Clementine Wallop begins the first in a series of hospital restaurant reviews at Chicory's Restaurant at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals. Clementine has always wanted to be a restaurant reviewer, but somehow this is her first outing. While waiting for the call from PRN, she's written about metals, mining, superyachts, cars, handbags and how important bacon is when you live far from home.
She is 35 cities into a project to see every city in Britain.
The hospital: The Norfolk and Norwich (N & N to locals) is enormous, a starship even by hospital standards. It’s shiny and still smells new; design is all high ceilings, flooding sunlight, pantone art and bright notices.
A teaching hospital a little way out of the beautiful, wiggly-roofed city of Norwich, this monolith opened in 2001, replacing the previous hospital building that had been tending to Norfolk’s sick since 1771.
The main hospital atrium is strung with a huge, tangled sculpture of stained glass leaves that tumbles down through the double, maybe even triple, height ceiling.
The restaurant: As anyone who works in hospitals or spends a lot of time in hospitals knows, it can be a bitch finding the café. How many stairs, how many lifts, how many signs does it take to a get a cup of tea and a sometimes sad sandwich? Chicory’s is easy to find; five minutes from the front door and well signposted, it occupies a broad and sunny space in the West Atrium.
What some chefs might call an open kitchen gives out onto a dining area split into staff and visitor areas. Furniture is starter home chic, with New York loft style breakfast bars if you’re just stopping for a coffee. WiFi is free and fast.
It is a Serco café, so don’t expect boundless personality and cottage hospital cooking, but that doesn’t mean Chicory’s is charm free. Thali nights and National Pie Week promotions point to someone somewhere thinking carefully about giving customers a better-than-the-usual experience.
The food: Hospital canteens are a little like Viennese cafes in that they have to offer a little of everything all day, though sadly the NHS is yet to demand Serco provides Austrian pastries to its customers.
We go at breakfast time on a Sunday, when the restaurant is quiet and a gentle steam is rising from the fry up station.
The range is impressive, with eggs two ways, bacon, sausages, rather lurid but generously topped cheese on toast, hearty looking porridge and reassuringly tinned-looking tomatoes (no vine ripened stuff here, thanks v much).
Yoghurts, biscuits and cakes look serviceable, though it was a shame to see nothing especially local in a part of the country well served by butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.
A savoury scone scored highly, with a lovely buttery crust yielding to outrageously cheesy innards, though my guest doubted they were up to his mam’s standard.
Coffee was freshly ground and freshly made; no long-stewed filter pots here.
The sausage sandwich was a let-down, however – the sausages were well cooked, with pleasantly bouncy-on-the-teeth skins, but the sliced white was stale, leading to terrible structural breakdown and some sadness from my guest.
The price: it’s not the cheapest; we paid about 15 pounds for two teas, two coffees, a yoghurt, a scone and a sausage sarnie.
Norwich and Norfolk University Hospitals