Our wine writer, Andy Newman is very much a good friend to Feast. He’s been with us since the start – three years now – but a personal friend for much longer. He’s a terrific ambassador for the magazine, writes us a cracking column (almost always late) and is a calm and reassuring voice of reason – someone often asked for advice which he provides willingly and sensibly.
And he’s a fab dining companion. Obviously he chooses the wine, and plenty of it, but you get a witty and downright gossipy couple of hours, too.
We opted for Roger Hickman’s for our traditional Christmas lunch, billed as a serious forward planning meeting but actually a time to just kick back a little and natter.
We both know the restaurant well and appreciate its fine dining with a light touch. It is a comfy place, plenty of space between the tables, and the sort of service I like – they tend to leave you alone, with none of that constant ‘everything ok?’ that can be a bit draining.
I’m a fan of decent lunches out. You get great food at reasonable prices, you don’t have to book months in advance and you rarely need tea that day!
Roger Hickman is one of our treasures – a very straightforward soul, with no airs and graces, and his city centre restaurant is entering its ninth year. He’s celebrating this month by opening his new private dining room on the first floor, complete with its own cookery demonstration area. I’ve had a sneak preview and very stylish it is, too.
But back to the menu. The festive lunch offered up two courses for £33 and three courses for £38 (after Christmas the lunchtime menu reverted to its usual £23 and £28) and, as Roger is a big fan of seasonal, local produce, plenty is dished up. Think beetroot, venison, partridge, cranberries and more.
After a glass of fizz and a pretty little amuse bouche of spicy cauliflower, I went for the beetroot and goats’ cheese salad which saw fluffy goats’ cheese from Fielding Cottage, just outside Norwich, plus beetroot, served three ways. I heard the word dehydrated which could have been about my complexion. But it was interesting, with different textures and plenty of tangy sharpness. Basically, my kind of dish.
Andy went for the roasted wild duck, from Shotesham estate, south of Norwich, served with deep fried egg yoke and cabbage.The deep, red richness of the wild duck breasts promised – and delivered – a gamey hit of flavour which was perfect for a cold winter’s day.
We both went for sea bream with a Parmesan risotto, fennel and mussels, which was another light, beautifully colourful dish, with a generous piece of pan fried fish, plenty of deep fried mussels and roasted carrots.
Finally I went for the clementine and cranberry trifle which had more than a hint of something naughty. Brandy would be my guess but Roger is never one to share too much detail about his dishes. Andy, a keen cook himself, went for the Christmas pudding parfait, which was perfectly matched with ginger and cinnamon; a lovely, light lunchtime alternative to the full pudding and brandy cream.
Now, I bet you’re wondering what we drank? Well, Andy selected a 2016 La Giustiniana, Gavi di Gavi Lugarara from Piemonte in Italy, with notes of floral, lime citrus and lemon and it slipped down very nicely indeed. I’ll be looking out for that one again.
So despite the real possibility that our lunch could have got very messy indeed, this is far too civilised a place for any poor behaviour. Rather you relax, enjoy fine food and wine and, in this case, lovely company.
Reviewed in Feast issue 33 – February 2019