They always say that the best restaurants are those with queues at the entrance or a waiting list for a reservation.
That said, there are often queues to get into Pizza Hut but I don’t expect to see the salad bar or Ice Cream Factory displaying a Michelin star at any time soon. Secondly, a good restaurant is one that seems to have been around forever and has attained ‘local legend’ status. One restaurant in Norwich ticks the boxes for both having a small queue at the door, and possessing the reassuring feel of a place that’s simply always been there; The Waffle House.
The small restaurant on St. Giles Street, Norwich, opened in 1978. My parents used to dine there before I was born and I suspect the menu hasn’t changed much since. Usually a restaurant stuck in the 70s would fail to appeal to modern tastes. However, the concept of The Waffle House is so beautifully simple that there’s absolutely no need to change a thing. To start the day they serve breakfast in the American style; basically an English breakfast with the addition of waffles and maple syrup. From lunch onwards the menu is savoury waffles for main course, and sweet waffles for desert.
For the main course I had a large wholemeal waffle (my choice, a plain waffle is the alternate option) with ham, cheese and mushrooms. The waffles are made to order in an open kitchen that has a row of pretty serious-looking waffle irons. These people know their waffle irons, and the result is an amazingly light and crispy super-size waffle that fills a dinner-plate. The cheese on my waffle wasn’t at all greasy, they don’t just grate cheddar on it and stick it under a grill. The cheese topping is more like fondu, the kind of hot liquid cheese that I would be equally happy to have served alone in a mug! There was no scrimping on the ham or mushrooms either, make no mistake – this was not a small snack.
Despite the main course being more than enough I decided to have a desert too – well, it would be rude not to. The uninitiated might be put off by the idea of a desert created with the very same waffles that formed the main course. Wrong. It’s a brilliant idea! The sweet toppings transform the waffles into an entirely different experience; to be blunt, a food-induced orgasm. Well, near enough. The desert menu is as wide and varied as the main menu, and equally appealing. Hot Dutch Apple was my choice; this comprised of a wholemeal waffle topped with the entire contents of a perfectly cooked and spiced Bramley apple pie, then loaded up with ice-cream (or cream). It wasn’t a little knob of cheap ice-cream as a token gesture on the side but a proper ice-cream mountain that gradually liquified into the hot apple sauce with its festive cinnamon and raisin flavours. The resulting dish was every bit as enjoyable as the main course. The drink pictured was Fuller’s Honeydew beer – not something I’d have expected to see on a restaurant menu. Whether by chance or design the Honeydew complemented both the main and the desert perfectly.
A two-course dinner for two with three drinks came to £36. Considering the quality of the food, the atmosphere and the attentiveness of the staff, it was worth every penny – this place gets top-marks! I have no doubt The Waffle House will still be going strong in another thirty-four years.