Norwich: Waffle House
EMMA LEE Here you can be as good or as wicked as you like. If you're on a health kick the main courses are generally wholesome fare - with a great choice of veggie and meat options on offer. The desserts, on the other hand, are decidedly naughty.
We needed to grab a quick bite to eat before our planned trip to the cinema. But, having vowed to turn over a new leaf after watching fearsome nutritionist Gillian McKeith's New Year Detox programme (the one where practically everything apart from water, fresh air and mung beans was banned - I exaggerate, but you know what I mean) it had to be a healthy option.
A great excuse to pay a visit to an old favourite, then.
At the Waffle House in St Giles Street you can be as good or as wicked as you like.
If you're on a health kick the main courses are generally wholesome fare - with a great choice of veggie and meat options on offer.
The desserts, on the other hand, are decidedly naughty.
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On the Monday evening we visited the upstairs of the restaurant wasn't open and the downstairs area was packed and buzzing with a mix of families and students.
The décor is unfussy and the staff are, in my experience at least, always cheerful and friendly.
We were greeted straight away and only had to wait a couple of minutes before being shown to our table.
If you're not a waffle fan - and these are a world away from the frozen potato version - then you can opt for rice instead.
Everything on the menu was tempting - houmous and avocado on a poppy seed waffle is a favourite and cheese, mushroom and ham is one of the restaurant's most popular.
But after a bit of dithering I went for one off the specials board. My eyes being bigger than my stomach I chose a large wholemeal waffle topped with vegetable and bean moussaka and cheese sauce (£6.35).
My sweet-toothed friend - who was already one step ahead and lobbying to explore the dessert menu - erred on the side of caution and went for a small plain waffle with spinach and chickpea curry (£4.90).
We also ordered a small side salad to share (£2.20), a bottle of alcohol-free Holsten Pils (£1.85) for me and a small glass of Rioja (2.50) for him.
There's a pretty good range of organic reds and whites on the menu - and the usual choice of soft drinks.
The salad bowl, which was overflowing with crunchy carrots, red cabbage, tomato, lettuce and celery, finished off with a generous dollop of garlic mayonnaise, got to our table seconds after we'd ordered and we couldn't resist tucking in while we waited for our main courses.
They arrived soon afterwards - fast, but a cut above your average fast food - and not long after embarking on my huge plateful I knew I should have followed my friend's lead.
My moussaka was delicious - the aubergines had a pleasing amount of crunch left in them and the flavours all worked well together, although there were fewer beans that I was expecting.
The cheese sauce was creamy, robust in flavour but not too heavy, and was a nice contrast to the vegetable mix.
My friend generally doesn't like his curries too hot, and he reported that his dish had just the right amount of “kick”.
Main courses duly devoured, there was a little bit of a debate as to whether we wanted to catch the film or would prefer to linger longer for dessert. My friend put up a very strong argument for the latter - and I was unable to resist, especially as I'd spied what a group of students on a nearby table who had made a special visit just for puddings and coffee were eating.
So we decided to wait until the DVD came out - and were again completely spoiled for choice.
You can have a waffle, or opt for your favourite topping in a bowl with a variety of accompaniments, including ice cream or nuts. Banoffee was a particularly tempting prospect, and although the Waffle House's chocolate mousse is reputed to be particularly fine, we plumped on sharing a hot Dutch apple waffle.
There was a bit of debate as to whether we wanted it accompanied by cream or ice cream - we initially decided on neither and our waiter didn't mind when we had a change of heart and asked for a scoop of vanilla.
It was delicious - and after assuring my friend that it wasn't a vinegar dispenser on the table I was allowed to add a dash of maple syrup.
We decided to pass on coffees, although I almost succumbed and had a milkshake - another of the Waffle House's specialities. The bill came to £20.80 - very good value, as we were both almost too full to move.
Gillian McKeith perhaps might not have approved - but my tastebuds definitely did.
t The Waffle House, 39 St Giles Street, Norwich; 01603 612790
t Where can I park? There are parking meters outside, or St Giles Car Park is a stone's throw away.
t Are children welcome? Smaller portions are available and high chairs are available.
t Veggie options? The Waffle House has one of the widest choices for veggies in the city and plenty for meat-eaters too - so both should go home happy.