PUBLISHED: 12:24 16 May 2013 | UPDATED: 12:24 16 May 2013
It was back to Wymondham for me this month. How times - and roads - have changed!
Meet the chef
Jonathan Griffin, chef/proprietor
Jonathan started working with his mother in her kitchen when he was knee-high and worked at The Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth, part time, while at school. He left North Walsham High at just 14, determined to be a chef and joined Green Farm as well as doing a year at Yarmouth College catering department. He stayed as a permanent chef for three years at the Farm, moving up to be a chef de partie, after which he joined The Mirabelle Restaurant. A return to Green Farm followed as well as time at Stowe Grange in Drayton. When Number 24 came up and Jonathan took the big move into chef/patron world. He has been there for 10 years now - no mean feat - and his ambition is to stay, modelling himself on his chef hero Marco Pierre White.
I started there as Adlard’s on Damgate Street, now a one-way with speed bumps though till a narrow side-street. Before my time, incredibly this was the A11 route, which has moved twice and now leaves a quaint town not overburdened with through traffic.
I had three butchers there in the old days, with one excellent vegetable shop on the main street, and I used to queue up to buy my fresh goods. But one lonely butcher is still there, although I believe the rest have disappeared.
Number 24 is still being muddled up as my old place, but Adlard’s is now a domestic house and 24 was started after I had long gone, by Richard Hughes. He, of course, moved on to the Lavender House in Brundall, when Jonathan Griffin took over as chef-patron.
They now take 50 covers, four times my timidly set original covers, and it seems a busy and successful restaurant. My January visit, normally time for a dip in trading, saw the restaurant looking forward to a very busy Friday and full house on Saturday night.
Lunchtime on Friday was reasonably quiet, though our visit did coincide with a large number of women and one fellow male. One party arrived by bus from Beccles, which speaks volumes for the restaurant’s reputation and concessionary bus tickets for pensioners (which, by the way, I have myself!)
The “mise-en-scène” was not cutting edge, but veered towards cottagey mingled with funky muzak interspersed with some classical offerings - rather puzzling.
The menu is Prix Fixe, with five choices for each course, slightly more expensive in the evening but good value all the way through.
Excellent “in-house” warm rolls arrived, which reminded me that I should cut down salt in my diet. Good for my pallet but maybe too much for other tastes.
My starter could be rated as a deviation of the world’s finest sandwich or an over-rated Parisian café cliché. It was simple, although many recipes have been weaved around the iconic dish. In this one, smoked salmon was introduced instead of ham for the Croque Monsieur I chose and the fish and melted cheese were mounted on a round of very good, crisp bread.
Da chose home cured salt beef with wasabi, relatively more complex in preparation and delivery. Wasabi has a hot taste akin to and in the family of horseradish and should be a feature of the dish, and so disappoints. My research tells me that the strong flavour is dissipated when it is grated, and so maybe it was not prominent at all in the dish.
Again, on my main course, sauté of breast of chicken, there were several tastes which escaped me: Crushed lemons, rosemary potatoes and Parmesan mornay sauce. Maybe the dish was bland or my palate was not fine-tuned to detect them.
The fish main course chosen by Da, grilled fillet of sea bream, tapenade and sauce vierge, was an overwhelmingly taste of garlic. Maybe the tapenade has garlic in the recipe and, of course, in sauce vierge but where were the fresh herbs? An element of that within a “virgin sauce” is mandatory, with tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil.
Bang on for the simple vanilla panacotta - some chefs are seduced into using more gelatin to make the set more firm and fool-proof. Again Grand Marnier iced meringue based on frozen soufflé was worked well through with meringue shards interspersed in the iced medium. Good to eat!
And after that? Old times – shopping in Wymondham, especially in that rather good clothes shop opposite the restaurant, Middletons.
Prix fixe menu
£25.95 for three courses for dinner
£17.50 for three-course lunch
£15.50 for two course lunch
Number 24, Middleton Street, Wymondham, NR18 OAD; 01953 607750; www.number24.co.uk