If you want quality, atmosphere and history look no further than The Last Wine Bar and Restaurant in Norwich. Nearing its thirtieth birthday, The Last Wine Bar shows no signs of slowing down, and it seems to be unearthing its biggest secret….
It is actually, very much vegan friendly.
I love eating at restaurants that are purely plant based and we are lucky to have some brilliant options in our city; but what is somehow even better is a restaurant that can do it all…. Boldly, confidently and successfully. It is proof that it can be done, by an industry that so often champions meat centered dishes, it advances the notion that fine dining establishments can and should cater for everyone.
The Last Wine Bar is full to the brim of atmosphere and character – one of the oldest buildings in Norwich, it started life as a Shoe Factory. The exposed brick work, enchanting bar and underground cellar add to the charm of the restaurant- it really is unique. You have a choice of three dining areas, the lively bar, the cosy restaurant or the more formal dining rooms.
In a matter of weeks, for the first time in the restaurant’s thirty-year history, from September 2nd they will also be serving food and drink outside. They are creating a Parisian-style brasserie next door to the bar which will have a terrace with tables and chairs on the pavement. I for one, cannot wait to visit and imagine I am somewhere like Paris- especially if our summers continue to be so beautiful!
A long awaited double date with one of my best friends and her Husband became the perfect reason for a visit to The Last Wine bar. I couldn’t wait, as I hadn’t been for a good few years. We arrived for dinner at 7.30pm on a Friday night- the bar was busy but we were immediately greeted by a friendly waiter, who asked if we would like a drink at the bar or if we would prefer to go straight to our table.
We decided to go straight to our table- and were shown down to the cellar. Unlike, your first idea of a cellar- it is cosy and comfortable. The light is low and it feels so intimate. They do not pack the tables in – instead you have space which is so nice when catching up with friends. There is nothing worse, than being packed in like sardines when you visit a restaurant- so you end up feeling just as much a part of your ‘next door diner’s’ table as you do your own!
We were shown the extensive bar menu, as well as the set menu, and the A La Carte menu – we were told we could stick to one or the other, or mix and match as much as we wanted.
I was so pleased to see a vegan option on each menu, and for most of the courses too. Not only that, but they sounded dynamic and inviting. My Husband, however wasn’t too keen on the starter options, but the waiter immediately offered an ‘off-menu’ dish to suit his taste. Hubby pushed it a little when he also asked for potatoes to be added as well, but the waiter was gracious as ever and he ended up with a beautiful starter. A fresh tomato and potato salad with spinach and pomegranate seeds.
To start, I had the roasted cauliflower; served with black garlic, hazelnuts and kimchi. It was so good, it had a traditional feeling and taste, but the kimchi certainly elevated it and gave it a far bolder flavour. It was the perfect starter, light but very satisfying.
For our main, we both had the jerk tofu; served with coconut rice, tender stem broccoli, cucumber and coriander. A tactical move as we couldn’t risk food envy. What a main. Tofu has a fairly bad reputation for being tasteless and difficult to cook with, but I have found the exact opposite to be true, and it is one of my favourite foods . When I first started experimenting with tofu, I remember being so intimidated and I had a good few failed attempts. But, done well, it is beautiful, and I am happy to say practice does make perfect- and while I could never attest to the flavour offered at The Last Wine Bar- my tofu skills have improved!
The dessert was the easiest choice… the vegan-mess. The waiter explained that after watching the vegan special of The Great British Bake Off, the Last Wine Bars’ chef set the challenge to conquer vegan meringue. A marathon five hour cooking time… and they have done it. It is unbelievable. For one thing, any dessert that takes five hours to create- deserves to be eaten, and for another it was no hard ship as this was one of the best desserts I have ever had. I pray it is a regular on the menu, and that perhaps they would accept a table for one, dining on just the vegan-mess!
The company was perfect, the wine was flowing, the food kept surprising and impressing in equal measure and it all made for the most wonderful evening. The service could not have been better, our waiter was friendly and attentive.
I am not sure why we have left it so long to visit The Last Wine Bar, but we won’t be making the same mistake again. And I must absolutely champion the vegan options sitting proudly on the main menu- the quality and the thought behind the dishes. They are very much a part of the menu, in the same way the meat dishes are. The same respect, the same billing. Our meat eating companions had an equally delicious meal so both sides of the table were very happy indeed.
It won’t be long before we return. (Just please keep the vegan-mess a little longer!).