Norwich: The Library Restaurant, Bar and Grill

The menu is shortish, and has a retro feel to it. Plenty of so-called sandwiches such as southern-fried chicken burgers and wood-grilled beef burgers and desserts such as a chocolate and orange pot with a hazelnut shortbread.

Well, it's a very impressive entrance; most grand, we cannot help but think. Thankfully I'd put on a frock and my chum, property writer Caroline Culot, is always smart, so in we tottered, hoping for a night of good nosh and plenty of chat. Yet once inside, mmm, a mystery. A sign pointed to the bar upstairs but we didn't want to booze, we wanted to eat! Following our noses lead us to an empty function room but, taking courage into both hands we opened a large wooden door and, voila, there was the restaurant.

It's a vast space, with a gallery, which could easily look empty and a bit unfriendly, but fortunately it was quite busy the Thursday night we visited.

The staff are very smiley and we were quickly shown to our table and I took quite a shine to our waiter - one of those confident young gents who isn't intimidated by two loud-mouth women, released from their household chores for the night.

We couldn't decide upon the decor. All the original wooden shelving remains (as the property is listed, there were several planning restraints) and there's the odd panel of decadent wallpaper for a bit of a wow factor, too.

Huge chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, the tables and chairs are in a dark wood so it's quite a cosy place - apparently the owners wanted to create a modern gentleman's club atmosphere and they've pretty much succeeded.

What's best, of course, is that there's lots of room between the tables which was just as well as we were having a really good gossip - few were spared!

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The menu is shortish, and has a retro feel to it. Plenty of so-called sandwiches such as southern-fried chicken burgers and wood-grilled beef burgers and desserts such as a chocolate and orange pot with a hazelnut shortbread.

The star attraction is a large grill, where meats and fish are gently cooked over woods imported from America. From parts of the balcony, you can see the chefs at work.

We went for starters, with Caroline choosing tiger prawns with an avocado dip and me going for smoked haddock, wilted spinach, a softly poached egg and hollandaise sauce - delicious.

Never one afraid to speak out, Caroline informed the aforementioned waiter that both our dishes could have done with some lovely French bread to mop up all the goodness.

His eyes widened as he admitted that yes, we should have had some and nipped off pretty sharpish to get us a good selection.

Next, Caroline went for slow cooked crispy duck with creamy mash, cabbage and bacon which was declared a hit while I tried a sirloin steak with a pepper sauce from the wood grill. It came complete with fries, corn and onion rings!

I had wanted some veggies but the French beans were off so the waiter, ever a helpful chap, recommended a vegetable gratin. Bless him, it was jolly nice but possibly not that healthy as you could hardly spot a vegetable for all that cheese.

Puddings included several favourites such as crème brulee but good sense won over and we went simply for drinks - the latte was good although not in the Starbucks league while, well, if you can't make a cup of tea, it's time to give up.

I wouldn't say that the food was haute cuisine and indeed the prices don't reflect this aim. I think it's meant to be a fun place, not somewhere you'd take too seriously or expect fine dining.

As most of you already know, The Library is owned by that dynamic catering couple, Jayne and Nigel Raffles, who are fast becoming key players in the Norwich restaurant scene.

It's their fourth venture (they already run the St Benedict's Restaurant, Pinocchio's and Pulse) so it's a brave decision to add another one to their empire.

Will it work?

Well, it's a bit quirky, the prices are not too bad and it's a good location. I felt that it was generally a little under-rehearsed, if that makes sense, with staff unsure of quite what was going on, and not enough attention given to the actual dishes. The restaurant world is cut-throat and you need to be on your mettle to succeed.

t The Library Restaurant, Bar and Grill, Guildhall Hill, Norwich; 01603 616606

t What are the arrangements? There are three main areas - the main hall, a private dining area and the first-floor reading room.

t What about parking? The multi-storey on St Giles is probably your best bet - or The Forum.

t Anything for vegetarians? Red onion and goats cheese parcels, assiette of wood charred vegetables, with pesto, caper berries and polenta.

t What about children? No dedicated menu yet, although there are plans.

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