Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Unthank Arms

Sitting in bed today, home from work with a miserable, stinking cold, Sunday afternoon already seems like a far-off, golden memory. Just a few short days ago, I, too, sat out in the sun drinking cider and gaily swapping cheerful anecdotes, sans tights, cardigan or worries. Now, as I snivel into my Supernoodles and stare glassy-eyed at my eighth consecutive episode of Come Dine With Me, I shall take comfort  in recounting mine and Ben’s latest dining adventure: Sunday lunch at the Unthank Arms. (Ben is also off sick today, having learned the hard way that by giving me his cold said pathogen would not simply enter my body and vacate his, leaving him fit and well again. Instead we are both sick, grumpy people.)

I was lucky enough this weekend to be graced with the company of my dear friend Phoebe, who set aside her exciting London lifestyle and world-changing climate research to pay a visit to sleepy old Norwich. We were doubly lucky as the weather on Sunday appeared to be under the misapprehension that it was mid June or so, rather than the sad damp month of March. After roping Phoebe into helping me plant potatoes on the allotment, and then lying in the sun in Eaton Park for an hour or so to recover from this exertion, we met up with Ben and headed for the Unthank Arms on Newmarket Street.

We had booked a table, but decided to forgo the (undeniably light and pleasant) bar and sit outside in the lovely garden instead. The unsmiling chap who took our order at the bar seemed to resent the fact that he was stuck inside serving us drinks instead of basking outside, like the rest of us, with very little clothing on. There was quite a long wait for food, but we were happy chatting and soaking up as much vitamin D as we could. But when the food did come out, Ben and Phoebe’s came out quite a while before mine, leaving me staring longingly at their plates, insisting in a martyred fashion that they start without me and nicking Phoebe’s chips. Which I did find a bit annoying, as it shouldn’t be that difficult to get three meals out at the same time. But my meal arrived at last, and a ten minute silence punctuated only by chomping and gentle belches (Ben’s, of course. Phoebs and I are delicate ladythings) bore testament to the goodness of it all.

For his main, Ben opted for the spatchcock poussin, which sounds a bit rude but I have been assured is nothing but a flattened baby chicken (which sounds so much worse than what I was originally imagining). He enjoyed it though, the meat was tender and juicy and the Israeli couscous with chorizo and peppers that accompanied it was tasty. And, according to Ben, any meal where you have a carcass on your plate at the end of it has got to be good. I shall not comment on that, but will add that I’m pretty sure he actually only ordered it so he could reference this.

Phoebe and I both went for burgers of different descriptions. Phoebe’s satay pork and king prawn burger came open-faced on a ciabatta with a sort of spicy Thai slaw. We weren’t sure where the prawns were, but figured they must be ground up in the burger, because Phoebe said she could detect a hint of seafood. She was impressed by the flavours and the authentically Thai combination of pork and prawns (she lived in Thailand for several years, so we shall trust her knowledge of these things.) I ordered the jalapeno bean burger, and it was truly stupendous. How, you may ask, can a veggie burger be described as “stupendous”? Well, my skeptic friend, it was everything a bean burger should be: crispy on the outside, soft and moist in the middle, fragrantly spicy and absolutely covered in melted cheese. Served on a perfectly toasted sesame bun with a homemade-tasting tomato and onion relish and fat, golden chips. I AM SO HUNGRY RIGHT NOW.

We paused for a brief breather: then dessert. Phoebe, a world renowned custard fanatic, practically bathed in the stuff that came with her apple and blackberry crumble (I am noticing a disturbing theme on this blog of the desire to bathe in gooey foodstuffs). Such a connoisseur is she that she actually ate (or drank?) most of her custard separately from her crumble, so as to fully enjoy the flavours of both. Both were good. Ben and I both had crème brûlée – I was going to be more exciting and have something different, but having borne witness to the devastation crème brûlée envy can wreak on an otherwise healthy relationship, I decided it was safest to get my own. In the end, though, they were slightly different as there was only one left of the white chocolate variety offered on the menu, so I selflessly volunteered to have Baileys flavour instead. Both came in seemingly bottomless coffee cups, with a scoop of pistachio ice cream, a stick of white chocolate and an ocean of mango coulis. They were exhaustingly creamy and delicious, and mine was very, very boozy.

Sunshine, a food coma and good friends will make you happier than drugs or money – I think it was some rap guy who said that. Maybe. Anyway, full points to the Unthank Arms for delicious food and a beautiful day (yes, I am giving them credit for the weather), if slightly undermined by slow and less than friendly service (but who cares, because the weather was nice). Now it’s time for a lemsip and a snotty nap, and perhaps I shall dream of bean burgers.

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