‘Classic in both style and substance’ - our reviewer’s take on a grade II listed hotel near Norwich
- Credit: Archant
On the outskirts of Norwich, it might be easy to drive past the Stower Grange Hotel. Lauren Cope went to try out its Sunday lunch.
This is an independent review.
On a crisp Sunday morning, a leisurely walk seems like a good idea.
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A roast dinner afterwards sounds even better.
We ventured out of the city centre for our gravy fix, heading to Stower Grange in Drayton.
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It has consistently good reviews online but neither friends nor family had been, so we went with an open mind.
The Sunday roast is a fixed price menu, £29 for three courses and coffee and petit fours.
The starter selection was traditional - a prawn and crayfish cocktail, soup, chicken liver parfait and feta and red pepper tart.
Always a sucker for shellfish, I went for the cocktail and my partner the parfait.
A generous potion of shrimp and crayfish, a tangy Marie Rose sauce and crispy iceberg lettuce, the cocktail was nice, while the chicken parfait was light and served with a home-made onion chutney which went down particularly well.
A good start, but perhaps not quite as much as you'd hope from a £29 menu.
But it was the mains where the hotel really excelled. I went for the beef, a roast Norfolk sirloin variety, with a Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and a thick, meaty gravy.
The beef was incredibly tender, sliced fairly thick and still a little pink. And while the potatoes could have been a tad crispier, the Yorkshire was huge, fluffy and crisp.
The shared vegetable bowl - with carrots, parsnips, green beans, broccoli and mange tout - was plenty for two, and all cooked well.
My partner had the roast loin of Blythburgh pork, which was served with apple sauce and crackling, which he said he'd have liked more of.
But the meat was again lovely, tender and full of flavour.
Other options were a chicken breast with chorizo and chickpea ragout, sea bream and the enticing vegetarian option of mushroom, Stilton and spinach wellington.
Full, but aware that we were paying for three courses, we dived into the dessert menu, with my partner going for the cheese board and me the warm chocolate brownie and ice cream.
Is there anything as comforting as the combination of warm cake and cold ice cream? I think not.
The brownie was definitely the winner of the two, though the cheese board, served with celery, grapes and some of the chutney, was quickly devoured.
Coffee and tea finished the meal off, along with two petit fours, one chocolate and another with dried fruit.
The hotel is beautiful, and makes a stunning first impression. The interior is relaxed, and reminiscent of my nan's house. The furniture, and the prints, took me back to childhood, which, while initially disconcerting, was quite nice. It was cosy, comforting and welcoming.
It was a busy Sunday afternoon so there was plenty going on, but comfy sofas and a wood burner made it a relaxing place to be.
We ordered in the bar area, and stayed there until our starters were ready, rather than going straight to the table.
It was a nice change to sit back and enjoy a drink and conversation on the comfy sofas before heading through to the dining room, which was much more grand, with a chandelier and glass doors out onto its gardens.
Friendly, and not too rushed. There was enough time between courses to enjoy drinks and conversation.
My partner, a beer lover, was disappointed by the offering, with a fairly limited selection that included Adnams, a lager and Guinness.
I had a glass of the house white wine, which was crisp and dry, and there was more choice for wine-lovers. There's also the usual selection of soft drinks and spirits.
It's quite a large building so easy to manoeuvre.
Clean and working. No complaints.
The hotel has plenty of parking. It was a busy Sunday but we found a spot easily.
Our bill for the four courses, half a beer and two glasses of wine was £67. I initially thought that £29 for the roast wasn't cheap - even a starter and dessert for £6 each would mean the main was worth £17 - but in hindsight the overall experience did feel worth it. Probably one for a special occasion.
The beef is a strong contender. But the decor, set-up and even menu meant I really couldn't shake the feeling that I was out for a Sunday roast as a child, which quickly grew on me. It was relaxed and cosy.
I got the impression that Stower Grange sticks to what works. I didn't get a sense of trying to change with the times or do what's trendy - it was classic in both style and substance. I can imagine it would be exactly some people's cup of tea, and perhaps not so for others. With good food and for a lazy Sunday lunch, I think I fell into the first camp.
Value for money
We went for the fixed price Sunday lunch, at £29, but looking at their a la carte menu, starters ranged from £5.95 to £7.50 and mains from £15.50 to £23.
This is an independent review.