Roger Hickman’s Norwich
The Vanilla Reader Review
There’s a very good reason why you need to book ahead (well ahead, if truth be known) if you’re thinking of dining at Roger Hickman’s Restaurant on Upper St Giles Street. Several reasons in fact.
Rated 1 for food in the 2013 Hardens Guide, recent winner of a third AA rosette (no other restaurant in the city has more than two), regional winner of the Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year 2012, and winner of a county-wide Restaurant of the Year Award two years running – it’s fair to say Roger Hickman’s has built something of a reputation for fine dining.
Open from Tuesday to Saturday for lunch (12-2.30pm) and dinner (7-10pm), Roger Hickman’s offers a lunchtime and table d’hote menu – together with tasting menus for both sittings. Available online, we actually perused the dining options before we arrived.
The restaurant itself successfully balances a degree of formality (ensuring dinner becomes an event rather than simply a meal out) with a relaxed and friendly ambience – ably stage-managed by front-of-house, whose virtuoso performance and in-depth knowledge were quite remarkable.
To start, I chose the Heirloom Carrot Salad, with Yoghurt Curd, Ginger and Caraway, while my dining partner decided on the Crab Salad with Avocado, Pickled Cucumber and Dill.
Now, it’s a truism that for far too long, far too many restaurants have laboured under the assumption that a menu should read as it were written by a hybrid of Virginia Woolf and Stephen Hawking. It’s all very well having your main courses read like contenders for the Man Booker Prize, but it does tend to raise expectations to a point at which they’re unlikely to be unfulfilled.
Not so at Roger Hickman’s, where the food not only over delivers on the menu’s promise, but effortlessly surpasses it.
Laced with exquisitely flavoured puffed rice and sprinkled with Nasturtium petals, my partner’s crab salad was an astonishingly accomplished feast of flavours, each one of which managed to hold its own.
Similarly, my unassuming-sounding carrot salad was so creative, so delicious and so delicately textured, it really deserved to have a grander name.
Happily, our main courses lived up to the wondrous first act. I opted for the Roasted Globe Artichoke with Wild Mushrooms, Israeli Couscous and Truffle Puree, while my partner (once they could stop enthusing over the crab salad) chose the Grilled Sea Bream with Wild Garlic, Salt Cod and Sprouting Broccoli.
Both dishes were visually stunning, and offered a contrasting melange of truly striking flavours without being over-fussy.
Although we’d already decided to follow the 2-course route, we couldn’t help taking the odd glance as a selection of beautiful desserts passed us by. As you may well have gathered by now – they sounded marvellous on the menu, but they look outstanding on the plate. I’m sure they tasted just as good as they looked.
Accompanying our meals were a glass of the dark and smoky 2012 El Campesino Cabernet Sauvignon (just one of the many notable wines available by the glass) and a glass of Best Bitter (CAMRA’s overall Champion Beer of Norfolk 2011) from Alburgh’s own Grain Brewery.
Although the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the sheer quality of the food, running a close second was the moment when Roger Hickman himself visited each table, giving us the opportunity to express our thanks and genuine appreciation for what was a truly magnificent meal. Surely that fourth rosette can’t be far away now?
£34 Two Courses
Tuesday – Saturday
Lunch: 12pm – 2.30pm