When I received an invitation to try Warwick Street Social (WSS), it took me a minute to work out where it was. Isn’t Warwick Street off Unthank Road in Norwich? Isn’t there a pub already there?
Turns out there was. What was formerly known as the Mad Moose is now WSS – a hip bar and restaurant with new furnishing, decor and menu.
I recently went there with The Chap and was surprised at how nicely the Victorian pub had been done up – almost like a New York loft. With grey walls, exposed bulbs and wooden tables, it felt modern without being pretentious. The big bay windows at the front let in lots of light too, so it feels airy and spacious, especially on a warm summer evening.
We were greeted by Damo, one of the managers, who gave us a bit of background about the place, explaining that local Michelin Star chef Daniel Smith (soon to appear on the Great British Menu) is the the chef patron and consults on the menu. Plus, many of the ingredients are locally sourced.
While we chatted at the bar we perused the extensive drinks menu. Although there were lots of delicious sounding cocktails – like an Almond Old Fashioned – we opted for a glass of wine each (an appley, bright glass of Picpoul de Pinet le Rocher de Saint Victor, if you’re interested) before heading upstairs to eat.
On to the food…
The restaurant on the first floor is in keeping with downstairs, with wooden floors, dove-grey walls, black and white photos and Moroccan style tiles behind the bar. We took a table near one of the many windows and watched life in the Golden Triangle pass us by – it’s more entertaining than you might expect!
The menu is made up of tapas-style nibbles and main meals and there’s a lot to choose from. On this occasion, we asked Damo to surprise us with his favourite things from the menu, rather than try to choose for ourselves.
When he came returned with the food, he carefully explained what each of the dishes were and the providence of the ingredients. Many of the vegetables, for example, were grown at Tacon Farm in Rollesby.
My mouth started watering the moment I clapped eyes on these golden cubes of deep-fried cheese. With a crisp outer coating, the Baron Bigod cheese within was runny and rich. I nearly burned myself in my haste to eat them.
Honey and almonds had been scattered across the top and crisp little crackers sat alongside for serving. The sweetness of the honey complimented the gooey cheese perfectly, adding a hint of contrast, while the almonds added a new texture and subtle flavour to enhance the cheese.
Assiette of seafood
This feast featured some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten. The components of this dish changes dependent on what’s fresh, so you have to ask your waiter for the catch of the day when you order.
Ours featured smoked mackerel like I’ve never had before. Used to the leathery supermarket variety, this was mind-blowing. It was so tender and moist… Even if you don’t like mackerel, I recommend that you try it.
And then the fried, almost tempura, calamari melted in the mouth. I know that phrase is said a lot, but it really did. It was so fresh and so crisp that it almost dissolved on the tongue!
The crab pate was light and creamy, with mustard (and horseradish, I think!) giving it little pockets of flavour. And the king prawns were meaty and sweet – I’m making myself hungry just thinking about them.
Finally there was a delicate smoked salmon fillet and a crisp crab cake, which I begrudgingly shared with The Chap. They had a light potato mash which pared back the sweetness of the crab and carried the herbs and spices within.
Pork & cheese croquettes
These little balls of breaded pulled pork, ham hock and Monterey cheese were crisp and dense and moreish.
There were complex pork flavours with salty cheese and a crunchy coating. They were pretty moreish.
They were accompanied by a smooth, slightly sweet hummus and tahini. I wouldn’t have thought that would work from reading the menu, but the creaminess of the lentils really enhanced the coarse meat and crisp breadcrumbs.
We were warned by Damo that this might not be a good idea because I can’t resist fresh bread. Alas, we ignored him and ate the whole damn thing and couldn’t eat another mouthful.
The warm white bread was light, with a good crumb. It had been split open into four portions, with sweet, sticky onion marmalade between them. Then salty, crisp Marsh Pig pancetta had been laid across the top, which counterbalanced the sweetness of the onions perfectly. To be honest, I think that I’ll be ordering it every time I visit. It goes really well with a glass of wine!
Even though we were stuffed, Damo talked this dessert up to the point that we couldn’t resist it.
The top had a good snap as we dug in – it needed a fairly strong tap with a spoon to break. The light cream within was infused with fresh vanilla, mixing perfectly with the almost burnt caramel on top.
The green apple sorbet that was served with it perfectly cut through the rich cream and cleansed the palate, refreshing after eating so much bread!
By the time we left – several hours later – the place was buzzing, which was surprising considering it was a Monday evening. The atmosphere was relaxed and easy. We’ve decided that we’re going back to try the rest of the menu – especially the G&T ice lollies. We’re also intrigued by Sunday breakfast, so watch this space!
Location: Warwick Street Social, 2 Warwick Street, Norwich NR2 3LD
Disclaimer: I was invited to review Warwick Street Social in return for a meal.