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FARMYARD: from field to fork

Looking for a vibrant neighourhood restaurant with an impressive wine list in the coolest bit of Norwich? Say hello to the latest in bistronomy.

THE LOWDOWN

Farmyard is the urban little brother to The Dial House, Reepham’s iconic and eclectic restaurant with rooms, owned by ex-TV director Hannah (operations) and her husband Andrew (exec chef). The dynamic duo were featured on Channel 4s Great Hotel Escape in 2019 and are proving to be seriously consistent contenders within the county’s pro-hospitality scene.

Sitting on St Benedicts Street, Farmyard is perfectly postioned for the well-heeled and gastronomically discerning footfall descending from the nearby Golden Triangle and beyond. Firmly on the map as one of the best restaurants in Norwich, Farmyard is your go-to for clever but simply cooked food with an extensive and decent wine list to match.

THE VIBE

Farmyard’s pop neon sign delivered a beam of cheeryness onto the dreary October afternoon of our visit. The restaurant itself is a pleasing open-plan space with scandi light mid-century wood, ceramic tiles, big copper light fittings and a long comfortable banquet under the stretch of window (tables are currently at half the amount due to pandemic rules).

The huge striking floaty-punk mural on the rear wall draws in the eye and the general feeling is of lightness, fun, fluidity and cheer, a pretty welcome feeling given the omnipresent sense of mild dread around Covid. The open kitchen (meaning you can spy on the chefs) uses the finest local ingredients and maximum attention to detail, delivered in a laid back, easy going but efficient bistro style.

The two floor staff were immediately welcoming and attentive, (we could tell they were smiling under the masks) and clearly very capable at juggling what turned quickly into a busy service. Speeding up like carefully choreographed dancers, they managed to keep the pace without compromising on delivering a consistently polite, charming service – something that in my many years of hospitality I know is a fine balance to achieve. The open kitchen showed what looked like (could it be – yes!) happy chefs, working calmly under pressure. The whole vibe felt pulled together, buzzy, professional and easy, which is exactly what you want when eating out.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The bistronomy style at Farmyard is all about using the best locally sourced ingredients, partnering with passionate producers who care what the end experience is as much as the exec chef does. The menu changes often, in keeping with what is at its best, locally. Eves Hill Farm supplies the veg, Swannington Farm to Fork the finest quality beef and Dann’s Farm provides the cream for the homemade butter, which comes served in the most perfect salty glistening quinelle with tangy sourdough bread. The meat, veg and fish are all cooked over charcoal on the ‘Bertha’ oven for increased depth and flavour.

Mr M and I were immediately proffered two glasses of ice cold champers (nice touch) and a little earthenware dish of goats cheese and olives bonbons – scrumptious crunchy melty balls of delight that were scoffed in about two minutes flat. We tried to hold back on too many slices of the chunky homemade sourdough.

For starters I went for the salt cod croquettes, with sriracha mayo, the cod was a lovely dense soft white encased in a dark golden crumb and the mayo had a nice kick to it. Mr M wasn’t disappointed by his pulled pork corn taco with green tomato salsa and chipotle mayo and exclaimed ‘lovely!’ when I nudged him for comment.

I usually veer away from the bolder meat dishes or items on menus with mention of weight, but Mr M is a MANLY MEAT EATER, so I relinquished my pathetic but consistent attempt at a healthy diet / one without mention of food weights, and joined him for main course in the sharing board with a staggering 1kg cote de boeuf, served with bearnaise sauce, watercress, triple-cooked chips, roasted shallots and aioli. The medium-rare beef was perfectly cooked – pink, soft and deliciously deep in flavour, the chips were fluffy inside and crisp on the outside, while the bearnaise was herby and rich. Paired with a huge glass of full bodied Côtes du Rhône, this was Sunday at its best. However, I was beaten after a few slices and even Mr M followed soon after, so we had it wrapped to take home like a tiny new friend plastered in foil.

For pud Mr M had the Farmyard chocolate bar – which is 65% columbian chocolate, miso caramel, peanuts and milk sorbet, a gorgeously decadent but elegant soft chocolately dessert, made all the moreish by the sprinkling of nuts. I went for the rather cartoon-villain named cheese, Baron Bigod, a full bodied tangy cheddar, with fruit bread and chutney. We eventually managed to prise ourselves out of the banquet, thanked the happy chefs and floor staff and headed home, unable to consume another thing until Monday.

OUT & ABOUT

Recently pedestrianised, St Benedicts is a thriving and busy area and home to a number of Norwich’s finest eateries and trendy cafes including Benedicts, Haggle, The Bicycle Shop and Pizza Express. St Andrews car park is just down the road, as is our Picturehouse cinema (Cinema City), and the city centre is five minute walk up through the lanes. St Benedicts has for years been one of the most upbeat, stylish parts of the city, with nice pubs, shops and restaurants, and many years ago a super-cool indoor market, that some of us spent many a Saturday afternoon lurking in as teens, complete with ice pink lipstick, nose ring and winklepickers, but that’s another story 😉

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Foodies who are genuinly interested in local produce or anyone who might be bored of pretentious places and prefer an easy, relaxed experience without compromising on quality of food, drink or service. The vibe is relaxed so those with kids are comfortable here too.

Not for: those who might want to linger for hours in a cosy nook. This is buzzy and efficient, the kind of place to stop off for lunch while shopping or meet friends for a jolly dinner.

The Damage: snacks from £3.50, starters from £7 and mains from £14. Cote de Boeuf £52 for two.

Farmyard, 23 St Benedicts Street, Norwich NR2 4PF tel 01603 733188.

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