A hotel restaurant might not be the obvious dining destination if you’re not staying at said hotel, but after trying the food at The Maids Head in Norwich’s historic Tombland, I’m extremely glad we let’s get off the beaten track.
When we first considered eating there, it was to sample their ‘casual dining’ offering in the newly opened Spring Courtyard. The prospect of ordering sandwiches, quiches or fish and chips however slipped our minds when we saw the tantalizing a la carte menu, so when we arrived we changed tact and pledged to invest a little more time and money in the experience.
The prospect of spending a few hours in the courtyard was certainly pleasant. The pretty hanging flowers and foliage, combined with sturdy but decorative heaters, provided a pleasant setting for a meal and as we had come straight from work on a Monday, by the time we settled in we were the only couple in the space as the most had chosen to eat inside the Wine Press restaurant instead. Having all that space to ourselves felt like real luxury, and we joked that we got a taste of celebrity life when they booked entire venues for an intimate meal – although to his credit, John Travolta seemed very happy to mingle with us locals on his recent visits to various Norfolk watering holes.
The menu (£36 for two courses, £45 for three) which tempted us away from our original plans offered such a delicious variety of dishes that my partner and I struggled to choose our starters. While we waited we were presented with a complimentary chef’s own amuse bouche, a small cup of sparkling broccoli and a concoction of stilton. It was something I would never have ordered, but it was absolutely delicious, light, indulgent and full of flavor. It gently reminded me of the potential benefits of stepping out of your culinary comfort zone.
What we finally decided to start was the homemade duck prosciutto, crispy egg yolk, celeriac remoulade, truffle vinaigrette and watercress for my partner, and I chose the dipped scallop by hand, the herb-stuffed chicken wing, chorizo mayonnaise and lemon vinaigrette. Both dishes were stunning when they arrived and I realized that it had been years since we had made the effort to have a truly special dining experience, and that impromptu visit to a hotel restaurant was turning into a.
Entrees were as good as they looked. My partner’s duck dish, which I eagerly tried when he offered me, was a wonderful balance of savory and citrusy flavors and I really enjoyed the range of textures, from egg yolk gooey with fresh and crunchy celeriac. My scallops were soft and delicate, which paired beautifully with the punchier flavors of the herb-stuffed chicken thigh and chorizo mayonnaise. The presentation and portion sizes were clever and left us anticipating the quality of the next course.
For his main course, my partner opted for the marinated beef sirloin, the braised brisket in crepinette, the mashed potatoes with brown butter, the tender stemmed broccoli, the horseradish emulsion, the marinated shallots and the jus au vin red. He really enjoyed the beef and described the cooking as “perfect”. Again I tried some of his food and it was the kind of dish that makes you breathe a sigh of contentment.
For my main course, I ordered seared cod, lobster tempura, saffron confit potatoes, braised fennel and lobster bisque. The bisque seemed to disappear somewhat as it poured, but nothing at all was missing from the dish. The cod was wonderfully flavorful and the fennel added a fresh, aromatic dimension. I’ve eaten saffron dishes before and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic, but it really worked here and the little piece of lobster tempura was sweet and luscious under the batter.
For our last course, my partner chose warm honey sponge, glazed fig, ginger biscuit and chestnut ice cream. He again generously gave me free rein to taste and it was a very good dessert – not too sweet and the spongy indulgence of the cake was complemented beautifully by the delicious, subtle chestnut ice cream.
Every dish we ate was luxurious, indulgent and memorable. I finished the meal with an excellent Norfolk cheese platter and felt completely satisfied.
The Spring Courtyard is an idyllic space to enjoy a meal, my partner and I have been together for a long time now but couldn’t help but feel like we were on a romantic date due to the lovely surroundings. You might not want to eat under the light cover in a thunderstorm, but on balmy evenings it’s perfect.
We were shown a full menu of wines, spirits and cocktails. I can’t imagine anyone couldn’t find something to their liking, but trying to keep the costs down a bit, we just got a large bottle of sparkling water for the table, which was very refreshing.
The food bill came to £90 which for three courses of this quality was quite a fair price. It was certainly a little more than what we usually spend on eating out, such as sparkling water, coffees and service charges, the total bill was over £100, but it was really the best food we have had in years and one night we will remember. I would definitely like to go back for a special occasion as I’m sure the food would be wonderful.
We were so overwhelmed by the food and the atmosphere that neither of us thought to check the toilets! The attention to detail and presentation of the rest of the hotel suggests that the toilets are at least perfectly adequate.
The main restaurant seemed accessible and the hotel has wheelchair accessible rooms, but the spring courtyard itself may need a bit of remodeling for guests who use wheelchairs, as if there were many of tables available when we went, they were quite packed together. it took a bit of maneuvering at some tables to remove the chairs.
Our hostess was very friendly, quick and attentive without being intrusive at all. We couldn’t have asked for better service, we never waited and wouldn’t have bothered if we were in such pleasant surroundings.
Learning to eat such a special meal on a mundane Monday night.
If you like it, try these…
The Hexagon, Norwich
High quality French cuisine.
Frizz & Cheese, Wroxham
A cheese lover’s paradise.
The King’s Arms, Reepham
A typical Norfolk pub.
Our food opinions are always independent. They are the opinion of the reviewer based on their experience of the place during their visit. The establishment is unaware of our visit, is not informed of our intention to write a review, and the bills are paid by the reviewer. The choice of places reviewed is also independent and not based on places that do or do not advertise in our publications.