Healthy house rules
From the PLANTS around the doorway, to the flower wall in the entrance hall, you just know that Erpingham House is going to be an altogether attractive proposition as a place to eat. And not just because it offers a 100 per cent plant based menu, something which is appealing to more and more people these days.
It opened in the summer, by founder Loui Blake. After adopting a plant-based diet whilst living in London and travelling the world, he decided to open a venue that could offer the same foods and drinks he’d fallen in love with, back in his home city.
Apparently, it’s the largest plant-based restaurant in the UK, boasting ground-floor café, second-floor restaurant and third-floor bar across the historic Grade II listed building in the heart of Tombland. The building dates back to 1890 and was originally a home to the Erpingham family, before more recently trading as a steak restaurant – talk about going from one extreme to another.
The upstairs restaurant is an upmarket affair, with a chic interior featuring pink banquet seating and a beautifully lit ‘tree’ in the middle of the main room – Norwich-based designers Berrys and Grey had a hand in it all. We were shown to a table underneath the tree, and it felt as though we were about to dine under the stars.
If the artwork is anything to go by, the mission statement is very much to ‘live life on the veg’ and to let food be thy medicine. Talking of which, Rachael was feeling post viral and so chose a mellow margarita alcohol free cocktail (£4.99) to kick off the evening – a very ‘now’ drinking choice.
I, on the other hand, had an alcohol full margarita (£9.99). There was a slight delay on the arrival of our drinks order, but the helpful staff were very apologetic – to be fair it was busier than we were expecting it to be, midweek. Erpingham House is big on cocktails – and Champagne, judging by the numerous bottles lined up behind the bar. My margarita certainly packed a punch, with Patrón Silver tequila, agave, and lime juice – and the rim of the glass encrusted with sea salt and chilli flakes.
The new executive chef is Jon Devine-Gay, formerly executive chef at Jimmy’s Farm and also of Jon Gay Food Cookery School, so he has great credentials. For starters, I had the Roasted Baby Carrots (£6.50), which came with spiced red lentils, coconut yoghurt, and coriander oil. Jon and the team had managed to spice up this humble vegetable in style. The flavours were highly complementary and it was beautifully presented – the drizzled coriander oil had a fine dining flourish about it.
Rachael had the Vietnamese Raw Vegetable Salad, for medicinal purposes no doubt, and it came with roasted peanuts and burnt lime (she wasn’t quite sure what to do with the lime apart from give it a good squeeze).
Our mains were big bowlfuls of healthy goodness. I had the Cashew Jackfruit Korma (£13), with jasmine rice, sticky mango chutney and naan bread. I chose it because I’d heard that jackfruit had become the new avocado in vegan restaurants, and a nutritious hit with plant-based eaters, cropping up in curries and the like. It was very filling – would I have room for dessert?
Rachael had the Big Bad Nacho Bowl (£12), with coconut and kidney bean chilli, tortilla chips, sour cream and guacamole. The verdict was it was tastier than the meat version. Apparently, Loui has spent time in Mexico City, which might explain the Mexican influenced menu.
It turns out that we did just about have room for dessert. For me, it had to be 70s-sounding Banana Split. Again it was beautifully presented, and was quite rich, with both vanilla ice cream and whipped coconut cream, as well as caramel sauce.
Rachael had the Chocolate Brownie (£6.95), with dark chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream, as she was intrigued as to how a plant-based brownie would compare. It looked suitably decadent, and, as it turned out, she couldn’t taste the difference – and you can’t say fairer than that, can you?
Oh, and do check out the Xmas menu, complete with ‘The Roast’ and Christmas pudding and vanilla custard.
Reviewed in Feast issue 32 – December 2018