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REVIEW: b’nou, Norwich

After our disappointing visit to Jamie’s Italian last week, when Chris suggested we went out to dinner last night I wanted to make sure it was going to be something special.

I took to TripAdvisor and began to search for interesting places with a good rating. That’s when I found b’nou (pronounced buh-noo, if you were wondering; and no, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s completely made up in the mind of the niece of one of the owners!). It’s not even been open for 2 months yet but all the reviews were 5*. Good start.

I then read the reviews and discovered this is more than your average restaurant. You see, they don’t have a menu. That’s right, you don’t get to order what you’d like from a pre-set menu but rather the tapas-style dishes are cooked 1 at a time in the kitchen and then brought round the tables. The dish is described to you, and you then decide whether or not you want to take it. All dishes are a very reasonable £4, and you carry on until you are full or they run out of dishes! It all kicks off at 7:30 and the table is yours for the night. We didn’t leave until around 10:15.

Of course, not knowing what is coming next could make it difficult to decide whether you want the dish in front of you. Not for us though, we pretty much had them all! That’s the beauty of tapas; you can have more variety as the dishes are smaller. Not sure you’re really supposed to eat as much we did, but you only live once, right?

So, that’s the concept. I was worried it had the potential to be a bit gimmicky, relying on the unique concept with just average food on offer. Boy, was I wrong!

First Impressions
I knew I was going to enjoy this meal as soon as I walked in the door. The decor is a fab mix of vintage and modern in a way that works really well. It has a really interesting feel to it, and the atmosphere was great even though most of the diners hadn’t arrived yet. The tables are all at different levels which makes the small space seem much less crowded and adds interest.

The decor carries through even to the toilets. These were absolutely spotless, with not a spec of dirt to be seen. Dirty or unsightly toilets in restaurants are one thing sure to stop me going back there again, but this was so clean you could eat in there! (If you really wanted…!) 10/10

For me, this was one of many outstanding features of b’nou. The owners Ben and Anna are so friendly, warm and inviting. They make sure your experience can be nothing but positive and, in particular, Ben was very good as ensuring my glass was never empty for long! 

When the dishes presented, you never feel pressured into having to say yes. On the (rare) occasions we didn’t want a dish, it was just quickly taken to the next table with no fuss. Perfect, laid back dining. Another 10/10.

The Food
I’m afraid this is going to be a pretty long section, since we ate SO much! I’ll try and group the dishes together so you’re not asleep by the end…

The dishes began with a delicious bruschetta with marinated tomatoes and feta cheese. This was lovely, with a little chilli kick; just right to whet the appetite for the food to come. The tomatoes were quite a bit like my chimichurri (stay tuned, I’ll share that recipe soon).

We followed this with marinated filleted whitebait with vinegar and garlic and kalamata olive bread. It was quite brave of us to order this, as we don’t tend to like fish that is too ‘fishy’. Nevertheless, we gave it a go. I wasn’t keen (too fishy!) but Chris loved it and polished off the whole bowl, to my amazement.

Next up was a warm salad with chorizo and butter beans. Simply delicious, not much more to say on that!

Deep fried camembert was next. Simply coated in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection, served with a red onion marmalade. Delicious!

Given my aversion to sweet flavours in savoury dishes, I was surprised just how tasty I found the honey roasted free-range chicken legs. They were good, and still really moist, not overcooked like chicken legs so often are.

Then we were given some southwest wraps; a mix of veg (peppers, sweetcorn, halapeños and more) in a deep-fried wrap, served with a hot sauce. When they say hot, they definitely mean hot. It had a kick and a half!

For many, I think the highlight of the night would have been the fish and chips. Brilliantly moist fish, in a light and crispy batter served with chips and a dip. Yum!

Next was chicken cacciatore, with wine, tomatoes and olives as well as more of that lovely olive bread.

The chilli con carne was cooked with cubed beef shin rather than mince, which I believe is actually the traditional way to cook it! Either way, it was very nice and the beef was falling apart as it was so tender. An unusual twist of flavour at the end of this too; I think it was a little cinnamon, but can’t be sure!

The final two dishes were portobello mushrooms cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce and spiced, minced lamb. The mushrooms were one of my favourite dishes of the evening. By this point, we were pretty full but the smell of the lamb was all too tempting. This too was full of flavour and again, we polished off the lot.

Once finished with the savoury dishes, we let Anna know and she told us the dessert options; lemon panna cotta, summer berry compote with vanilla ice cream or chocolate brownie. Of course, we couldn’t decide so we went for one of each!

All 3 desserts were, again, beautiful. The panna cotta was deliciously smooth and creamy with just the right amount of wobble, whilst the brownie had a crunchy top and a nice addition of nuts through it. The compote was nicely tart, which complimented the smooth vanilla ice cream perfectly.

When you accept a dish, a stamp is added to the card on your table. I’m almost ashamed to say that our card almost ran out of space for stamps…

All in all, an excellent variety of food. All very well cooked and each as delicious as the next. Couldn’t be anything but 10/10.

Value For Money
The danger with fixed price dishes is that some will always be worth more and some slightly less. However, there was not a single dish we ate that we would not have happily paid £4 for. All in all, the bill was just over £76 for the two of us with drinks but without the tip. I can’t see how anyone could say that wasn’t excellent value for all that food! 10/10

As you have probably guessed by now, I love this restaurant. I would not hesitate to send ANYONE there for a meal. It’s a really different dining experience and was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

It is clear from looking at reactions of people walking past there is a real buzz in Norwich about this place. The amount of people who came in wanting a table could have filled the restaurant 3 times over. I really hope this continues and Ben and Anna keep up the excellent standards of this restaurant; it is a real gem!

I have been racking my brains ever since leaving the restaurant for something negative to say or something to knock points off for, but I just can’t. I could eat there every night for a month and would be assured of delicious and different food day after day. For that reason, I’m giving b’nou  10/10!

So, if you are in Norwich or you want to visit, I would wholeheartedly recommend you give b’nou a try. Don’t forget to call and book a table though, they are gonna be oh so busy!

P.S. as we went up to pay Ben told us that the record for 2 people currently stood at 13 dishes. We ate 14 so we are now record holders too. Go us!

Disclaimer: I was not paid to review this restaurant and they were not aware I would be blogging about my visit. My experience, therefore, represents one of an average customer paying full retail prices. Views expressed are my own personal opinions.

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