The Wildebeest Arms, Stoke Holy Cross restaurant review

This month your food detective visits an old favourite near Norwich to see if it's as good as ever.

A rave review

 

Reviewed: The Wildebeest Arms, Stoke Holy Cross, 01508 492497

 

This month your food detective visits an old favourite near Norwich to see if it’s as good as ever.

The Wildebeest is one of the jewels in the Animal Inns’ crown, run very efficiently by Henry and Tanya Watt – the Mad Moose, Mackintosh’s, and the Hunny Bell are also part of their empire. It’s great to see a local mini chain doing so well and giving those big boys a run for their money.The Wildebeest, formerly just a boozer in a popular village south of Norwich, caused a bit of a stir when it was transformed into a gastropub with an African theme about 15 years ago.

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But, especially with Daniel Smith in charge of the kitchen, it has built up a great reputation for on trend cuisine at decent prices – you can currently enjoy a three-course evening meal for �19.95, which is great value.Voguish ingredients include beetroot, celeriac and squashes. Menus change for lunch and dinner and also each month. Portions are generous and there are always lovely sauces created with a liberal use of fresh herbs – spotted growing just outside the kitchen door!

The Wildebeest has stayed pretty much the same since it opened, but it has had a bit of a revamp this year, with a new loo block and a bit more room created in the kitchen, so it is all ready for the festive season!We escaped the children one evening for a spot of decent R&R. It was Tuesday and heaving! The car park was full.

There’s always a good atmosphere – this is quite the place for the city’s movers and shakers – and there’s plenty of staff to ensure all runs smoothly. As we perused the menu, I fancied a stiff gin, but was struck by all the rather quaffable wines by the glass. So I went for a very nice French ros� followed by an Italian white – both large! Himself wasn’t pleased to see there were no real ales on offer – and with Norfolk having so many of its own breweries. Maybe that’s something to think about. The � la carte menu is more fussy, with prices to match. A fillet of beef comes in at a fairly hefty �24.50, while parma-wrapped monkfish is �19.50.

The set menu offers four choices per course, which is plenty for me. Sure they’re not as ambitious as the � la carte offerings, but still jolly pleasant. I started with a duo of different mackerel offerings, which was very tasty and served on a slate slab, a nice little touch. Himself had a hearty butternut squash soup and was heard scraping the bowl. A raised eyebrow indicated that this wasn’t quite the ticket.

Next saw me go for a pork dish with plenty of flavours and lots of little extras – a big fat mushroom, spinach, celeriac and more, while Sir decided upon a salmon dish which wasn’t as light as it looked. There were plenty of greens, with more spinach and samphire, but the sauce was rich and apparently on the heavy side.

Naturally, we had to try desserts, with the pannacotta an easy choice for me. The strawberry sorbet addition was yummy, too. My husband tried the tiramisu and, being somewhat of an expert (he even used to make it himself), was more than satisfied.

So, yes, the Wildebeest is firing on all four cylinders and for this they deserve plaudits. Getting a good reputation is one thing, maintaining it is quite another.

What we ate

 

Roasted butternut squash soup with chives and truffle oil.Warm, smoked mackerel and mackerel cake with r�moulade and avocado pur�e.Pan fried fillet of salmon with thyme and red onion crushed new potatoes, butter leeks, buttered samphire and lemon and caper beurre blanc.Baked herb and Dijon fillet of local pork, with garlic and thyme roasted potatoes, flat mushroom, char red onions, celeriac pur�e, buttered spinach and a light cream jus.Vanilla pannacotta with strawberry sorbet and strawberry pur�e.Tiramisu with white chocolate foam and amaretti biscuits.

 

Drinks

 Pint of bass – �2.70.250ml glass of house wine – �5.Large bottle of fizzy water – �5.Peppermint tea – �1.95.Latte – �2.25.

Two courses – �16.95; three courses, �19.95.

 

VerdictFood and drink –10/10.Service – 9/10.Value for money – 10/10 for that great set menu!