The Mad Moose, Norwich
Sarah HardyThe Animal Inns empire is one of the region's great successes. Henry Watt and his wife Tanya have created a great little selection of pubs and restaurants in both Norwich and the countryside, all offering something a bit different but sharing similar values - use of local produce, a strong accent on quality service - and, most importantly, decent prices! The Wildebeest in Stoke Holy Cross, just outside the city, is probably the jewel in their crown but I really like their city centre spot, Mackintosh's, for a sophisticated dining experience.Click here for The Mad Moose websiteSarah Hardy
The Animal Inns empire is one of the region's great successes. Henry Watt and his wife Tanya have created a great little selection of pubs and restaurants in both Norwich and the countryside, all offering something a bit different but sharing similar values - use of local produce, a strong accent on quality service - and, most importantly, decent prices! The Wildebeest in Stoke Holy Cross, just outside the city, is probably the jewel in their crown but I really like their city centre spot, Mackintosh's, for a sophisticated dining experience.
On this occasion, however, we chose to visit one of their first ventures, the Mad Moose, which used to be called the Warwick Arms on, not unsurprisingly, Warwick Street in the heart of Norwich's golden triangle district. Locals, I remember, were not too sure about the gentrification of their local and, as for its renaming, well, the columns of the EDP and the Evening News were filled with letters and comment for quite some time!
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Yet almost 20 years on and the Mad Moose is very much a favourite with both locals and those who travel to enjoy what it offers - the first floor sees a rather posh restaurant called 1Up while the downstairs is more of your traditional boozer-albeit a funky one. There's a long bar, a wooden floor, panelling and deep colours, and plenty of bistro-style tables and chairs plus a large flat screen telly for those vital sporting moments - it'll be fun during the football World Cup this summer!
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We called in for lunch one Saturday and there was that lovely laidback feeling - all newspapers, strong coffee and Man United in the background. There's plenty of real ales, including local classics such as Adnams Broadside and Woodforde's Wherry, and London Pride plus a good wine list, too.
Most main courses are under a tenner which is good value these days as my supermarket bill seems to be up and up! The menu, under the guidance of new head chef Nick Anderson (old favourite Eden Derrick has moved on to the Wildebeest), mixes plenty of favourites such as beef burgers, lasagnes, fish and chips, gammon steaks with something a bit more exciting like red pepper and pumpkin risotto, haddock with spinach and a poached eggs and plates of whitebait. There are plenty of sarnies, salads and soups although my eye was taken by the platter of charcuterie - next time, for sure! And, as seems to be the norm these days, there's a good children's menu with yet more recognised dishes - but with a distinctly upmarket feel. All are priced at �4.95, and they included chicken, fish fingers and a pasta number. And the Sunday lunch is something of an institution - three courses for �20 and sees students in particular tucking into healthy portions.
I had crispy chilli chicken which came with plenty of noodles and had the necessary bite to it while my better half had the seared salmon, crushed potatoes and green beans. Both were good, certainly better than the average pub grub, and they disappeared quick. One of our party tried the Caesar salad which was again a hit while the pub's signature dish, a chunky burger, was declared delicious.
So this is the sort of place you can eat as much or as little as you like. You can enjoy a post night out doorstep BLT sandwich with chips or an ultra healthy bowl of salad - the choice is yours, as they say! One thing to look out for as the weather improves is the rather lovely garden which is a bit of a surprise in such a built up area. It's well planted and very well looked after and just the place for a spot of R&R - the barbecues are said to be great fun in the summer.
So, we like this place, we like it a lot! It's great for all ages, including families, and shows you that pubs that try to offer a bit of something for everyone are the way forward!
Need to know
Where is it? The Mad Moose is at 2 Warwick Street, Norwich, tel 01603 627687.
Do I need to book? I probably wouldn't bother for the bar area but definitely for the upstairs restaurant, 1Up.
What about children? They're made very welcome - and there is the children's menu, too.
What about parking? In the Golden Triangle, it's a pain. There are a few bays but watch out as much is permit holder only.
How about veggies? Again, made very welcome, and plenty of choice. I liked the sound of cauliflower tempura and sweet potato puree (plus other bits and pieces) at �5.95
Anything else? Have a stroll down Unthank Road - the Grapevine gallery is a real treasure trove of pictures, jewellery and Norfolk goodies!