This is the newest restaurant opening in Norwich, well, one worth getting excited about.
Not only is it on my favourite street in Norwich, it’s opposite my regular drinking haunt whilst in this fine city (The Mash Tun), so needless to say it’s been on my hit list for some time now.
Benedicts has been open for a few months now, owned by Richard Bainbridge (and his wife Katja) who you might recognise best from BBC’s “Great British Menu”. A Norfolk boy through and through, he learnt many of his skills in the early days at Morston Hall before travelling around the world gaining as much knowledge as he could. Now he’s back home to show us what he can do, bringing his wife and daughter in to share the ride.
Having been a lover of good food for some time, I must admit, I’ve never dined at this level of dining before – I’m usually more of an afternoon tea or BBQ sort of girl!
So this was very exciting.
Not only because I’ve never eaten the food of a Michelin star-levelled chef, but it was my first pay cheque from my new job (I’m now officially Social Media Co-ordinator for a luxury travel company – eek!), so I was treating my bearded man friend to a mini celebration – hurrah!
We opted for the taster menu, rude not to sample lots of little treats whilst dining at Benedicts, it’s a menu I enjoyed through and through. I’m fairly fussy when it comes to food, so I genuinely thought there would be elements I’d have to leave, but in all honesty?…
…I didn’t leave one bit… Well, apart from a little lamb fat and a slice of tomato (massive fear of these buggers!), it was worth every penny. I tried new ingredients, components I would never cook myself (yes, the pigs head was actually one of my favourite courses!) and dishes I would never be bold enough to order on a normal menu – I love that the taster menu allows you to try lots of new ideas.
These dishes are all dreamt up by Richard and his team, ingredients are locally sourced, even the broad beans we were served came from Richards vegetable patch in his own home garden. There’s a mix of classic British dishes, mixed with German twists inspired by Katja, Richards wife and business partner, using recipe ideas from her own family traditions.
I heard Richard telling the table next to us that he had just nervously served one of his German-inspired dishes to his German father-in-law just the day before…. And it gained his seal of approval, hurrah.
Richard recently gave an interview (prior to his recent televisual appearance on BBC’s “Great British Menu” for the WI’s centenary celebrations) where he mentions that his new Norwich restaurant is a place he wants diners to feel at home, comfortable to walk in wearing flip flops or trainers. It’s not a “sniffy” place, it creates good quality food in a relaxed setting and his staff at smartly, but casually attired to mirror this. The team stand out in their blue and white striped shirts and brown “butchers” aprons, they aren’t “suited and booted” as they greet you through the door – it’s relaxed and encourages you to sit back for a few hours, with no rush to leave.
Richard mentioned in conversation that his mum joined the local WI to help him understand what makes the ladies of WI tick when it comes to food and their memories of the institute. She loved it so much, she has stayed a member ever since. I love that his family support him whole heartedly, he’s a passionate guy and I can’t recommend his cooking enough, he deserves every success in his newest adventures!
What we thought would be a short-ish lunch date, actually turned into a 3 hour stay. We even sipped on Colombian coffee, dunked some miniature churros and chatted to the team long after our meal had finished, everybody was so friendly and welcoming, we truly didn’t want to leave.
I liked the little touches – the seeds on the butter for the bread, the extra dish Richard sent up for us to try after he saw my Tweets on the way to the restaurant about us celebrating (thank you Richard for being so hot on it and noticing – that made us smile hugely!) and the team knowing everything about each dish, down to where each ingredient was sourced. There’s a real passion here and you can tell the team are more of a family, the service was faultless.
Bumping into Katja and Richard on the stairs as I left, “Family Time” he smiled, leading his little girl down for a quiet lunch with the team.
We will be back, perhaps for a candlelit dinner next time.
I’m a Benedicts convert.
If I were you, I’d get your table booked right now before Richard becomes far too busy to host you! They just made it in the Times 25 best new UK restaurants, where they came third – they’re deserving of this accolade, I’m sure it’ll be the first of very many more!
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