Af­ter test­ing the pa­tience of the Dial House team with more reser­va­tion changes than is usu­ally con­sid­ered ac­cept­able, we had high hopes of a meal to match

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Do­minic Cas­tle PHO­TOS: Si­mon Fin­lay

We re­view Reep­ham’s Dial House

You can usu­ally get a de­cent feel for a restau­rant when you call to make a book­ing. Are they bright, cheer­ful, ac­com­mo­dat­ing and friendly? (Without get­ting to the ir­ri­tat­ing ‘see you guys on Fri­day!’ stage of over-fa­mil­iar­ity.)

How about the se­cond time you call, when you want to change the book­ing? And the third? What about the fourth? If they’re still be­ing nice to you that’s a good sign.

So it was with the Dial House in Reep­ham. Their reser­va­tions sheet must have been a mess af­ter our fum­bled at­tempts to book a ta­ble, but we man­aged in the end and so pitched up on a mid­week evening to a sur­pris­ingly (to us) full restau­rant.

The Dial House, a hand­some ed­i­fice over­look­ing the mar­ket place, has been in busi­ness for years but was taken over in spring by chef Richard Jones and part­ner Han­nah Spring­ham, who also have Farm­yard in Nor­wich.

They have brought a new vim to the place, while main­tain­ing some of the lit­tle ec­cen­tric­i­ties that have made a name among the lo­cals – such as the leg­endary squash court toi­lets and the fact that pretty much ev­ery­thing is for sale.

Should you wish, you could walk out with a full stom­ach and an empty wal­let, clutch­ing a cou­ple of nice cush­ions, or a ro­coco mir­ror or even a side­board. Fun times, if you like shop­ping. I don’t par­tic­u­larly, but that was of no mo­ment as we were there to eat.

It is a fre­quent grum­ble of Mrs C that the op­tions for the non meat-eater in even our bet­ter res­tau­rants can be a bit fee­ble.

This evening, though, she eyed the card with some en­thu­si­asm and took the veg­etable root (sorry) to start with Eve’s

The beef was ten­der enough to have been sliced with a spoon

Hill turnip, hen of the woods mush­room, moz­zarella and cob­nut. It was a bit of veg­gie heaven, she de­clared, a fine blend of flavours and tex­tures, set­ting her up nicely for the next course.

Hake is find­ing a home on more and more menus as a sus­tain­able, and flavour­some, fish. Chuck on some brown shrimp, smoked but­ter and serve with celeriac and cavolo nero and you have a net win­ner. Pun in­tended.

As I was off the leash, in a man­ner of speak­ing, I went full car­ni­vore. Rab­bit is a nice test for a kitchen; it can be fid­dly to pre­pare and will dry out if al­lowed to but the Dial House

bri­gade han­dled my wild rab­bit, smoked ba­con, her­itage car­rot and po­lenta starter with care. It was very fine, moist and bal­anced and, like ev­ery­thing we were served, sea­soned just so.

Bucked by the opener, I ap­proached the dry-aged beef main course with a lit­tle bit of a song in the old heart. I would have sung too, if I wasn’t busy eat­ing. It’s a con­fi­dent restau­rant that gives you a blunt knife to cut your beef with but it was ten­der enough to have been sliced with a spoon.

I get a bit eye-rolly when I see hispi cab­bage on the menu; not least be­cause in my ex­pe­ri­ence too of­ten it looks and tastes like it was dragged out of a bon­fire, but the of­fer­ing here was sweet, lightly charred and greeted the beef-fat potato like an old friend. Un­com­pli­cated food, de­liv­ered with brio.

We paused be­fore dessert while Mrs C tried to read the price tags on the dé­cor without leav­ing the ta­ble. When eyes fell to the menu she nod­ded as­sent at cherry, pis­ta­chio cake, sour cream and a curve ball flavour; liquorice. All was good and the liquorice ap­par­ently made a wel­come con­tri­bu­tion to the party.

I’ve a cu­ri­ous at­trac­tion for flow­ery tastes (I used to pinch mum’s flo­ral gum sweets when I was a nip­per) and Nor­folk laven­der crème brulee, rye, yo­ghurt and black­berry spoke to me. When it came, it spoke very qui­etly about the laven­der, which was a slight shame but too lit­tle is bet­ter than too much when it comes to some­thing which could end up tast­ing like a bar of Aun­tie Clare’s soap and it was still a de­light, so I didn’t mind.

I didn’t mind the bill ei­ther; £75 for two with drinks is quite ac­cept­able for the qual­ity on of­fer. Mind you it could have been a lot more if Mrs C had bought that lit­tle side­board…

Our re­view vis­its are unan­nounced and we pay for our meals.

The Dial House, Reep­ham, NR10 4JJ 01603 879900 info@the­di­al­house.org.uk the­di­al­house.org.uk

Eve’s Hill turnips (left) and wild rab­bit starters (right)

Nor­folk laven­der brulee

ABOVE: Dry-aged beefTOP RIGHT: Cherry and pis­ta­chio cakeABOVE RIGHT: Hake with brown shrimp

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