Restaurant review: Dial House, Reepham

Dry-aged beef (photo: Simon Finlay)

Dry-aged beef (photo: Simon Finlay) - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

After testing the patience of the Dial House team with more reservation changes than is usually considered acceptable, we had high hopes of a meal to match

Hake with brown shrimp (photo: Simon Finlay)

Hake with brown shrimp (photo: Simon Finlay) - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

You can usually get a decent feel for a restaurant when you call to make a booking. Are they bright, cheerful, accommodating and friendly? (Without getting to the irritating ‘see you guys on Friday!’ stage of over-familiarity.)

How about the second time you call, when you want to change the booking? And the third? What about the fourth? If they’re still being nice to you that’s a good sign.

So it was with the Dial House in Reepham. Their reservations sheet must have been a mess after our fumbled attempts to book a table, but we managed in the end and so pitched up on a midweek evening to a surprisingly (to us) full restaurant.

Cherry and pistachio cake (photo: Simon Finlay)

Cherry and pistachio cake (photo: Simon Finlay) - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

The Dial House, a handsome edifice overlooking the market place, has been in business for years but was taken over in spring by chef Richard Jones and partner Hannah Springham, who also have Farmyard in Norwich.

They have brought a new vim to the place, while maintaining some of the little eccentricities that have made a name among the locals – such as the legendary squash court toilets and the fact that pretty much everything is for sale.

Should you wish, you could walk out with a full stomach and an empty wallet, clutching a couple of nice cushions, or a rococo mirror or even a sideboard. Fun times, if you like shopping. I don’t particularly, but that was of no moment as we were there to eat.

Norfolk lavender brulee (photo: Simon Finlay)

Norfolk lavender brulee (photo: Simon Finlay) - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

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It is a frequent grumble of Mrs C that the options for the non meat-eater in even our better restaurants can be a bit feeble.

This evening, though, she eyed the card with some enthusiasm and took the vegetable root (sorry) to start with Eve’s Hill turnip, hen of the woods mushroom, mozzarella and cobnut. It was a bit of veggie heaven, she declared, a fine blend of flavours and textures, setting her up nicely for the next course.

Hake is finding a home on more and more menus as a sustainable, and flavoursome, fish. Chuck on some brown shrimp, smoked butter and serve with celeriac and cavolo nero and you have a net winner. Pun intended.

Eve's Hill turnips (left) and wild rabbit starters (right) (photo: Simon Finlay)

Eve's Hill turnips (left) and wild rabbit starters (right) (photo: Simon Finlay) - Credit: Simon Finlay Photography

As I was off the leash, in a manner of speaking, I went full carnivore. Rabbit is a nice test for a kitchen; it can be fiddly to prepare and will dry out if allowed to but the Dial House brigade handled my wild rabbit, smoked bacon, heritage carrot and polenta starter with care. It was very fine, moist and balanced and, like everything we were served, seasoned just so.

Bucked by the opener, I approached the dry-aged beef main course with a little bit of a song in the old heart. I would have sung too, if I wasn’t busy eating. It’s a confident restaurant that gives you a blunt knife to cut your beef with but it was tender enough to have been sliced with a spoon.

I get a bit eye-rolly when I see hispi cabbage on the menu; not least because in my experience too often it looks and tastes like it was dragged out of a bonfire, but the offering here was sweet, lightly charred and greeted the beef-fat potato like an old friend. Uncomplicated food, delivered with brio.

We paused before dessert while Mrs C tried to read the price tags on the décor without leaving the table. When eyes fell to the menu she nodded assent at cherry, pistachio cake, sour cream and a curve ball flavour; liquorice. All was good and the liquorice apparently made a welcome contribution to the party.

I’ve a curious attraction for flowery tastes (I used to pinch mum’s floral gum sweets when I was a nipper) and Norfolk lavender crème brulee, rye, yoghurt and blackberry spoke to me. When it came, it spoke very quietly about the lavender, which was a slight shame but too little is better than too much when it comes to something which could end up tasting like a bar of Auntie Clare’s soap and it was still a delight, so I didn’t mind.

I didn’t mind the bill either; £75 for two with drinks is quite acceptable for the quality on offer. Mind you it could have been a lot more if Mrs C had bought that little sideboard…

Our review visits are unannounced and we pay for our meals.

The Dial House, Reepham, NR10 4JJ

01603 879900.

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