“ 49 West End Street, Norwich NR2 4NA. Tel: +44(0)1603 624364. Fax: +44(0)1603 627756. Local pub specialising in real ale. Won both CAMRA pub of the year and Good Pub Guide pub of the year in 1998. „
This review is of the public house "The Fat Cat" in Norwich, on West End Street, near to Dereham Road. The pub is a real ale pub, and has won many awards.
I've visited this pub a few times, and it is superb in its range of beers. It is of no surprise to me that a few weeks ago the pub won the Good Pub Guide's Beer Pub of the Year for the fourth time. This is an amazing achievement, so what are they doing right?
When you walk into the pub, you will see a reasonably length bar, with blackboards above the bar which show the various beers, ciders and bottles which they have in stock. There is always an extensive range, and you will likely have difficulty choosing which ones you want to try!
The Fat Cat has a range of beers with their own name, which are brewed for the pub. I've tried these from time to time, and have to say that I approve. The Fat Cat wildcat pint is my favourite, although I have to say that I prefer ciders. The Fat Cat usually has ciders which are 7.5% in strength, if that's the sort of tipple that you fancy.
If you're not a beer or cider drinker, then the Fat Cat has a range of other soft drinks and usual spirits available. They also have a wide range of wines to choose from, which are realistically priced. A range of coffees are also always available.
The toilets, like the rest of the pub, aren't necessarily the largest, but they are kept clean, and there are lots of interesting things on the wall to read whilst you're on your way there! The pub generally is kept clean and tidy, and glass collectors frequently go around the pub cleaning glasses.
There are also a range of bar snacks available at the bar. They sell the popular Kettle chips range of crisps, which are made nearby at Bowthorpe. These are a pound a pack, which is the highest price for these crisps that I've come across in a pub, but that's a small complaint!
The biggest complaint that I could make against this pub would be that it's too busy. That's hardly their fault, but this isn't necessarily the best place to go if you want to get seats, or for a group of people who want to talk. You often find yourself standing perching your pint glass on a shelf, so get here early if you do want seats!
The pub opens from mid-day to 11pm every day of the week, and doesn't attempt to open longer hours at weekends. As the pub is constantly so busy, they clearly don't want to risk upsetting the locals with hordes of drinkers piling out the door in the early hours of the morning. If only all pubs were so considerate in residential areas!
Pubs often don't have web-sites, or if they do, they're frequently out of date and not much use. This pub is an exception, the web-site is well written, well presented, and most importantly it is kept up to date. This means that they put a list of the beers that they have in stock on the site, which can be very handy! the web-site can be found at http://www.fatcatpub.co.uk/.
If you do ever get bored of the Fat Cat and fancy a change, you will find a number of good pubs within walking distance. And the pub has a sister pub, the Cider Shed. This is a bit of a walk away, as it's situated just off Sprowston Road, but it's worth visiting. As the name suggests, they have more of an emphasis on cider, but they still offer a wide range of beers.
In summary, this is a great pub, which deservedly wins the awards that it has. The only complaint that I'd have is that it does get very busy because of its popularity, and so if you go on weekend nights, or even some weekday nights, it's often hard to get seated. But if you're in the area, this is definitely worth a visit for a quick pint. Or for two or three maybe.
Ah, the Fat Cat. Scene of many a summer's evening spent on the tables outside, putting the world to rights while drinking copious amounts of beer, not to mention scores of winter nights spent by the real fire inside doing, um, exactly the same. The Fat Cat "Free Mouse" (as it styles itself) is renowned in Norwich for one thing - beer. Forget chicken-in-a-basket and big-screen sports - this pub is about just one thing. Real beer. Breweries up and down the country are represented on the FC's ever-changing beer list, with ales ranging from stouts and porters to light summer ales, plus real ciders and a range of Belgian beers. Some are on the handpumps, some on gravity, but all are served at their best, unlike in some other local pubs which shall remain nameless (until I review them...). If you like your beer with some taste, served with loving care into a glass which allows for a pint *and* a head, then the Fat Cat is for you. No wonder it's been CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale) pub of the year. Not sure what you'd like? Consult the staff, as they'll often have sampled most of them! You're welcome to taste before you buy as well. Drinking halves in this pub is not sissy - it's the sign of someone trying to sample as many beers as possible! Watch a group trying to cover the whole list between them, studiously trying each other's sup, discussing the relative merits... they mean business here! You're looking at £1.70-£2.30 a pint, a bit more for the odd one or two, but I think that's a fair price. When I say the pub's renowned for one thing, that perhaps does a disservice to the landlord, as it's also well known for friendly service and a great atmosphere. No lager louts here - but plenty of beer bellies and beards (and that's just the women, ho ho), and a healthy smattering of students, although it has to be said they are mainly of the postgraduate variety. But you can't disagree th
at it's well known. In fact, it's best to get there before 8-8:30, maybe earlier on weekends, if you're a group wanting to sit down. It's not the biggest of pubs, although the back room offers a fair amount of space. Seats are plain wood, akin to church pews, but very appropriate for the beer worship that goes on here. The decor is appropriately traditional, and the lighting low and golden, both of which add to the atmosphere which makes it so popular. By around 10, you'll have to fight your way to the bar, and then wait a while to be served. Whatever you do, don't wait for that last orders bell! Let the lager louts and the clubbers have their shiny bars in town - I'll stick with the Fat Cat, thank you very much.