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Benedicts Restaurant Review

Clearly the adult among the children

In recent years, Benedicts Street has become the Montmartre of Norwich. More pedestrianized than ever, this city side street has transformed from petrol-drenched thoroughfare to hipster promenade. Aside from the claggy doughballs of a lumbering Pizza Express (weirdly available to buy at any Supermarket) it hosts a cluster of well-to-do eateries, cocktail bars and Hipster coffee shops. Many locals think B-Street is becoming the beating heart of the city, and if my meal at Benedicts restaurant is anything to go by, then they are right! Wedged between a maisonette of bridal gowns, and the ceaseless chargrilled dragon’s breath of neighboring Haggle, Benedicts Restaurant cuts a discreet, understated figure.

The brainchild of award-winning chef Richard Bainbridge, a meal here is a carefully crafted and elegant affair. Firstly, the minimal signage and jet black facade instantly sets it apart from the competition. This is an eatery that knows its worth and clearly relishes being the city’s best kept secret. In essence, Benedicts is quietly whispering you across the street and through the door. It takes your coat, shoves several glasses of perfectly paired wine in your hand, and even offers to pick each course for you (via its rotating set menus) and what a pleasure it is to have all that chosen for you! In this age of endless, overwhelming choice – of what I call ‘Netflix Fugue’ – culinary concepts such as this matter more than ever. After all – they are the experts! Let them do the legwork!

But what of the food? Well, put simply, it’s stunning. Unfussy, flavor focused, and imaginatively put together. We begin with a ‘Tease’ course (of which the home-made mini-cheddar is a stand-out, as is the piggy twist on the traditional prawn cracker) before being whisked straight into a mop of sea-salt crusted bosom-bread and caramelized brown butter…imagine all the best things that perhaps a heart surgeon might warn you off…then imagine award winning chefs getting involved…well, that’s the Benedicts experience in a nutshell; Pleasure food done good.

Alongside the wholesome joy of the food, is a keen eye for understated theatrics – some courses arrive with a story card; explaining their origins in Richard’s past (such as the charming Sundowner – a course preceded by a sherry in a neat nod to the Chef Patron’s late grandparents nightly ritual.)

By the time the main course turns up – A quiver  inducing Blythburgh pork loin with turnip spaghetti, and walnut whip (no, not that kind!) –  we’ve already been perfectly primed by, not only, the snowballing flavors but the much appreciated lack of pretentiousness that radiates from the place. All staff – including the kitchen staff, interestingly – present a united front. Each dish is explained in brief, and with quiet confidence. Mercifully, the whole Benedicts experience lacks the all too standard snoot/artifice common in other restaurants of its ilk. Whilst the food itself sits firmly on the right side of experimental, the mood is equally chilled. Thankfully, instead of being wafted into some elite ‘Eating Room’ where each course is pitched like a management conference, this meal is more like being casually invited over to the Bainbridge’s family kitchen, and told to eat, drink and be merry.

A stand out aspect of the meal is the wine pairings. As a concept it incites much derision from the Meat’n’veg crowd, but I have a feeling that Benedicts could convert even the most cynical of cowardly Kumala drinkers with their boutique vino choices.

Each paired glass comes with a genuinely interesting potted backstory (I was particularly thrilled by the mutated Slovenian Pinot Grigio – look out Marvel!) and – as good pairings should – the wine made the food taste better!

By the time the Semifreddo Black Forest Gateau had turned up, I was very much hoping for Groundhog Day.

Alas, it was not to be; we found ourselves kicked back into the biting city streets, surrounded by the string of louder, brasher, more garish establishments. It’s clear that, at least in terms of norwich eateries, Benedicts is clearly an adult among the children.

Our writer was a guest of Benedicts, Norwich (Set menu £61, wine pairing £31)

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