There’s a lot of hype surrounding Benedicts amongst food lovers in Norfolk. It’s no surprise when you consider the pedigree of Chef and Owner, Richard Bainbridge. He learned under culinary giants at some of the UK’s top restaurants before going on to win, and later judge, Great British Menu. In 2015 Richard and wife, Katja, opened Benedicts in Norwich. Here’s my review.
I knew before I even set foot in the door at Benedicts that we were going to choose the all-bells-and-whistles, eight course tasting menu with the wine pairing. It was my birthday (week) after all… This is one of the restaurants I’ve been most looking forward to visiting this year. A quick open of Google gives away how high my hopes were for this meal…
Benedicts has the same kind of vibe inside as places like Robin’s Gill The Manor (now Sorella). The focus is all on inventive food and service done well but without the stuffiness and formalities that can accompany the traditional places offering tasting menus. There’s no white tablecloths in sight and the inside is candelit and cosy. (Again, candlelight doesn’t make for good photos so apologies!)
On our table was a birthday card signed by the team and Bainbridge, a very nice touch.
I’m not going to go through every single dish in detail because part of the magic of Benedicts’ tasting menu is some of the surprises that come along the way. Items that sound ordinary on the menu are brought to life with clever twists and phenomenal flavours.
We started with bread and “snacks” which included homemade crisps, a confit duck, mustard seed and damson bite, and a rice crisp topped with burnt onion powder, salmon roe, shallot rings, and a sherry mousse which packed a strong hit of sherry.
The shepherds pie was the best I’ve ever had. I don’t know what kind of wizardry went into transforming something as homely as shepherds pie into a rich, umami, tasting-menu-worthy dish but it was sublime!
For the “main” course you could choose between venison and cod with a champagne and chive sauce – so we shared both. The venison with liquorice, elderberries, and chocolate was another stand out plate. The venison wasn’t overly livery in flavour and the liquorice wasn’t overpowering. The cod was lovely too, but the venison stole the show.
The infamous (apparently, I didn’t actually watch it!) Great British Menu winning “Nanny Bush’s trifle” with milk jam didn’t disappoint either.
Another nice personal touch from the team with my zesty orange champagne sabayon dessert. That clementine sorbet was beautifully fresh and the whole dessert was light.
Adam, the General Manager, deserves a special mention. That he knows his stuff isn’t a shock – he has an equally impressive restaurant heritage working underneath Gordon Ramsey, Heston and at Jason Atherton’s City Social (which I reviewed last year). Not only was he incredibly knowledgeable about each wine pairing, the fondness with which he described the stories behind the plates summed up everything I loved about Benedicts. Nothing was pretentious, nothing was too formal, and everything felt personal. All of the other staff were brilliant too, and none of them faltered when I asked them questions about specifics on the plate.
I honestly don’t know how Benedicts doesn’t have a Michelin star yet. Everything about the meal was outstanding and, bar a few crumbs staying on the table, I can’t see any reason for them not to have one.
The food was inventive but not ostentatious and the personal touches woven throughout the meal really make the experience special.
For me, it’s been my favourite restaurant in Norfolk for an occasion so far. I think the value is brilliant at £62 for the 8 course tasting menu and £39 for wine pairing. I can’t wait to return, (I’m sure it won’t be long).
Nearest car park: St Andrew’s multi-storey