Making Their Debut
Seeing as I have the pleasure of writing about City College Norwich each month, it was surely only a matter of time before I booked a table at Debut Restaurant.
The fine dining restaurant, run by students and staff at the internationally renowned Hotel School, offers an altogether different dining option in the city.
It’s open for lunch or an evening meal, and is a chance for diners to discover, first-hand the standards set by the catering and hospitality courses, aiming to set the bar as being one of the best restaurants you will find anywhere in Norfolk.
We went on a Wednesday (it’s open for dinner from Tuesday to Thursday), to experience the five course Taster Menu. The dinners are prepared by the Advanced Craft students under the guidance of experienced chef lecturers, (the chef running the show is the inspirational James Phillippo) whilst the front of house is managed by experienced restaurant lecturers.
The idea is, you arrive sometime between 7pm and 7.30pm, and enjoy the five-courses, all for £19.95 per person, so clearly good value for money at the outset.
First impressions are that the attention to detail is really quite something here, with various wine glasses cutting a swathe across the tables, and so it seemed churlish not to have a glass of wine with our meal!
The wine list has been created with the support of Adnams, and so I had a large glass of their Chilean Pinot Grigio (£5.50), whereas my partner had a large glass of Argentinian Escondido Malbec (£6). This is a fully licensed restaurant and, if you so wish, you can also go in for some arrivals drinks, such as a glass of Adnams Prosecco, to kick things off.
Just as opening times can change due to curriculum demands, the menu doesn’t necessarily need to be taken as read. For example, instead of canapes, we enjoyed a splash of mushroom soup soaked up with warm bread rolls.
The front of house staff all work hard – the bread tongs proved tricky for one of our waiters but the thing about dining at Debut is that you end up willing these young students on.
The starter was hot smoked salmon for my partner, with curls of cucumber, marinated potatoes, and brown shrimps – all declared fully flavoursome by him. This is aspirational fine dining, a case of quality over quantity, and everything is beautifully presented. There’s always a vegetarian course available, so I opted for the tomato and mozzarella terrine, a vertiginous take on that classic Italian starter.
The next course was a Pimm’s sorbet, which was refreshing on the palate and you could really taste the al fresco favourite.
As for the main course, my partner had Ballotine of corn fed chicken, with braised chicken pie, glazed carrot and beetroot relish. The pie looked interesting, coming as it did in a teeny-weeny saucepan. I had a simple caramelised onion tart, but with those same tasty carrots, and a strident smearing of that beetroot relish across the plate.
Now, I’m a fan of frangipane, so was pleased to see that I was getting an almond version for dessert, with poached peaches, and crème diplomat - this really hit the spot.
Finally, our waitress came armed with a wooden tray of petit fours. Split into 12 sections, this prompted a bit of kid in a sweet shop moment for me. In fact, I’d happily have devoured one of each (there were honeycomb, white chocolate fudge, Turkish Delight, mint dark chocolate, rum truffles, strawberry mini meringues - need I go on?), but apparently the idea is you just choose three! However, my tasty trio was rather rich so I guess they know best.
All-in-all, the Five Course Tasting Menu at Debut Restaurant is a real experience to savour, whilst the stars of tomorrow are getting some valuable experience under their belts.
• The restaurant will be open until December 15, when it serve its final Christmas lunch, and then will reopen for business as usual on January 9.
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