Reviewed in Feast issue 37 – June 2019
Following a fire in the kitchen in January, the restaurant at the Theatre Royal in Norwich has been redeveloped.
Now called Prelude, there is more of a contemporary feel, although the new interiors very much hark back to the glory days of the 1930s, when the theatre was built.
The decor is light and airy – the open pass and serving counter have gone and it is waiter service now. There is a great wooden floor, dramatic lighting, lots of big plants and a selection of Richard Matthews illustrations of items from the theatre’s archives, and old photographs.
It does, says Stephen Crocker, the theatre’s chief executive, have to be a theatre restaurant first and foremost, but there is a desire to appeal to the community at large.
As such, the restaurant will open six days a week, Monday to Saturday, from 9.30am to 8pm – regardless of whether shows are on or not.
It has, obviously, a very handy city centre spot so is great for a pit stop if you are out shopping or want to escape from your office for lunch or an after work treat. And the menu reflects this with coffees, cakes and pastries available in the morning, light bites and a set two or three course lunch, afternoon snacks, and then set meals in the evening, too. It is geared towards theatre-goers and you can do that rather clever trick of having a starter and main before your show begins and then use your table for a pud and coffee (or something stronger) at the interval. I thought that sounded very jolly indeed!
Stephen Wright, hospitality manager, describes the food as modern British, saying that seasonal dishes, using local ingredients, are at the forefront of the restaurant’s rebirth. Local products include goats’ cheese from Fielding Cottage at Honingham, between Norwich and Dereham, vegetables from wholesaler Accent Fresh in King’s Lynn and meat from DJ Barnard in Shropham, near Attleborough.
The menu is short and accessible and, interestingly, will also change to reflect the shows. I can only imagine what sort of chocolate cake might feature when the Roald Dahl classic, Matilda, arrives this summer!
My husband and I had a morning looking around the Viking exhibition at the Castle Museum and Art Gallery before heading to the theatre for lunch. There are two courses for £16 and three courses for £20, plus various hot and cold sandwiches, pizzas and salads, all coming in at under a tenner.
We, however, went for the set menu options and I started with a super fresh pea and broad bean soup which was light and tasty. Himself had grilled goats’ cheese with asparagus (what else at this time of year?) and a hazelnut crumble which was rich and creamy.
For a main, I went for pesto roast chicken with herby mash and a buttery chive sauce, which came with tomato and courgettes, and was filling and flavoursome; fresh herbs are always a sign that summer is here.
He had a steak burger, with all the trimmings, including skinny fries and the ever popular brioche bun. It almost beat him but he dug deep and defeated it!
We could have had extra side dishes at £3 each, such as a selection of vegetables, but didn’t really think that we needed them.
I, typically, managed a pudding and opted for a white chocolate panna cotta with a blackcurrant gel and brandy snaps which was my favourite course and disappeared rather quickly. There was also a rhubarb Bakewell tart, and a cheese board with local cheeses including Norfolk Dapple.
I enjoyed a glass of Canoe Ridge rosé from America during my meal which was an easy drinking number, perfect for the daytime, while he enjoyed a fiery ginger beer, and we both rounded off our meals with coffee. Carafes of water are provided on each table, too.
The staff, on trend in skinny jeans and white tops and trainers, are very friendly and proud of their shiny new restaurant. They are happy to offer advice and I overheard some dishes being swapped about to suit tastes and dietary requirements.
All profits go back into the theatre, to support learning and participation programmes and work on stage, Mr Crocker added.