Food review: Benji’s brings a little London luxury to Norwich
- Credit: Archant
Hidden in a classic Norwich department store Emily Revell finds a breathakingly good café.
Wow. That's the best way to sum up how I feel about Benji's and it came out of nowhere. It's been a while since I've been this excited about somewhere. Benji's is a small eatery that could very easily pass one by, tucked away in a small corner of Jarrold Department Store. I stumbled upon it completely by accident and was sucked in by the uncanny resemblance to the exclusive cafes in the likes of Liberty in London. If you'd have told me I was tucking into my lunch on Regent Street, I'd have believed you. Benji's website says it will 'Quickly become your everyday favourite' and boy is it right!
The beautiful décor aside, there is a full breakfast and lunchtime menu filled with sophisticated options akin to what you'd find in the capital, with plenty of healthy but very satisfying options. Spoilt for choice would be an understatement – we were desperate to try the vegetarian garden box filled with houmous, tortilla, olives, chickpea cakes, parsley sponge, cherry tomatoes, char-grilled vegetables and flat breads but the array of sandwiches and light bites sounded just as dreamy. Getting into decisive mode, we decided to return for the garden box at a later date and instead went for the char-grilled baby artichokes, cherry tomatoes and watercress on an open sourdough sandwich, a side of triple cooked chips with aioli and the spicy avocado houmous and char-grilled veg with vegan cornbread. All of the food that was coming out around us looked beyond delectable and presentation would get 11 out of 10. The artichoke sandwich was so simple but every element was spot on. It was deliciously salty, oily and crunchy in all the right proportions and we even bought some artichokes on the way home, because it was just that good.
The spicy avo dish was served cold which took me slightly by surprise but no bother, the houmous was plentiful and smooth, with a delicate avocado flavour and the veg was in abundance and just the right level of singed – not burnt. For me, the cornbread wasn't quite hitting the spot, I'd have rather had focaccia or sourdough but that being said it was extremely well made and fluffy – turns out cornbread just isn't for me!
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When it comes to the chips, they were like nothing we'd had before. Picture the perfect chip in your head - these fluffy clouds of potato are it! The desserts all sounded fantastic too but were pretty full up and work was calling us back – so it will have to wait until next time!
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While we were extremely jealous of those enjoying stunning-looking glasses of wine, we stuck to an elderflower and a coconut latte.
Gorgeous interiors, relaxed but classy atmosphere – it's really special. There are high seats looking out of the window and tables are all well spaced out.
Access should be fine. Jarrold has lifts and easy to navigate floors.
Closest would be St Andrews Car Park.
In Jarrold! Easily walk-able from anywhere in Norwich city centre.
Toilet situation is a little tricky as there doesn't seem to be toilets on that floor so I ended up going down to the basement to use the shopper's toilets.
Main lunches seem to average out at around £10 – £11 but light bites started from £3.85. I felt the food was more than worth than price tag. You can also enjoy a set menu with a complimentary glass of wine at £13.50 for two courses and £16.50 for three.
Wonderful! It was efficient and friendly full-table service.
I have completely fallen in love with Benji's – I keep thinking about it because I can't wait to visit again. I'm happy to have found my very own Café Liberty so close to home! I also found out once we'd left that the executive chef, Nick Harris, has cooked for the Queen and Elton John, as well as working at prestigious establishments like Lanesborough in London's West End. Go visit now!
This is an independent review
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