People of Norwich, how many times have you walked past Orford Yard (the one opposite Debenhams) and barely even glanced inside – let alone noticed that there is a restaurant hiding in the shadows? I have walked past Chez Denis hundreds of times on my way to Looses Cookshop but I failed to notice it – until this week.
That’s because the restaurant was recently recommended to me by some very good friends who couldn’t have been more effusive in their praise. And while I am not a massive fan of West Indian food on the whole, I was keen to try it out based on their enthusiasm.
So, as a Friday treat, me and The Chap ventured in for lunch last week and were very pleasantly surprised.
The restaurant itself is tiny, with only a handful of tables to choose from, and we were greeted by Denis himself, who was working in the kitchen. Taking a table, we quickly chose jerk chicken with rice and peas from the lunch menu (if you’re going to judge West Indian food, this has to be the dish of choice, surely) and sat back to enjoy an hour’s respite from the office.
As we relaxed, we examined the vintage pictures of Norwich on the wall and tried to identify the buildings in various states of construction (it’s surprisingly entertaining, I promise), before being quickly presented with our meals. And there was lots of it. Two huge pieces of chicken breast with lots of sauce and sticky white rice. Each.
The flavours were exquisite. I have never had jerk chicken like it. Rich, complex, fruity and spicy. It wasn’t so hot it took the back of my head off, but was warm enough to leave my mouth a-glow with the taste. The chicken itself was surprisingly moist and tender too, which Denis explained was down to marinating the meat. It was perfectly complimented by the slight sweetness of the rich and peas, which soaked up the remaining sauce (if it hadn’t, I might have been tempted to lick the plate).
For £7.95, it was incredible value for money – I had so much to eat that I nearly needed a little nap to recover before going back to work. And it also appeared to be quite healthy because none of it seemed fried (don’t quote me on that though!).
Denis came over to chat for a bit too and it’s clear that he is incredibly passionate about the food he creates and the fact that everything is made in his kitchen – including the delicious carrot cake we shared for pudding. The reason everything is so good, he claims, is the freshness of his ingredients, which are all authentic.
Needless to say, I am eager to return to try the evening menu (especially the monkfish), but we were advised to book in advance because the little restaurant gets very busy on Friday and Saturday nights – and he only plans have one sitting per evening, so it’s unlikely you’ll get a table by walking in.
Can you recommend somewhere good to eat in Norwich? Let me know on Twitter, or leave a comment below.