Thursday, 2 February 2017

St Andrew's Brew House - Norwich

It’s surprising that given the number of trips I’ve made up to Norfolk (certainly during the past decade), that I’ve made very few visits to the county town of Norwich. Even more telling is that apart from very recently, most of the forays I have made into the city have been by car, leaving precious little opportunity for exploring Norwich’s many pubs. Given the city’s rich heritage of pubs, and the wide variety of beers available – post Watney’s, this is a shame, and a situation that was only rectified three years ago, when I attended the 2013 CAMRA Members’ Weekend (AGM), which was held in Norwich, with the conference proceedings taking place in the historic setting of the adjoined St Andrews and Blackfriars Halls.

Last weekend’s visit to Norfolk, primarily to visit my father, saw son Matthew and I staying at a hotel on the outskirts of Norwich, which meant we were able to spend an afternoon and evening in the city, and also return to a location opposite St Andrews and Blackfriars Halls.

We had walked passed St Andrew’s Brew House, last November, whilst on a previous trip into Norwich. On that occasion we had foolishly travelled into the city by car; something I strongly advise against doing on a Saturday afternoon. After sitting in traffic and hunting round for a parking spot, we had eventually found a place slightly outside of the city centre, and had noticed this relatively new (2015) establishment on our walk into central Norwich.

There wasn’t time to call in, on that occasion, but I had made a mental note and was determined to check the place out on our next visit. This time we wisely took the bus into Norwich, and with a special weekend “group return” ticket available for the bargain price of just £5 for the two of us, this really was the sensible way to travel. To start with we did a bit of a tour of Norwich’s two shopping centres (Chapel Field and Castle Mall); Matthew is something of a shopaholic, but then he does work in retail.

We had a brief look around the city afterwards, pausing to admire the impressive bulk of the 13th Century keep, which is all that remains of Norwich Castle. We eventually made our way down towards St Andrew’s Hall, but not before stopping for a quick look at the menu displayed outside the Belgian Monk; a Belgian inspired restaurant-cum-pub tucked away at the top of the hill, in Pottergate.

St Andrew’s Brew House occupies a prominent corner position, with the main bar area facing the busy St Andrew’s Street, whilst the restaurant section looks out across the pedestrianised area in front of the two halls. Both sections of the establishment have windows of clear glass, enabling potential customers to see what is going on inside, and how busy the place is.

The bar was busy, but not horrendously so, which meant we were served more or less straight away. There were four hand-pumped, house-brewed beers on offer, plus a couple of keg beers. The brewing kit was clearly visible behind a glass screen, to the far left of the bar. I went for the  4.6% IPA to start with, whilst Matthew opted for a pint of Amstel – some people have no taste!

After being served, we moved away from the bar, and headed round the corner towards the restaurant section, where a sign asked people to wait in order to be seated. Although this section seemed busy with diners, a pleasant young waitress found us a table for two, on the proviso we would vacate it by 7pm. As the time was only just after 5 o’clock I told her this would not be a problem. We sat ourselves down in the raised area towards the back, and studied the menu.

A "proper" pie
The homemade beef and ale pie caught my eye, as it did Matthew’s, but hedging my bets on the chance that this menu choice might not be a “proper pie”, I also marked the haddock and chips as my second choice. Fortunately the waitress allayed my fears as she knew exactly what I was refereeing to when I enquired if the pie was indeed “proper”. Yes it was, and it came highly recommended. This was good enough for me, and we placed our order. I went for mash potato with mine, whilst Matthew went for chips.

The pie was indeed excellent, being filling, hearty and satisfying, and good food called for another beer. This time I opted for the smooth and dark Porter, which at 4.8% ABV was an excellent accompaniment to my meal. We sat there finishing off our drinks, watching the various comings and goings, before departing, as agreed, some time before 7pm

I have to say I was very impressed with what we found at St Andrew’s Brew House. The beer and food, together with the knowledge and enthusiasm of the staff were second to none, and I will definitely be making a return visit.

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