Cast Iron Grill SHOWS ITS METTLE
This month DOMINIC CASTLE runs the rule over Sprowston Manor’s popular grill restaurant
WHEN I was an inky schoolboy, the woodwork shack had a motto nailed up; a contraction of a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it said: ‘The Supreme Excellence is Simplicity.’
I suppose it was put up to temper the ambitions of any 14-year-olds who thought they were the next Thomas Chippendale, but unlike much of what I was taught at school, those five words stuck fast and, in a ever more complicated and fast-paced world, have ever more resonance. It was certainly a phrase that popped into my mind when we dined at Sprowston Manor’s Cast Iron Grill.
Here you will find no foams, airs or bonbons; that is certainly not to say that the menu is dull, but that it is not writing cheques that the kitchen cannot cash. We arrived a touch early – really early – in fact we sat alone in the handsome grill room for a while as aperitifs were imbibed and the card perused.
I opened my account with three fat scallops on a puree of spinach. They were beautifully cooked, if a pinch over-seasoned, and the crisp pancetta added a nice texture. The present Mrs Castle chose Severn and Wye smoked salmon, which came with beetroot, watercress and toasted hazlenuts and was
delightfully sweet, soft and well-flavoured.
To the main course and, skipping over the Burger and Handhelds section of the menu, I decided to max out with a fillet steak and see what mettle the Cast Iron had when it came to premium beef. The answer was pretty good; the fillet was thick and cooked just about spot-on, perhaps just below the mediumrare ordered but not enough to warrant a return to the grill. The accompaniments were fine, with old-school fries rather than those faddy, cheffy chips which are for me too often waxy and un-chiplike.
Mrs C took the full veggie route with a pumpkin squash ravioli; tough ingredients to get a whole lot of flavour or texture out of but a side of spinach and some pine nuts helped. It was a trencherman’s portion too, so a few envelopes of pasta were returned unopened to allow space for some pud.
She chose honeycomb cheesecake with a salted caramel ice cream, a good choice, she affirmed, when a big wedge was placed in front of her. It was creamy and sweet with a nice crunch to the honeycomb.
I was seduced by the toffee and ginger skillet pudding, with vanilla ice cream rather than the suggested banana variety. The waitress, a happy soul who clearly enjoys her work, warned me not to touch the hot skillet and it was a full seven seconds or so before I did, but no lasting harm was done.
The pud was a very fine thing, with plenty of fiery stem ginger chunks and a rich toffee sauce, the right way to end a meal on a chilly evening when the wind was whipping the rain against the restaurant windows.
And while we started the evening as Mr and Mrs Billy No Mates the place was a positive hubbub by the time our bill came, so this is clearly a very popular destination (and from our experience certainly worth booking early). That bill was a not insubstantial £90, though that was with the priciest starter and main course; we had also been very tempted by the Wine and Dine menu which offered three courses for two people, plus a bottle of wine, for a sovereign under £60. Excellent value.