Norwich: The Fountain Bar and Grill
EMMA LEE Following its transformation from its previous life as The Pickwick pub, The Fountain Bar and Grill looks just as you would expect a contemporary restaurant to – light, airy and unfussy with lots of stripped wood.
When a new eating place opens up it would be rude not to try it out. And a friend's birthday was the perfect excuse to pop into the Fountain Bar and Grill in Earlham Road, Norwich. A stone's throw out of the city centre, it's the pub formerly known as the Pickwick, and I'd been watching its transformation with interest.
Tucked a little way back from the busy main road, the last time I visited, which admittedly was years rather than months ago, it was very much a traditional 'does what it says on the tin' boozer.
Following its makeover it looks just as you would expect a contemporary restaurant to - light, airy and unfussy with lots of stripped wood.
The colour scheme is a chic white and light blue - even the menu and the napkins matched, which I thought was a nice touch.
Out the back I spied a pretty outdoor seating area, but with it seemingly being Norwich's monsoon season, dining al fresco sadly wasn't an option on that occasion.
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I think we got the etiquette right in just picking out where we wanted to sit and plonking ourselves down - certainly the staff didn't seem to mind. And with the menus doubling up as placemats and already laid out in front of us, we got straight down to business, choosing what we wanted.
We got a bottle of Argentinian red (which I think was around the £12 mark) between the three of us to help with the decision-making. The waitresses were very friendly - and understanding when we were being indecisive and needed more time to savour the menu.
There's a choice of four starters, ranging from £3.95-£5.50 in price. Although the deep fried stilton with a raspberry coulis and garlic button mushrooms in a puff pastry case were very tempting, we decide to skip straight to the main course.
The main course menu looks to be quite simple - you either want a steak or a burger - but appearances are deceptive as you can mix and match them with an array of accompaniments.
As we were two committed and one fair-weather vegetarian, we ignored the steaks - but for reference, you can select your cut and weight and choose from red wine, mushroom or peppercorn sauce.
You can also take your pick from 10 different kinds of 6oz burger - including, hooray, three veggie options, with not a pea burger in sight, which is what non-meat eaters usually have to make do with.
They all come served on a sourdough bun with a salad garnish and the price for single deckers (you can opt for double deckers at additional cost) ranges from £4.50 to £8.
And you can choose from three different cheese toppings if you fancy - Camembert, Monterey Jack or Danish blue - for £1.50 each.
The meat options are Aberdeen Angus steak, 100 per cent beef, beef and Guinness, veal and black olive, ostrich and orange, pork and maple syrup and lamb and mint.
And for veggies there's walnut and feta, sundried tomato, olive and pepper and Portabello mushroom.
Two of us went for the walnut and feta, with the third choosing the sundried tomato version.
Then we had to decide what we wanted on the side - straw (I'm presuming that means skinny French) fries, fat chips, sweet potato chips, dauphinoise, jacket or new potatoes or mixed salad, tomato salad, garlic bread or fine beans for £2.50 and bacon, friend mushrooms, onion rings, peas, fried egg, guacamole or grilled tomatoes for £2 each.
We went for two portions of sweet potato chips, one bowl of fat chips and a mixed salad.
Although it wasn't that busy on the Monday we visited, I can imagine that it's quite buzzy later in the week, and will be especially so when the UEA students return, as it's in their stamping ground.
The burgers were generous and nicely presented on square white plates.
The walnut and feta burger was tasty - the walnut flavour was stronger than the feta - but sampling a bit of my friend's sun-dried tomato burger I suffered a pang of dinner envy, as it had more of a zing to it.
But a bit of ketchup soon livened my burger up and the fat chips were good. They came piping hot, but, ideally, I would have preferred a bit more crunch to them. The sweet potato chips were delicious and the salad was indeed mixed - I spotted a couple of different kinds of leaves, tomato, pepper and red onion.
Unfortunately we had no room for dessert. They're all priced at £4.35 and include bread and butter pudding with custard, chocolate chip black forest muffin or three scoops of Ronaldo's ice cream. Instead we went for coffee - a Gaelic and a Bailey's Latte (£3 each) and a plain cappuccino (£1.70). The bill for three of us came to just under £45. Maybe I'll have to make a return visit to try the puddings soon. Again, it would be rude not to.
t The Fountain Bar and Grill, 41 Earlham Road, Norwich; 01603 626644
t Should I book? It's early days, but I can see this place getting really popular - especially once the UEA students are back - so best ring ahead.
t Where can I park? The Fountain has its own car park.