundays &  Mondays (check offer is current)
Rating 7 out of 10

Atmosphere: More of a bustling cantina than up-market romantic dining, great for an after-work do, or birthday party
Rating 6 out of 10

Access: A half-dozen steps up to raised-ground floor entry but no lift or ramp, narrow mobility passage between tables.
Rating 6 out of 10

 

Restaurant details

Cafe Pacifico
5 Langley Street
Covent Garden
London
WC2H 9JA

Telephone: 020 7379 7728

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 12pm-11:45pm; Sun 12pm-10:45pm

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