Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill, Restaurant Review, Norwich, Norfolk

Whole Roasted Gilt-Head Bream with Salsa Verde, Curly Kale

Staff that Know their Fish & their Customers

Grilled Garlic Breadcrumb Oysters, Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill
Grilled Garlic Breadcrumb Oysters, Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill

We’ve been regulars at Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill in Norwich for over 5 years, often going to the new menu previews, specials such as Burns night and wine tastings, and several birthdays. Many of the excellent staff there including Pedro and Sophie have been consistently courteous, humorous, friendly, and great advisers on specials and new dishes.

Tempura Chilli Oysters
Tempura Oysters with Chillies & Spring Onion

For instance, neither of us ate oysters until we tried their Tempura ones (sorely missed from the menu) and we even now dabble with the raw ones with Tequila and Lime, best chewed not swallowed. Again, on recommendation, we tried the new-for-2017/18 divine and warming Fisherman’s Stew with a variety of fish and seafood in it (tuned to your preferences upon request, I added Chorizo and skipped the Squid).

Converted to Fish

Salmon four-ways, Bradan Orach, Gin-cured, Beetroot-cured with pickled cucumber, roasted beetroot, crème fraîche, chives, baby capers
Salmon four-ways, Bradan Orach, Gin-cured, Beetroot-cured with pickled cucumber, roasted beetroot, crème fraîche, chives, baby capers

I once hate(d) fish, Loch Fyne and Pedro have changed that. Whether it’s the mixed creamy mash Fish Pie, Fisherman’s Stew, Grilled Cod Rarebit, Monkfish, Salmon or the King Prawn Malabar Curry – I can honestly say I eat fish now!

The Salmon four-ways is of course divine, with Classic, Gin-cured, Beetroot-cured, Bradan Orach (“Golden Salmon” in Gaelic) which is dry cured in sea salt then cold smoked for 24 hours using wood shavings from retired whisky casks, giving a fully flavoured smoke with rich flavour in traditional Highland style. I do miss the table theatre when the salmon used to arrive with an upturned smoky whisky glass over it.

King Prawn Malabar Curry, Pollock, spinach, basmati rice
King Prawn Malabar Curry, Pollock, spinach, basmati rice

The Bird’s eye chilli-hot King Prawn Malabar Curry also comes with the softest flesh Pollock that falls apart in your mouth and creamily balances out the gentle crunch of the Prawns and the substantial heat of the chillies. The combo works perfectly though and I’ve never found it too hot or overpowering of the fish. You can, of course, leave the chilli slices to one side if they are too much for you.

Pan-fried chilli & garlic king prawns with lemon in olive oil
Pan-fried chilli & garlic king prawns with lemon in olive oil

Prawns also appear in the Pan-fried chilli & garlic king prawns with lemon in olive oil, and parsley garnish. This is a dish that has locally improved over the years and comes with copious garlic chunks and slices, and a thicker sauce that screams to be mopped up by the malted bread. These taste best when the prawns remain dusted with the smoked Paprika and quite copious amounts of the dried pepper spice are cooked but not burnt in with the oil, even clumping into the sauce, augmenting the smoky and spicy flavour. 

Grilled cod rarebit with cauliflower purée, puy lentils, bacon vinaigrette
Grilled cod rarebit with cauliflower purée, puy lentils, bacon vinaigrette

The Grilled Cod Rarebit looks like a disassembled shepherd’s pie from a distance until you realise the mince is Le Puy lentils and the mash is cheesy cod! But this cheeky dish combines a bed of cauliflower purée, Puy lentils, and bacon vinaigrette, with a glorious topping of cheese and mustard cod. The creamy cod is draped in melted cheese and lightly brushed with mustard (the first time I had this the mustard was overpowering but it’s now more subtle) it’s set off perfectly by the peppery earthiness of the Puy lentils and salty bacon slithers.

Not on the regular menu but a rare treat is the occasional Monkfish special. Recently we had it wrapped in ham/bacon, with Mussels and cream on a bed of Dauphinoise potatoes. Monkfish is great for people that don’t like fish! Once described as poor man’s lobster, it has the texture and even taste of a large Crustacean lobster/giant prawn meat – in fact, it could be described as meat not fish, like the tenderest of moist chicken flesh. The fish on the plate looks nothing like the somewhat scary Lophius in the wild – which maybe becoming unsustainable, so responsible fishing is required to preserve the numbers of this delicious creature. Many years ago, Loch Fyne did a deliciously divine Monkfish and Chorizo Risotto.

Not everyone likes Fish

Fish isn’t to everyone’s taste, though good fresh fish can taste somewhat meaty. Ask the waiter which fish is most meaty if you want to try. If a fish smells fishy it’s probably not fresh! Similarly, the best salmon has the least smell bringing out instead the flavours of the curing. 

Loch Fyne offers food from the land as well as the sea, including Aberdeen Angus burgers and 28-day Rib Eye Steak.

The random timing of the eggs arriving with my Flaked British Ham Salad has been more amusing than annoying, particularly when it was first on the menu. Given that I’m not mad keen on eggs, that’s not a biggie! It’s become a game there now to get that dish perfect for me, runny yokes, warm heritage spuds, the right (in my case extra mustard) amount of dressing, crisp lettuce leaves.

Outstanding Customer Service

I occasionally hear of someone with a less than perfect experience, but I have to say I’ve never had anything that the best from the staff at this branch of Loch Fyne. When they were advertising for a new job there top of the list was this:

“Our customers are our guests so you will have a passion to be the ultimate host, leaving them with everlasting memories and an experience they looking forward to returning to.”

That much I’ve always felt there and why we keep going back, at least once a month and sometimes for breakfast at a weekend! Only once did we ever have a poor service night – the place was beyond packed and any dishes that were inconsistent were always replaced or compensated. Having eaten probably 300 dishes there over the years, complaining about or sending back just 3 means we can honestly say that on a long-term review they are 99% great! If you’ve ever been there just the once, and had a poor experience, say something to them, and try them again. Tell Pedro, Laslo or Kevin that “Katy sent you”!

Ratings summary

Quality: Fresh ethically sourced and sustainable fish delivered daily
Rating 10 out of 10

Choice:  Wide range of fish choices and good drinks, 8-9 starters, ham, steak or burger, limited vegetarian options
Rating 9 out of 10

Speed: Fresh food cooked to order, so if busy allow extra time for mains, but speedy starters
Rating 8 out of 10

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

Value: Excellent value, set menus and regular offers
Rating 8 out of 10

Atmosphere: Bustling when busy otherwise spread out, some intimate seating locations
Rating 9 out of 10

Access: A wide doorway, pavement level, disabled parking on the street, and a disabled access toilet.
Rating 9 out of 10

Restaurant details

Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill
30-32 St Giles Street

Telephone: 01603 723450

Opening times: Mon-Fri: 12:00-22:00; Sat: 9:00-22:30; Sun: 9:00-21:00

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Bookings, Menu & More Reviews

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Restaurant Discretionary Service Charge v Optional Staff Tipping

Tipping, Gratuity and Discretionary Service Charge

Discretionary Service Charge

I was recently on Talk Radio discussing the disreputable “discretionary service charge” in restaurants and the record of some food establishments of not always passing on the whole amount to waiting staff. Now there are UK Government plans to prevent its automatic inclusion on bills so that customers don’t feel obliged to pay it – particularly if after a bottle of wine or two they have less capacity for even noticing it, and may end up tipping twice and with no guarantee that it will even go to the staff that served them. Wine is not the explanation for the #TipsForJesus trend in the USA of excessively generous tipping running to many times the bill total.

The very phrase, discretionary service charge, seems oxymoronic when it is hardly discretionary or optional – some places use the phrase “optional gratuity included”. The British, especially, may feel driven by guilt to pay it, or by a desire not to make a scene in asking for it to be removed.

A survey by the Daily Telegraph found that 88% thought the practice of confusing discretionary charges should be banned in favour of greater transparency as to who gets what from a tip.

Restaurants taking a hidden service cut

Last year, it was revealed that several well-known chains including Ask Italian, Côte, Giraffe, Pizza Express, Strada, Zizzi, and more, were holding back part or all of customer tips and taking a cut, or charge, or redistributing it, removing the personal element of the tip direct to the staff one is served by. Several of these restaurants subsequently changed their policies after campaigns to boycott the worst culprits. A Unite campaign against Pizza Express attracted 10,000 signatures and saw them drop their 8% admin fee on tips. Giraffe, similarly, also decided to drop their 10% administration fee.

“Research published in 2009 found that one in five restaurants did not pass tips to their staff, yet the vast majority of customers said they wanted waiting staff to receive tips left for them. More than three quarters wanted to see the restaurant’s tipping policy clearly displayed.” – Daily Telegraph

A recent survey by OpenTable found that 87% of UK customers always leave a tip, and which averages 9% of the bill. One could argue that “optional service charges” of 10-20% (typically 10-12.5%) aim to raise staff tips, but when restaurant deductions are taken into account any transparency of motive seems suspect.

HM Government Review into Tipping

After a Government evidence-based review, proposals for change to make tipping fairer for waiting staff and customers alike, are being considered with a further consultation until 27 June 2016, and include:

  • Updating the current voluntary code of practice and putting it on a statutory footing to increase employer compliance
  • Increasing transparency for consumers to make it clearer that suggested discretionary payments for service are discretionary and that consumers are free to choose
  • Preventing or limiting any employer deduction from discretionary payments for service, except for those required under tax law
  • Whether to ban or restrict the levying of table sales charges on staff – a fee paid by waiting staff based on their sales during a shift
  • How to incentivise and increase the prevalence of well managed tronc systems.

“…we want workers who earn a tip to be able to keep it. That’s why I, like many others, was disappointed by the tipping practices of some of our well-known chains. This has to change. Today I’m setting out our proposals to make tipping fairer, clamping down on unfair practices and securing a better deal for the millions of workers in the service industry” – Business Secretary Sajid Javid

Tronc tips

A tronc scheme, originally from the French tronc des pauvres meaning “poor box”, is a pooling of tips for redistribution. They can offer tax efficiencies for staff and employer alike. The Government is keen to see more well-managed tronc schemes in place.

One tip, is to always pay a gratuity in cash, and if using a voucher code or dining club card discount, try to tip on what would have been the pre-discounted amount.

Divine Generosity? Tips for Jesus!

Over in the US, some better-off diners where tipping is more commonly 15-20% anyway, are going the extra mile, and paying-it-forward with large super generous tips of $100-$6,000 with up to 4,000% tips! Often noted as “Tips for Jesus” on the bill, they are not intended to be religious in nature and started out agnostic, though their use and tagging has spread since, with the server’s delight at the huge tips being shared on Instagram and Twitter. The anonymous philanthropist has doled out over $250,000 in tips in just two-and-a-half years.

A photo posted by tipsforjesus (@tipsforjesus) on