Saturday : Gem of Norwich

Expect a flurry of blog posts this week, as I bring everything back up-to-date…. After my successful weekend in Wales zip-lining and paddle boarding with my friend Liam, I need to rush forwards to get that inspirational content on-line. And I don’t care if others don’t think it’s inspirational, I do and I’ll get it written as soon as possible.

After a quiet day, Saturday was the evening of the Hike Norfolk meal out, and we were delighted to see Gordon appear, he’s someone more often seen at socials than walking, but men of money are often like that. Gem is a Turkish restaurant in Norwich which is located opposite the railway station and in the former building operated by Prezzo. It’s an odd building to be used as a restaurant, with a minimal reception and waiting area, alongside poor acoustics and difficult areas for staff to see. However, the new operators have built themselves a formidable reputation and their reviews are good, with friends having gone telling me that the food is excellent. Although the emphasis of the restaurant is on Turkish food, there’s also some Greek and Kurdish options to add to the mix. As an aside, they opened I recall just before the first lockdown, so it must have been a challenging couple of years for them having to work through the enforced opening and closures.

In terms of the ambience, it’s loud, but that is apparently a common situation here. By the staff’s admission, there were a very loud table, although they only admitted that after the group had gone, but it did mean that the restaurant had quite a vibrant feel to it during the evening. For some people that sounds marvellous, although I rarely like vibrant venues, I like peace and calm.

The service was on-point and timely, with the team members being conversational, friendly and knowledgeable. Susanna and I would have gone for the set menus, but the entire table needs to order from those and so we thought that’d potentially come back another day for those. In terms of beer selection, that’s poor, but not perhaps unexpected, but the prices for them were off the scale and were more expensive than some central London venues. The restaurant also does the thing that CAMRA disapprove of and charge far proportionally more for a half than a pint. Anyway, that’s a comment that is a little unfair as they don’t portray themselves as a bar or beer restaurant, so I can’t much say it’s a negative about the venue. Although, I decided to just order tap water.

The service time was reasonable given how busy the venue was, but the restaurant was hot and they could perhaps do with some air conditioning here. I liked the engagement from the team members as well, they were trying their best to build up a rapport with customers, it’s clear customer service is important to them. I can’t say that we had any problems during the service, but I imagine that they would have been resolved politely and efficiently if we had.

I went for the main of chicken shish, large pieces of chicken which were cooked over a hot charcoal grill and so were tender on the inside and had a firm exterior. The rice was well cooked and the salad seemed fresh, with everything tasting of a good quality. I did have a coffee after the meal, which took far too long to arrive, although they did apologise on three occasions about that (they were pro-active apologies, I didn’t make three complaints).

As a venue, I thought that it was professionally run, it can’t be easy getting this volume of food out in a busy restaurant on a Saturday evening. They were fully booked which shows just how popular the restaurant has become, with nearly no negative on-line reviews. Reading through those reviews, there were a couple of annoyed people that they couldn’t change the items in the set menus, but it is clearly stated that this is the restaurant’s policy and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to have that policy. The pricing at the restaurant is a little towards the higher end of the scale, but they have the customer service and food quality to back that up. A vibrant venue on a Saturday night isn’t really something they can do a great deal about (other than by becoming unpopular), but it was particularly noisy which wasn’t entirely ideal. But, all still recommended.

Anyway, I’m of course not one to break any confidences about the Hike Norfolk meal discussion, other than to mention Gordon running off to hide in the toilet to avoid a situation, but I couldn’t possibly write any more than that and I’m sure it’ll be mentioned again at the Christmas meal.