Review: The Mulberry, Thetford - 'A hidden gem in an unexpected place'
PUBLISHED: 12:05 14 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:05 14 May 2019
Mark Heath and his wife Liz visited The Mulberry restaurant in Thetford - here's what they made of it.
My better half and I consider ourselves pretty well-informed on the foodie front, aware of all the eateries which are causing culinary waves in the region but, when esteemed food editor Charlotte suggested we cross the Suffolk/Norfolk border and try the Mulberry, we were stumped.
Neither of us had ever heard of it, first of all. And Thetford is not the obvious location for a restaurant looking to make a splash.
Regardless, we'll go pretty much anywhere for food, so we fired up the chariot and readied the passports for an incursion into Norfolk.
The Mulberry is located in Raymond Street, a quiet part of the town, and from the outside looks fantastically stylish and welcoming. Once inside, that theme continues, with a lovely little bar area leading into a surprisingly large restaurant.
The feel and layout is akin to walking into someone's house - a touch reminiscent of Paul Ainsworth's excellent Number 6 down in Padstow. If you're ever in that neck of the woods by the way, go there!
Anyway, back to business. We were welcomed with a complimentary glass of Prosecco - we never pre-warn places that reviewers are coming, so one has to assume this is standard fare - plus some delicious warm bread with room temperature, spreadable butter. A big tick in the Heath book.
Time to order. I went for the smoked chicken, leek, potato and comte cheese tart as my starter, while Liz had long been eyeing the open ravioli of Cornish scallops. A pint of Bitburger for me, and a large (obviously) glass of Argentinian Malbec for Mrs H.
The food did take a little while to arrive but when it did, we were both impressed. My tart was wonderfully flavoured, the smokiness of the chicken chunks working tremendously well with the freshness of the leeks and the rich cheese.
The afila shoot salad, which at first I dismissed as window dressing, also added a nice texture and crunch, while the pastry was short and crumbly. For me, the cheese was a little too runny, but the flavours more than compensated.
Across the table, my companion's dish featured several of her favourite things - namely pasta, bacon, asparagus and scallops.
The salty bacon and perfectly cooked pasta made ideal accompaniments to the two large scallops, while the asparagus - newly in season - also complimented the dish perfectly.
She would have preferred slightly less of the buttery sauce, but that's personal preference rather than something which hindered the dish.
Next, it was main event time. I'd ordered the fresh egg tagliatelle pasta with spring green vegetables and pine nut pesto, while Liz went for the most expensive dish on the menu (of course), the aged Norfolk beef sirloin.
I was intrigued to see what the pasta would reveal about the restaurant. A simple dish, but so easy to get badly wrong. Pleasingly, they got this very right - delicious fresh pasta with just the right amount of bite, a perfect blend of pesto without being overpowering and a goodly helping of vegetables mixed in, the highlight being that new season asparagus. So good to see on a spring menu.
Liz was also impressed with her dish - this was a good-looking plate of food and, as the saying goes, you eat with your eyes first. The steak was served tagliata style with a rocket and parmesan salad, croccante potatoes and red wine jus.
The sirloin was cooked to a perfect medium-rare, while the char on the outside added extra delicious flavour. She'd never tried tagliata-style steak before but will definitely be indulging again, as the rocket and aged parmesan complimented the moist and flavoursome meat perfectly.
Our only criticism here would be that the accompanying potatoes could have been crispier on the outside but, as with both dishes, the flavours were tremendous.
And thus we arrived, full and happy, at our monthly dessert debate. Could we fit one in? Could we manage one each? Could we let the readers down by not sampling the sweet fares? The answers, as per usual, were yes, yes and no.
I plumped for the chocolate pecan brownie, dulce de leche with pecan praline and vanilla ice cream, while crumble enthusiast Liz went for the toffee apple offering, served with honeycomb ice cream.
My brownie was, as you'd expect, sweet and rich, but the real winner for me was the pecan praline, good solid chunks of which topped the dish and made me happy.
Across the table, the sweet crumble was served in a shallow dish which meant the balance of fruit and topping was just right. As were the differing textures, with the flakes of almond and sugary nuggets in the cumble adding a pleasing alternative to the soft fruit. A winner!
All in all, an excellent meal in very pleasant surroundings.
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Off we wandered into the Norfolk dusk, wary of outstaying our temporary visa.
So, so important in any restaurant hoping to impress. Though our starters were slow to appear, service at the Mulberry was warm and friendly throughout and our hosts answered my barrage of questions with good grace and humour. Which brings me on to....
Another vital ingredient - see what I did there? - for a quality eatery, and I was pleased to hear that the Mulberry sources much of its meat from the renowned PJ Roofe Butchers in Norwich.
It was fantastic too, to see new season aspargaus incorporated into the menu - a great sign that the chef is on the ball.
Nice to see Bitburger on tap, while Liz enjoyed her rich, dark Malbec. The complimentary Prosecco was a lovely touch too. As you'd expect, a good range of beers and wines are on offer.
The Mulberry doesn't have dedicated parking, but there are a couple of free car parks a short walk away.
For the quality of the food, I'd say the prices were very reasonable - I've paid a lot more than £20 for a steak before, for example, and been served up something of much lower quality. My tagliatelle was just £12, and you won't find many better bowls of pasta for that price.
I was very impressed with my pasta - simple, but so well done. Liz, meanwhile, was still talking about her steak the next day, which is usually a good sign.
A hidden gem in an unexpected place. Get it on your list!
Rating: 8.5 out of 10