Norwich: Rare Grill and Steakhouse
Some serious cash - and a plenty of artistic thought - has gone into creating a new restaurant called the Rare Grill and Steakhouse. It is bang on trend, as the saying goes these days, as it harks back to the 1970s for a spot of interior design inspiration and offers an intriguing mix of surf and turf cuisine.
Now Unthank Road in Norwich is really one of those spots that always has been and will always be simply “in”. It's as near to a bohemian quarter as you'll get in Norfolk and attracts students, yuppies and the right-on families by the bucket load.
It certainly has all the right ingredients for a successful little area - it's close to the city, the university and the hospital - so boasts better than average eateries such as a the Mad Mousse and the definitive Unthank Arms.
As with most of the city, hotels can be a touch disappointing and the Georgian House Hotel, right at the top of Unthank Road, practically on the roundabout has never attracted much attention. Sure, it's a fab building in the way that all Georgian architecture is very easy on the eye but it's never been a place to pop in for supper or a quickie lunch.
Now, of course, all that has changed as some serious cash - and a plenty of artistic thought - has gone into creating a new restaurant called the Rare Grill and Steakhouse. It is bang on trend, as the saying goes these days, as it harks back to the 1970s for a spot of interior design inspiration and offers an intriguing mix of surf and turf cuisine.
If you were looking for an obvious and easy comparison, I'd pinpoint the Library, in the centre of the city, which is run by Nigel and Jayne Raffles of Pulse and the St Benedict's restaurant fame.
But back to Rare. It's quite a big place with a separate and very purple dining room, complete with almost garish but ultra fashionable bold metallic wallpaper, a more cool bar with a red and black colour scheme and a lovely garden with a great terrace area for those longed for al fresco meals and evenings.
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In all, it's a good package, and the car parking is good too, which in this part of town is no mean feat.
But what's it like for a night out and most importantly, what's the food like? Well, I visited one Thursday evening in the last half term, at the very end of May. Feeling very hard done by because the weather which was miserable and more than challenging with a five and seven year old to entertain, I had demanded a night out. My exact words were something along the lines of not being a “skivvy shut up in this dump day after day”. Well, it's good to be direct at times.
So, the baby-sitter had been summoned and off we set, quite dressed up for a civilised night out. The first pleasing thing was the aforementioned parking as I was wearing shoes to pose in rather than trundle through the city. The Mirror bar was thankfully quite quiet when we arrived and we were soon tucking into a plate of freebie olives and a large glass of pinot grigio for me and Adams for him. But there was a tempting cocktail list which caught my eye for another night.
We studied the menu with interest and it does need a bit of concentration as there are plenty of choices of rubs, sauces, side orders and the like but it does, at least for 40-somethings, have a sense of familiarity about it. Starters, around the £6 mark, include seared scallops, gravalax or, my choice, a prawn cocktail which should never has gone away to my mind. It was good, tasty rather than fiery, and very attractively presented which is a key feature of this restaurant - a lot of care is given to the look of a dish.
Mains, ranging from about £11 to £30, centre on different cuts of meat, from rib eye to sirloin, fillet and chateaubriand and there's also kobe beef which is Japanese grain and beer fed, hand massaged with sake, beef which is for the real foodie - and comes with a good price tag, too.
You can pick your rub or sauce from coriander, Bearnaise, or hot red chilli although I played it safe and went for a classic sirloin with a mustard rub and jolly nice it was. Sir, not a real meat lover, went for salmon with a herby coating (£10.50) and there's always tuna steak and sea bream among other fish options,
There's plenty of options for extras - he went for a creamy mash while I had a baked potato with chives and sour cream - and other possibilities include buttered spinach or a rocket, spinach and parmesan salad.
Desserts, from £4 to £6, include a classic crème brulee (always my favourite), a hot banana cake, panacotta, and a decent cheese selection although I just had a fancy coffee.
We were pleased with our night out although I have to say that I have heard varying reports from work colleagues. But that's always the way with reviews - great the night you go, shocking the night you take your mum!
t The Rare Grill and Steakhouse at the Georgian House Hotel, Unthank Road, Norwich;
01603 615144; www.rare-grill.com, www.georgian-hotel.co.uk
t What about parking ? Good, there's a decent sized free car park
t What about vegetarians? How does chargrilled halloumi with aubergine, courgettes and cherry tomato salsa sound?
t Should I book? Definitely, especially at weekends.
t What about children? There's a two course children's menu which includes all their favourites - and the garden is a nice spot to let off steam.
t What about bedrooms? There are 12, all individually designed if you feel like making a night of it.
t Anything else? There's a decent bar menu, offering a few starters and a posh steak sandwich with chunky chips and a couple of dessert options if you're looking for a quick bite to eat rather than the full works.