Norwich's hidden gem where you can get a huge Sunday roast and a pint for just over £10
PUBLISHED: 10:17 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:22 13 November 2019
A pub a stone's throw from Norwich Prison has a good reputation for it's Sunday carvery. Nick Richards checked it out
I've always felt a little bit sorry for The Windmill pub just off Plumstead Road in Norwich's Thorpe Hamlet. For a start it's tucked away down a small road that leads to Norwich Prison. Secondly, for the last few years its car park had been behind a hand car wash and, thirdly, it can now hardly be seen from the main road due to a newly-built small plot of houses.
I feel even worse that having lived a couple of minutes away from the pub for five years, I'd never had any reason to go in there.
Indeed, Google Maps tells me it's a 0.3 mile walk to The Windmill from my front door, so I was determined to check out this 'hidden' pub for the first time, having heard good things about their Sunday carvery.
I was also interested to see if the pub could fill the gap left by the closure of Café Britannia on the other side of the prison complex.
When Café Britannia, which was largely staffed by prison inmates, opened it seemed to toe the line between having a huge novelty value (I wonder how many times the staff were asked if they were serving porridge?) and also being a cool almost hipster hangout. It rapidly expanded from a simple café to a shop, to doing events and then spreading to other locations around the city.
With that empire now reduced to dust, could The Windmill, this friendly local pub reinvent itself as a quirky eatery or, given its location, was it simply a place frequented by prison staff and relatives visiting inmates?
Well the short answer to both questions is no. It probably doesn't need to do anything as it's a throwback to the pubs of old, the sort I used to frequent a generation ago in my student days/daze.
There's been a pub on this Knox Road site since 1845 and thankfully it isn't the sort of place where food is served on posh chopping boards and prices come without decimal points. It is the sort of pub locals go to for a pint if they're passing or live locally and, on a Sunday, it seems to be abnormally busy for Felix's Famous Carvery.
Trip Advisor reviews talk of this once-weekly banquet as something to dazzle roast fans and at just £7.50 a head, it's a true bargain. If you are a fan of a Sunday roast and want to eat a huge portion of it for lunch with a pint, you can get it at The Windmill for 50p over a tenner.
I made the rookie mistake of not booking a table when I took my wife and kids for this indulgent Sabbath spread and the small room to the side of the bar was already full of diners waiting for the food to be ready as we arrived.
Instead we sat in bar and, while the kids stared at a fruit machine and asked where the "spears" were for the dart board, I ordered a pint of Stella Artois for myself (all draught beer is £3), a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for my good lady (£4.30) and two Fruit Shoots for the children (£1.50) each.
Once the food was ready it was off through the dining area to a small room next to the kitchen were Felix, resplendent in Hawaiian shirt, was ready behind the counter to start carving.
For the fixed price of £7.50 (£3.95 for children) there's a choice of four meats - beef, gammon, turkey and pork which are carved in front of you. I had a couple of large slices of succulent turkey while my wife went for beef.
Both were really nicely cooked and no complaints at all. It does come with all the trimmings you could wish for and I had no problems heaping my plate with most of them. Roast potatoes were crunchy and golden, the freshly-made Yorkshire puddings were big and bold and full of flavour and the stuffing balls were little herby nuggets of joy.
I didn't have room for the cauliflower cheese but did tuck in to the mashed potato laced with spring onion which reminded me of the mash I used to eat at school - and not in a bad way.
The only slight downside was the veg - the carrots, peas and green beans, although perfectly tasty, didn't taste like they were fresh and we both suspected they were either frozen or tinned.
This is only a very minor point. The meals came with gravy and all the sauces you'd expect to accompany your choice of meat. We spent an hour in the pub in total and settled up at the bar once we'd finished. The food was good and for the price, superb. The kids certainly enjoyed their first visit to an old-fashioned pub and if I want a quick roast at a snip of a price on my doorstep again, I'll know where to go.
Entering the pub is through a covered area used for smokers that may put some people off but it does mean you can spark up and drink outside while watching the football on the telly, so that may equally appeal to some.
The bar area is fairly dark, but attractively lit by lights under Art Deco-effect shades. The walls are decorated by horse racing plates and there are fruit machines, darts and, behind the bar, a large TV which was showing football on Sky.
It's a pub, not a restaurant so all the usual suspects are on offer. All draught beers are £3 and those on tap include Norwich Bitter (3.8%) and Gate Keeper (4%)
We ordered drinks at the bar and served ourselves at the carvery, settling up afterwards. Staff were pleasant and friendly and made a fuss of the children.
Large car park outside the pub with plenty of spaces.
Clean and tidy, nice old fashioned feel to them.
Our meal came to £33.20 for four roast dinners and four drinks which was really good value.
We both agreed the meat was superb and probably one of the reasons The Windmill was so packed.
If you're after a cheap roast in the Thorpe Hamlet area then this is the place. With parking outside, reasonably-priced drinks and a welcoming atmosphere, you should give this tucked away pub a try.
Our reviews are conducted without a restaurant's prior knowledge and are an independent account of our visit