Norwich: The Gibraltar Gardens
EMMA LEE the Gibraltar Gardens serves up what you would describe as typical pub grub - simple, tasty and substantial dishes, and the main menu was complemented by a daily specials board
There was a birthday to celebrate, a whopping unexpected garage bill to commiserate about and gossip a-plenty to catch up on. And while we hadn't planned on dining at the Gibraltar Gardens when we set out, we were glad that was where we had ended up.
A combination of glorious weather and the end of student exams meant that the Golden Triangle pub that had been our original destination of choice was bursting at the seams.
So at one friend's suggestion we hopped back in the car and headed to Heigham Street.
I must admit that I wasn't even aware that the pub existed. Tucked away a little distance out of Norwich city centre you could easily miss it.
But I've spoken to a few people since my visit who have fond memories of it being their former regular hang-out.
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There were several groups dining when we arrived, but the three of us had no trouble getting a table looking out onto the lovely lush riverside garden which would be the perfect companion for a cold pint of lager on a sunny afternoon.
The pub dates back centuries - to the 1700s - and despite it having been expanded, many of the original features have been retained.
The décor is traditional enough to make it feel cosy, helped by subtle lighting, but the open-plan design means that it doesn't feel claustrophobic. And you can imagine that when the bar area is busy it's a buzzing place.
The dining area is set round the corner from the bar and the tables are quite close together making it feel intimate. The background music was audible without being intrusive, which was good as we had lots of catching up to do.
Settling down to look at the extensive menu, and absolutely ravenous, we decided to skip starters to narrow down the amount of difficult decisions.
Continuing the traditional theme, the Gibraltar Gardens serves up what you would describe as typical pub grub - simple, tasty and substantial dishes, and the main menu was complemented by a daily specials board.
I was in one of those moods where whatever I chose to eat had to have some chips with it - and when I say chips, I mean 'proper' chunky ones, not anaemic skinny fries. So I included a greedy side order with my vegetable lasagne.
It turned out to be chips all round. My friend went for beer-battered cod and chips, and the birthday girl decided on a beastless (veggie) burger. Main courses were around the £7 mark, which is about average for an eaterie of this kind.
There seemed to be only one waitress on duty, which meant that service was a tad slow, but she was smiley and apologetic - and anyway, time flies when you're putting the world to rights over a glass of wine.
When our meals arrived they were piping hot - and huge.
The chips were perfect - fat, not too greasy, crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. My lasagne was very tasty, with a pleasant mix of vegetables, topped with a deliciously rich cheesy sauce and it came garnished with a salad. My friend's battered cod was more the size of a whale, and was declared more than satisfactory. And the beastless burger, which came in a ciabatta roll with relish, was a hit too. Too often veggie burgers can be a bit bland, but I was assured that wasn't the case on this occasion.
With our plates cleared, our thoughts turned to dessert. Could we possibly eat anything else?
The sweets board, which happened to be in my line of vision was very tempting, and in the end it turned out to be impossible to resist - it was a special occasion after all.
The waitress bought the chalkboard over to our table, and I decided to go for a sundae. And one friend, who loves traditional-style puds went for treacle sponge and custard.
My eyes were bigger than my stomach. It was absolutely delicious - luxurious layers of chocolate brownie, cream and black cherry sauce, served in a tall glass - but I was defeated way before I could see the bottom.
And the treacle sponge was devoured enthusiastically.
The bill for three of us, including three glasses of wine, came to just over £42, which was a bargain as we were so stuffed we could barely move.
It may have taken more than 10 years of living in Norwich to realise the Gibraltar Gardens existed, but I'm sure it won't take me that long to make a return visit.
t The Gibraltar Gardens, Heigham Street, Norwich; 01603 628749
t Where is it? At the junction with Mile Cross Road.
t Where do I park? The pub has a big carpark, so you shouldn't have a problem finding a space.
t Do I need to book? We visited on a weeknight and had no problem getting a table. But if it's a special occasion it might be wise to phone ahead. There's a carvery on Sundays.
t Disabled access? Yes - and there's a disabled toilet.
t Anything for veggies? Yes - there's a veggie section on the menu with a choice of dishes including old pub favourites like vegetable lasagne and beastless burgers.