Norwich: Rose Tavern
Sarah Brealey finds the Rose Tavern the perfect excuse to over-indulge.
We staggered home slowly, bent almost double, clutching our stomachs in pain. “I can't believe they beat us,” my partner groaned. It's not very often that we are defeated. Normally we can eat any amount that they can bring us and still ask for more. But the Rose gave us more than we could handle, so that our plates went back unfinished and we had still eaten far too much.
Admittedly our problems may have been self-inflicted when we ordered a sharing platter for two by way of a starter. Billed as hummous, stuffed vine leaves, roasted peppers, olives and garlic mushrooms, we thought it would be a hearty starter - well, at £6.50 for two people it seemed unlikely to be more - but was more of a meal for two.
The home-made bread rolls were just the first of the ways in which our expectations were surpassed. They were actually a bit on the heavy side, but they were warm, and how many pubs do you know that make their own bread? Even more remarkable were the vine leaves, plump and slightly misshapen and obviously home-made - and if you can think of any pubs that do make their own bread, I bet they don't stuff their own vine leaves. Hummous was garlicky, plentiful, and equally made on the premises.
So you can see where our problem arose when the main courses arrived, a burger for him and a spinach and cream cheese lasagne for me. Both of them came with so many chunky chips - crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle - that you could have built sea defences for Happisburgh with them. The other half declared his home-made rump burger to be “well tasty”, and though he found the ciabatta around it a bit chewy, he was still talking about the burger a week later.
My lasagne was a subtle creation, creamy and with a hint of nutmeg. It says something that I managed to finish it, nearly killing myself in the attempt. But half the chips and accompanying salad were left sadly unloved.
Funnily enough, these dishes came from the “summer snack menu”. If these are snacks, then a full meal on this scale would mean instant cardiac arrest. Other “snacks” include pizzas, chilli and an interesting-sounding field mushroom burger stuffed with ratatouille and mozzarella. There are also often-changing specials that are a little grander, and might include parmesan, saffron and pine nut risotto or pork rib with crushed new potatoes and broccoli.
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The Rose is also remarkable for its garden, which offers plenty of space for enjoying the sunshine and catches the rays until the sun has all but set. Being paved and looking onto Cambridge Street, it's no rural idyll, but hanging baskets and planters create an attractive enough space, while in the evening moths hover over the flowers and the resident cat pads about.
The British weather being what it is, we had barely finished (or been finished by) our main courses when the heavens opened and we scurried indoors. Inside is faintly shabby in a comfortable kind of way. Most of the clientele are under 25, perhaps there for the student discount on food.
Bizarrely, the food and drink are separate businesses, so you can't just put the whole lot on your credit card. We paid for both as separate transactions, and only later did I find it had cost me £1 to use my card for the drinks.
It was just about the only flaw in quite a remarkable local. Just go to the cash machine before you go - but nowhere else will this much quality food put so little strain on your bank account.
t Rose Tavern, Rupert Street, Norwich; 01603 612110
t Where is it? Rupert Street is in the Golden Triangle - between Cambridge Street and Trinity Street.
t Is there parking? A few spaces next to the pub, otherwise this is residents' permit land.
t Is there disabled access? There are no stairs, but the toilets are not adapted and inside is quite crowded with tables.
t Smoking? Allowed throughout.
t Do I need to book? No.
But their number is