The Dining Rooms, Norwich

Sarah BrealeyThe Dining Rooms at Cinema City is on St. Andrew's Street, Norwich, NR2 4AD but you can also access it via St. Andrew's Alley.Sarah Brealey

I once had a debate with a friend over what makes a good restaurant. He insisted fancy food was everything. I suggested that while food is obviously important, atmosphere is also a key part of the overall experience. He partly agreed, but pointed out that if the food is fantastic you'll make allowances - clearly the way to that man's heart is through his stomach!

To be honest, I had forgotten this conversation until we went for a farewell meal for our younger son ahead of his Far East

travels. We have our favourite restaurants but had heard good things about The Dining Rooms at Cinema City in Norwich and decided to give it a go. If you are looking for an atmospheric setting, The Bar and The Dining Rooms at the restored Sucking Hall fit the bill, housed in vaulted rooms, which used to be the buttery, and a smaller Georgian panelled room.

It was busy the evening when we went, with a pleasant buzz as we passed through the bar to the smaller restaurant area. Seated at our table and perusing the mouth-watering menu, a waitress came to take a drinks order and we asked for the wine list, but were not shown one as it wasn't up to date because some wines were not available that night.

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We inquired what wine they did have. 'Red, white and ros�,' she pointed out. We narrowed it down to white and inquired further. 'A chardonnay, chenin blanc…,' she replied. This could be a long job so I ordered a chenin blanc - a safe choice, although at that time I had no idea how much it was. It was a little disappointing because one of the pleasures of choosing wine is reading through the wine list but, fair enough, these things happen. And I wouldn't have thought any more about it except for the fact the couple at the next table were given a list which had been sitting on a small table behind us. But it was soon forgotten when our starters arrived and the South African chenin blanc (�16.50), was crisp and refreshing.

Elder son Ben declared the seafood with chorizo paella with roasted peppers and basil - which had tempted me - delicious, I went for the roast sardines with beetroot silk, caper and almond salsa and wasn't disappointed with the sweet beetroot silk combining well with the succulent, fleshy sardines. My wife Denise thoroughly enjoyed her tian of smoked mackerel, trout and salmon with pickled dill relish while younger son Tim soon devoured his duck terrine with chutney and toast. The starters had been accompanied by a small loaf of homemade bread and a dish of butter - and very tasty it was too, so it was a shame there were no butter knives on our side plates.

Main courses were to the same high standard as the starters, beautifully presented and arranged nicely on the plate. Tim was impressed with the pot roast poussin with red pesto, lemon, marjoram and sour cranberry relish which smelled wonderful and tickled the tastebuds too. I knew Ben would go for the local lamb, black pudding, apple and sage with white bean ragu and saut� kale which he clearly enjoyed but would have liked more than two lamb chops.

Denise had the slow-cooked collar of ham with white sauce, sweet potato batons and fried duck egg while, as a fish-lover, I surprised myself by foregoing the cod, sea bream or sole and chose the beef brisket with foie gras, braised onion and porcini mushroom polenta. It was a wise choice with the halved small red onion sitting atop a beautifully-cooked brisket which flaked under the knife. And having tasted the accompanying kale which was cooked to perfection and still slightly crisp I

wish I had had a side order of the seasonal greens. I'd ordered a rocket leaf salad with parmesan and capers but, with hindsight, we ought to have ordered a couple of side dishes of vegetables at �2.50 each although that might have left us struggling to finish.

Instead it meant we had room for desserts. Denise went for the lemon meringue martini, made specially without the Amoretti biscuit crumb as she is gluten-free, but would have liked more meringue and less cream topping. Tim's stem ginger and poppy seed cheesecake with mixed berry compote was a work of art and an interesting combination of flavours and colours while my sticky date and orange pudding with toffee sauce and ice cream was everything I'd hoped for - rich, tasty and extremely filling.

Apart from the wine list hitch, The Dining Rooms at Cinema City lived up to its promise, serving good food at prices that are not out of the way for a special occasion - work on about �30 a head for three courses with side orders - and I expect we'll return for a repeat performance.

Need to know

The Dining Rooms at Cinema City is on St Andrew's Street, Norwich, NR2 4AD but you can also access it via St Andrew's Alley(?)

Should I book? The Dining Rooms is a small, intimate restaurant was busy the night we went so it is advisable - telephone 07504 356378.

Does it cater for vegetarians? Two starters and two main courses were suitable. Tell them about any special dietary requirement or allergies - they were very accommodating about my wife's wheat intolerance.

Is there disabled access? Yes, not a problem.

How about parking? There are car parks and on-street parking a short walk away.

Can you eat only in the restaurant? There is also a three-course bar menu as well as lighter bites available all day.

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