Better by the dozen
- Credit: Angela Sharpe
Finding a good lunch spot can prove more difficult sometimes than searching out the perfect evening restaurant. The county is blessed with many wonderful cafes, but when cakes or light bites are not going to suffice, it is to a pub that we usually have to turn. Add in the need for somewhere reliable but independent and for quick service but not fast food, and the options quickly reduce.
But making an increasingly good name for itself as a go-to food pub is Number 12, which has recently celebrated its 250th anniversary of serving the city customers. In the shadow of Norwich Castle, this was apparently once a drinking house of choice for those who came to witness the public hangings on the old castle hill.
Today it has a rather more select customer base of lunch-break workers, shoppers and visitors to the city, with apparently as many for dining as for the bar.
The decor takes its note from the on-trend Highland lodge theme – mellowed tartan wallpaper, deep leather sofas, wooden tables and chairs and the odd stags head accessory. It’s light and bright though, a busy bar leading into eating areas over two floors.
Landlord and owner here is Richard Elkin, who sold the Elkin family music shop business in the city in 2012 (the sheet music publishing side was sold seven years earlier) for a complete career change.
“Music is so much bought online these days,” he says. “I am loving being here – I am a Norwich boy, of course. I am at Number 12 about 90 hours a week so it has to be a nice, relaxing place.”
At the helm in the kitchen is Terry Henderson – “Canada’s Jamie Oliver” and a dream find according to Richard. Terry was founder of the Canadian Personal Chef Alliance and has cooked for celebrities such as the actor Denzel Washington.
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Richard has certainly brought humour and character to Number 12, which was formerly Le Rouen. Outside pavement blackboards declare “Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows” are inside, while “Real life” remains firmly in t’other direction, and a “Happy Minute” encourages the very swift half. Quirky comments percolate through the menu too, though the serious message is that all dishes are prepared in-house using fresh, local ingredients and for those with special dietary requirements the chef will recommend safe options or create an alternative.
Our waitress was happy to answer questions about ingredients and service was prompt after we ordered from our table. The beef chilli burrito – an oven-baked tortilla with chilli and cheese, topped with sour cream, salsa and Jalapenos – was a hearty serving with a good depth of warming flavour. Served with hand-cut chips in a cute little tin bucket and a sweet mustard garnished salad, no-one would be going home hungry! The Panzerotti pasta was a well presented dish of soft parcels of porcini mushrooms tossed with sundried baby cherry tomatoes and olives, and accompanied by green salad and garlic bread. Our party also sampled the individually cooked fish pie, an ample selection of haddock, cod and salmon under an agreeable potato and crumbed topping and served with crusty bread and butter.
We imagine the dessert menu isn’t reached by many, such is the generosity of the mains’ portions, but the delicious deconstructed banoffee pie and the childhood favourite of warmed rhubarb crumble were our preferences from the rather limited choice. A glance through the evening menu – which adds more options but not more pounds to the prices – had us promising to return to sample the range of small plate light bites and sharing platters with treats such as strawberry bruschetta and chorizo and red wine with warm bread.
Expect to pay
Small plate light bites from £4.95
Platters from £6.95
Classic mains from £7.95
Steaks, evening menu, £18.95
Number 12, Farmers Avenue, Norwich, NR1 3JX; 01603 611135; www.number12norwich.org