Is this award-winning restaurant on the Norfolk coast worth travelling for?
PUBLISHED: 13:08 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:11 05 February 2020
Louisa Baldwin headed to SW1 in Gorleston, which in London is a postcode which includes Buckingham Palace, to see whether it is the jewel in the crown of the town’s restaurant scene.
Ahead of my visit to SW1 in Gorleston I had drooled over pictures on their Facebook page, which they solely use for marketing, of steaks topped with plump prawns and delicately presented desserts.
I also saw they held a 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor and had been named the Best New Business of the Year 2018 at the Great Yarmouth Tourism Awards, so went with high hopes as I headed there on Saturday night with my boyfriend.
Ahead of the booking, I had told them my partner had a dairy allergy and when choosing our starter the friendly waitress went through each one and said what he could eat, so we opted to share a portion of fried salt and pepper squid with garlic mayonnaise and lemon (£8.50) and whilst it was being prepared we were offered a bread roll which was warm and crusty.
As the chef rung the bell to say it was done, we could overhear the waitress talking to her, as there is an open hatch into the kitchen, where she was checking it was dairy-free but the chef said no as they had thought it was just for me.
Next it was taken out and put down in front of me and I then asked if it was okay for him to eat, as we had been told when ordering, and she said it wasn't, so I asked her to take it away as I felt a bit cruel eating it without him.
We decided not to get an alternate starter in the end as the options seemed a bit slim for him, including a prawn cocktail without the sauce.
For our mains we both went for the slow-cooked thyme-roasted pork belly with sweet potato puree, braised red cabbage and pears and Norfolk cider jus and they made my boyfriend's dairy-free with crispy potatoes and tenderstem broccoli instead and I was pleased they could offer this alternative.
The dish costs £16.95 so I expected something pretty special for that price tag, but when it was served I was underwhelmed as, although it was pleasant, it didn't feel like good value for money.
The pork belly was fine but the skin on top wasn't particularly crispy and was a little squidgy, although the meat was tender, however combined with the braised cabbage and sweet potato mash, which were moreish and packed with flavour, it was mostly forgiven.
If they want to charge the current price, I would have expected a richer gravy, which I found a little watery, a croquette or something similar and perhaps more vegetables, but I was pleased they had apple sauce.
For dessert we shared a Bakewell tart with vegan ice cream which was tasty, but again it would have been nice to have a cherry sauce and some fruit too for £6.95.
SW1 is named after head chef Simon Wainwright, who previously worked at Great Yarmouth's Imperial Hotel, and his slogan is "the borough of great food", but there is still work to do to match the dishes with their price.
SW1 is upstairs in the same building as the Storm House Cafe, which is on the ground floor, and is nearby plenty of pubs if you want to make a night of it.
The tables were all set out nicely, but the decor felt dated and would benefit from a bit of colour on the walls and eye-catching artwork.
They are open from 6pm to 9pm so I was quite surprised, seeing as their opening hours are so limited, that we were the only ones in there at 6.30pm on a Saturday night.
It was also before an event at Ocean Room, which is opposite, where 600 people were attending and only around 7.15pm did another couple walk in.
The waitress who served us was lovely and took our coats at the door and was attentive throughout the meal, without it feeling like she was looking over us which could have easily happened with not many people in there.
She was very apologetic about the starter and when we asked for extra roll whilst waiting for our mains she happily obliged.
There is a great selection of spirits, including plenty of local ones, alongside beers and soft drinks.
Before heading to your table, the waitress asked us if we wanted to have a drink at the bar first which has high stools around it.
It is up a flight of stairs, so there may be issues with access - I would recommend calling in advance to check before going.
Two separate cubicles for men and women and they were spotlessly clean.
There is free parking on the road outside the restaurant, so you can easily make a night of it if you are heading to pubs or Ocean Room after.
For me, the price was too steep for what was served, but with a few tweaks I think they could make it worth the money.
The braised cabbage and sweet potato mash were delicious and I could have easily had another portion.
A decent restaurant, but at present probably not worth travelling from the far-flung corners of Norfolk for.
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