I had the complete misfortune of enduring a "dining experience" earlier today at Mackintosh's canteen. While the service was excellent, the staff were friendly and competent, the food alas failed to meet the same standards. Upon perusing their woefully minimalist menu, there being only a few uninspired options for main course, I decided to choose a burger in the mistaken belief that this old classic would be difficult to mess up. I was wrong.
The accompanying salad was bland and dry, the dressing tasteless, whilst the "chips" that were deposited on a side plate were little more than undercooked potato wedges. However my main issue here was with the lashings of salt which had been added to said frites. Surely it is up to the customer how they wish to flavor their dish with regards to condiments? This seems especially true in the modern day when we are constantly reminded of the damaging nature of high salt content in food. In any case, the lashings of salt that had been over-applied to the dish, for me, rendered it inedible, leaving only the disappointing burger itself to justify the overpriced culinary car crash.
Sadly however, once again the efforts failed to live up to any reasonable standard. The burger was cooked fairly well, however the bacon which topped it (which i did not ask for but was still given and charged for), was less than a single rasher of overcooked and extremely fatty low grade meat. Also, instead of using any traditional or even suitable choice for the bread, the irritating modern trend of favoring pretentious style over common sense prevailed as the meat was encased in a tomb of flakey ciabatta that neither complimented or even covered the sad mess beneath it. I am all for new spins on traditional dishes, but this one was an idea which should have never made it off the drawing board.
I would point out that the other people who ate with me, both of whom had the salmon salad, commented that their meals were excellent, so it may be the case that this one dish is simply an aberration in an otherwise decent restaurant, but I remain skeptical, and will not be returning to find out. All in all, a very poor meal.
Mackintosh's Canteen is one of the "new generation" of restaurants in Norwich, appearing with the building of the new Chapelfield development. It is named after the old Chocolate factory that stood on this site until the 1990s.
Mackintosh's is actually outside the main shopping centre, on the edge of the Chapelfield complex next door to the Assembly Rooms car park, and is close to the city centre and to the Theatre Royal.
There are two dining areas - downstairs has a bistro feel and upstairs is a la carte. There is no need to book downstairs but it is certainly advisable if you want to eat upstairs.
Some of the dishes are replicated on both floors, but there are very noticable differences as well, so you never need to worry about simply paying more upstairs for an a la carte version of the bistro menu.....
The location means that it is ideal for meeting friends at lunchtime, or for an early evening meal after work, or when you have had a hard day shopping in the sale. Because of it's position next to the Assembly Rooms and the Theatre Royal, it is perfect for a pre-performance meal or drink.
We have visited the bistro before going to the theatre on a few occasions, and if you tell them that you are going to the theatre, they will not hang about with service, and will make sure that you are not left to "linger" too long......yet at the same time they never make you feel rushed.
Downstairs you can opt for coffee (or a glass from their decent selection of wines) and a plate of bread and olives, or you can have a three course meal. Food ranges from filled ciabattas, through to traditional steak and chunky chips, via a favourite of mine - thick cut ham, egg and chips! They also have a good range of delicious salads, and desserts.
I can thoroughly recommend their chicken and avocado satay salad - a dish which, like some others, you can choose to have as a small portion for a starter, or a light lunch, or a "main course" size portion. I like this flexibility, as many times I have seen things on the starter menu in places that I would like to have as a main course.......
Prices downstairs are very reasonable - upwards from £4.95, with occasional "specials" such as steak and chips with a glass of red wine for £10.
Seating in the bistro is casual, with a mixture of tables & chairs, high tables and bar stools, and comfortable sofas......it really is a relaxed place to eat. The kitchen is visible from the seating area so you can see your dinner being cooked.
Upstairs is a little more formal, and a little more expensive, but then you would expect it to be - as it is offering an alternative to the bistro downstairs. It is NOT stuffy in any way though, and although the food is a bit more pricey, you get a new menu (although, as mentioned there is some duplication of popular dishes from the bistro) with very decent portion sizes. Bookings for groups and Christmas meals out etc are certainly advisable, and they will always do their best to accommodate you.
I belong to a womens business "networking" group and at the last minute our venue let us down for our monthly "ladies what lunch" lunch.....Mackintosh's upstairs stepped in at the last minute and provided 50 women with a most fantastic meal.
The staff are always friendly and helpful, and if there is anything you need in order to accomodate food allergies etc, the chefs will do what they can to make the menu suitable for you.
Children are welcome and offered smaller versions of the adult food - always a good way of introducing the next generation to something more than "chicken teddies and fries".
One thing that I really like about this place is that they try and source as much food as they can locally - always a "feel good factor" in my book.
If you find yourself in Norwich and want somewhere relaxed for good quality fresh food, then you could do a lot worse than visiting Mackintosh's Canteen just outside Chapelfield. I cannot rate it highly enough (and no, I don't have shares in the business!).
The Medina or "Med" as is plastered on the outside in neon lights is a quaint Morrocan restaurant on the Prince Of Wales Road in Norwich.
Every six or so months we have an 'old skool' night in which we try to get good food, good conversation (if you can call good conversation talking about partners, mortgages, work and life - a far cry from our college days - but I suppose we all have to grow up at some point!!) and a few drinks.
We try and go somewhere different each time. The last one was my turn to organise the meal. I walk past the "Med" every day and I have always been intrigued. I love a good steak so I thought a grill restaurant would probably be a good option.
When trying to book the restaurant I thought I would use the net to get the number. Confusion - I could not find the "Med" any where. I walked past it everyday yet it didn't appear on Yell.com.
The closest thing was the Medina which was described as a Morrocan restaurant - not the steak house that I assumed it was.
The next day I walked on the other side of the road, right past the Med. It was then that I noticed it - although the neon lights state Med Grill Bar - on the window in nice, subtle letters was "medina". That was the place I was looking for.
When I booked the waitress didn't even ask for how many people. I was a bit supprised considering it was a Friday night peak time of 8.30pm. I didn't bother calling back and thought that we'd always find something else if there was no room for us.
The Friday came and we went to the Medina. It is basically a bar with a small dining room behind it. The bar was packed out - always a good sign in a restaurant. However, the dining area was dead. There was not one other table that was occupied. In addition I noted that I could not smell any food cooking - not even a faint whiff. In every restaurant there is always a slight smell - even if it is very, very faint. But not here.
We got the drinks in and sat down at the table. The decor was pleasant. It wasn't modern or new or refurbished. It did not looked aged either - but I think that this is the norm when everything is wood and wood effect. It isn't a romantic setting - which is a good thing for 11 hairy a**** blokes. Lol. However, the lighting was soft.
The background music was a bit loud. It was classic Oasis, just like what we were listening to when we were at school - very apt. After a few tracks we decided that the catching up was not happening and we had to request it to be turned down.
The menu was a typical Fatso/Zaks menu with a couple of Morrocan specialties. However, unlike the Fatso/Zaks prices the meals in the Medina are quite expensive. Looking at the menu it appears quite reasonable. However, I only realised that a steak on the menu - was JUST a steak when the waitress asked me what sides I wanted and I replied "none". THis is when the price rises - dramatically. Everything is paid for separately - the meat, the fries/wedges/potatoes/rice, the onion rings. mushrooms, tomatoes, peas....................absolutely everything.
This is my only gripe about the menu. It was not clear, and not made clear by the waitresses. Suddenly a £12.95 steak ended up costing nearer £20!
The food took ages to come out - despite our group being the only people in the restaurant! This was not a problem since we had all night to kill. If we were in a hurry or didn't like the atmosphere or run out of conversation then this would not be a good thing.
When the food did come out I couldn't fault it. The steak was cooked to perfection, the salad was really tasty with no 'extreme' dressings, everything was spot on. In addition the waitresses could not do enough for you.
Half way through the meal the chef came out to check all was ok. I don't know if this is common practice but it was a nice touch any way. We were asked if we wanted any more sides - supposedly for free.
I have no idea if they were free, since everything is itemised on the bill unless you go through it with a fine toothed comb it is going to be really difficult to tell if we got something for nothing or not. It doesn't really matter though.
There were no complaints with the food - from anyone. This is quite good since that there is one bloke in our group who will ALWAYS whinge about something. However, nothing was said. He didn't say it was OK but then he didn't say it wasn't either.
Overall the food was excellent, the waitresses were friendly and the chef even came to see if everything was OK. However, the pricing structure really lets this place down. It is difficult to tell how much a meal is going to cost as everything is bought separately.
Although I did enjoy it I doubt I will be going back to the Medina. The menu is too much like Fatsos/Zaks. Ok it is better service than Fatsos/Zaks and the food is nicer (although only marginally) but Fatsos/Zaks is much better value for money. And, on a night out the less you spend on food the more there is available for drink.
So, if you are out in Norwich and fancy this sort of food, unless you have deep pockets and enjoy paying over the odds for food then I would avoid the Medina and head to cheap and cheerful Fatsos which is about 100 metres down the road and closer to the Riverside.