Rooting for Roots
PUBLISHED: 05:42 09 February 2015 | UPDATED: 07:30 09 February 2015
It’s a coffee house, a café, a bistro and a celebration of Norfolk food, writes reviewer Rowan Mantell.
Roots began as a farm shop, bistro and coffee house, but it’s the café and restaurant aspect of the business which has really taken off. By day the Grade Two listed corner building on Pottergate houses a thriving café and bistro. It’s no longer a farm shop but remains true to its ethos of celebrating local produce, with much of the menu created from fantastic Norfolk ingredients.
In the evening the mood changes, although the friendly atmosphere remains, and Roots becomes a restaurant with rooms over three floors. It’s popular – we had to book almost a week ahead for a reservation on a Saturday evening, and even then there was just a small table on the ground floor available.
Shown to our table we were able to choose from the winter set menu (two courses for £25.50 or three for £31.50, although these prices are discounted for lunches and weekday evenings) and the café menu.
The aforementioned figs dish, on the set menu, made up my mind, although the cauliflower and truffle oil soup with Norfolk Dapple cheese straw sounded great too, and there were also options of smoked salmon, or pork, chicken and bacon based starters too.
Mussels were wooing my husband over to the café menu, where his first decision was between ordering them for a starter or main course (not both, although our friendly waiter told the story of a customer who so loved the marvellous molluscs that he enjoyed a two-for-one deal all by himself).
Instead Howard chose a Scotch egg to start, and mussels for his main course. It almost goes without saying that the Scotch egg was as far from the orange-crumbed spheres sold in supermarket chill cabinets as Scotland is from Norfolk. A Roots’ Scotch egg begins with a local duck egg which is served warm and surrounded by tender pork and apple, with a perfectly crisped crust, and accompanied by parsnip puree and raddichio.
Roots rightly prides itself on its Norfolk roots. Many eateries vaguely waft the words “locally sourced” across their menus, but at Roots there is a large blackboard on one wall with a map of Norfolk chalked up. It shows where many of the ingredients, combined so beautifully on your plate, were grown or made. There is meat from Norfolk farms; fish and shellfish from its seas; salads from Newton Flotman, near Norwich; flour from Letheringsett, near Holt; breads from the golden triangle in Norwich; cheese from Wighton, near Wells and from Honingham, near Norwich, and wine, beer and lager all from Norfolk too.
Of course, the transformation of these ingredients into something amazing is the main work of a restaurant and here Roots is particularly good.
My warmed figs, Norfolk honey and Binham Blue cheese, served with a garnish of coffee sauce, was simple but worked beautifully. For my main course I had a baked root vegetable and Norfolk Mardler goats cheese wellington, with a slow roasted tomato salad. The wellington was a rich and hearty pie and would have been perfect with a few new potatoes or chips. Luckily my husband’s huge bowl of mussels, in a particularly moreish wine, parsley and cream sauce, came with a hefty bowl of potato wedges, plus bread, so I was able to help him out.
Payback came with the pudding, when I possibly suggested I would share my trifle of clementines, crumbled amaretti biscuits and mascarpone topped with a dark chocolate straw. That was when I became grateful for the rather harsh acoustics of the room. Earlier I had wondered whether some softer furnishings would absorb some of the noise, and Howard would have welcomed a more muted light in the entrance bar he was facing, but perhaps the glare and the noise confused him when he thought I might let him have more than a taste of that truly terrific trifle . . .
He finished with a coffee, and our overall bill came to just under £70, including drinks (wines and cider, rooted in Norfolk and Suffolk respectively, obviously.)
Roots, 6 Pottergate, Norwich, NR2 1DS; 01603 920788; www.rootsnorwich.co.uk