The Last Wine Brasserie
New owners, a stylish makeover and a creative tapas style menu - The Last reminds us why it's one of the coolest places to eat in Norwich.
The Last is one of those iconic Norwich bars that has been a part of the cool social scene for years. Many a fun/drunken night has been spent in this independently run bar and restaurant and it’s a bit of an institution among the 40+ crowd. However, unless you’ve been hiding under a crab donut – you’ll have seen that they’ve ditched the staid fine dine restaurant next door and turned it into a vibrant brasserie.
Once a 19th Century shoe factory, hence the name, it’s a short walk from the Norwich centre and a pretty one at that – over Fye Bridge and into the most historic part of the city.
Open Mon – Saturday for pastries, lunch and dinner and offering a creative tapas-inspired small plates menu and À La Carte. Breakfast is available on Friday & Saturday mornings and in the warmer months you can dine alfresco on St George’s Street.
Three dining areas offering three different experiences but all with The Last’s unmistakable relaxed charm.
The bar is all brick, wood and leather giving it a cosy yet sumptuous feel. The raised dining platform nicely positions the tables away from the bar to offer intimacy. During the day, the floor to ceiling windows are great for people-watching and at night it’s hard to resist the warm inviting glow as you try to stroll past. The Last has always maintained a chilled but decadent vibe, most of which is down to the well appointed and friendly staff.
The new brasserie is light and airy with a modern, colourful decor courtesy of artist and Last Director Lynda Baxter. Tropical fabrics, large plants and quirky local art (Sarah Young) for sale come together to create a fun and stylish eating environment. Since it opened last September, it’s quickly become my go to for a quick coffee meeting, light lunch and now a cosy dine with Mr O.
The downstairs cellar has been transformed and is an homage to Art Deco with the black and white zigzag floor, marble topped tables, grey pannelled booths and greenery. I’m seriously trying to manufacture an excuse for a party as the space is so colonially cool.
The historic shoe theme is still subtle in the decor and I particularly like the toilet door art!
THE SCOFF & QUAFF
Passionate about using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, Head Chef Iain McCarten offers a creative menu with fabulous vegan and gluten free options. The wine menu is impressive too (over 100 to choose from) and is taken very seriously – I recommend you keep an eye out on their Facebook page for their wine tasting evenings.
For starters – eyes right if you’re squeamish – Mr O had the Chargrilled Octopus which came with pickled red cabbage, charcoal mayonnaise, chorizo jam and beignet. The presentation was stunning but to be honest I struggled to watch him munch away on the tentacle complete with suckers and I take his word that it was delicious. I preferred to snack on a lightly battered Cauliflower Pakora with black garlic, curried yogurt, pickled raisins and almonds. The portion sizes were generous and I suggest you don’t peak too soon!
For our main course we ate from the À la Carte menu and I chose the ‘special’ – Jacob’s Ladder of beef, roasted artichoke, new potatoes and heritage kale with a creamy mustard jus – all incredibly tasty and rich in flavour. Mr O had the Roasted Venison Haunch with salsify, roasted garlic puree, a cute little venison cottage pie and kale – he virtually licked the plate clean!
A cheeky little sorbet was delivered after main course to cleanse our palate but I think it’s really to get our taste buds watering for more sweetness!
For dessert – an Assiette bursting with scrumptiousness! Blood Orange Cheesecake, Pear Tart Tatin, Rhubarb Pannacotta and a White Chocolate Delice plus peanut butter and vanilla ice cream and just in case you needed more – two Petit Fours.
The Assiette is great value for money (£12) and I recommend pairing this with a couple of glasses of champagne to round off the perfect afternoon shopping trip.
OUT & ABOUT
As you’re over in the north side of Norwich, head to the cities’ oldest street, Elm Hill – its cobbles have been the backdrop for many a period drama and film. Visit the old fashioned Teddy Bear Shop, Mandells Art gallery and the fabulous Stoned & Hammered for beautiful hand made jewellery!
Walk towards Magdalen Street for more quirky independent shops and cafes. At first glance it might look a bit scruffy but think Jewish Quarter in other cities and embrace the eclectic mix and diversity. Pop into Stubenhocker (owned by the creator of BBC’s Motherland) and check out their upholstered furniture, ceramics and art. For fans of the TV series – you can see the inspiration behind Amanda’s store but much less pretentious!
Keep on walking away from the city and you’ll discover Looses Emporium – if you like a bit of antique/thrift shop bargain hunting, you can easily lose a couple of hours scouring everything from fruit machines to disco balls and vintage clothing.
Lots of lovely places to grab a coffee – Ancestors (trendy) Sahara (great North African cuisine & pastries) and Olives (families) are our favourites. If you want a good English Fry Up – The Street Cafe might look a little rough around the edges but it comes highly recommended.
Back towards the city and take a wander around Tombland (lots of bars and restaurants) before popping into The Maids Head which happens to be the oldest hotel in Britain and serves up a lovely Afternoon Tea. The Catherdal looms overhead and if you’re staying the night, I’d book on the Ghost Walk to hear more about the dastardly deeds that occurred in this incredibly atmospheric part of the city.
Good for: Breakfast with friends, coffee & pastry with work colleagues, lunch with gal pals and dinner with significant other! The menu is creative, so good for foodies who love to experiment with flavours and try something new.
Not for: The menu doesn’t appeal to families with younger kids (although the Brasserie is suitable for breakfast or a pattiserie). They do serve up a burger but otherwise it’s a limited choice for diners who prefer to keep it simple.
The damage: Breakfast from £4, small plates start from £7, mains from £16, sides from £3.50 and desserts from £6 (Assiette £12)
The Last Wine Bar & Restaurant, 76 St George’s St, Norwich, NR3 1AB Tel: 01603 626626 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org