Norwich is a quirky old city. Former capital of the nation and once the second largest city in the country, it’s been graced by the likes of Stephen Fry, Tim Westwood and of course radio legend Alan Partridge.
Mixing historical sites like Norwich Castle and Elm Hill with more modern attractions such as The Forum and EPIC Studios, the city strikes a fine balance between tradition and modernist styles.
This balance is very much reflected in the city’s abundance of bars and restaurants. It has an establishment to match any preference: whether it be upmarket cocktail bar or underground ale house, there’s a place for any thirsty patron to call home.
Joel Draba-Mann picks out ten of the best bars Norwich has to offer.
A great little real ale house with a dark history, The Murderers pub was thought to have earned its name due to the murder of a prostitute under its roof, but the macabre moniker actually refers to the killing of a woman by her estranged ex-cavalryman husband. Thankfully the mood is a bit lighter nowadays, with The Murderers putting on regular live music events throughout the week.
2-8 Timberhill, Norfolk, NR1 3LB (01603 621447, www.themurderers.co.uk)
The Fat Cat Brewery Tap
The Fat Cap Brewery Tap not only stocks all your regular bevvies, but also sells its own in-house beers and ales. The Brewery Tap half of the name is situated next door, and home-brewed ales can also be bought by the bottle for takeaway. A traditional pub run by two former TV producers.
98-100 Lawson Road, Norfolk, NR3 4LF (01603 413153, fatcattap.co.uk)
A relatively new venue situated at the heart of Norwich’s city nightlife – the oft-packed Prince of Wales Road – Mantra is an oriental nightclub, split between a traditional club dance floor, a chic oriental lounge bar and the luxurious ‘Secret Garden’, a lavish smoking area with a traditional Japanese garden design. Do expect a stricter door policy than some places, especially on the more popular Saturday nights.
50 Prince of Wales Road, Norfolk, NR1 1LL (01603 660662, www.mantranorwich.com)
This Tiki-style bar is a favourite of Norwich’s student community. Specializing in reasonably priced cocktails of all flavours, Lola Lo’s puts on regular themed nights and also runs bookable cocktail master-classes, if you’re keen to swot up on your mixing knowledge. Get here early though to avoid the student-night queues. Saturday night’s After Dark Rum Club is certainly worth a visit, with sophisticated beats and half priced cocktails between 10-11pm.
23 Bank Plain, Norfolk, NR2 4SF (01603 619961, www.lolalonorwich.com)
This is a unique underground bar and restaurant that retains much of the location’s 15-17th century design mixed with a modernised atmosphere. Upstairs is Bedford’s traditional and acclaimed restaurant, a mixture of classic and continental Bistro food. Downstairs is the famous Crypt – yes, an actual crypt, and one of the only remaining ones of its kind still open to the public. The stone-walled dungeon becomes a music venue by night, featuring everything from metal bands to electronic DJs.
1 Old Post Office Yard, Bedford Street, Norfolk, NR2 1SL (01603 666869, www.bedfordsbar.co.uk)
The Last Wine Bar
An award-winning upmarket brasserie situated on the outskirts of the city’s historic quarter, The Last Wine Bar is built into an old Victorian shoe factory, which gives the place a hint of historic style. Serving over 100 varieties of the titular drink, The Last also features an exemplary menu of European origins.
76 St. George’s Street, Norfolk, NR3 1AB (01603 626626, www.lastwinebar.co.uk)
Frank’s Bar has quite the reputation within the local community. A quirky little cafe-bar loved by all, whether you’re after a light lunch, a few brewskis or a coffee and a chat, Frank’s caters for everyone. It also runs a Sunday breakfast menu, and an afternoon screening of a classic film in the bar’s mini-cinema den. The place is best known for its chill-out playlists however, some of which were even featured on Lauren Laverne’s BBC Music radio show.
19 Bedford Street, Norfolk, NR2 1AR (01603 618902, www.franksbar.co.uk)
The Belgian Monk
This little pub has gained quite a reputation since its opening in 2000. Running with the ethos that less is more, The Belgian Monk is a traditionally set establishment oozing with personality. The Monk specializes in Belgian blondes (the drink!) and traditional mussels (of which they sell a 1/4 tonne of each a week). If seafood isn’t your thing however, The Belgian also offers a varied menu that caters for all. A regular venue for a lot of locals, you could say a visit has become quite the habit (sorry).
7 Pottergate, Norfolk, NR2 1DS (01603 767222, www.thebelgianmonk.com)
This diminutive little place holds the record as the smallest pub in the city. Size doesn’t matter here though, as it also happens to be one of the best, making The Good Pub Guide 2011. The Vine, reopened in 2008, is a traditional pub with a twist. Offering truly authentic, home-cooked Thai cuisine along with all the regular beers and ales you’d expect, The Vine also often runs its own specialist events and beer festivals throughout the year.
Dove Street, Norfolk, NR2 1DE (01603 627362, www.vinethai.co.uk)
The Birdcage is a visually stunning bar channeling the design of a cruise liner located right in the heart of the bustling Norwich Lanes. A hip joint offering all manner of beers, wines and spirits, The Birdcage also features its own in-house gallery space, known as the Ballroom and The Bridge, with art exhibitions changing every three months. If that wasn’t enough reason to have a look in, they also encourage a BYO Fish ‘n’ Chips policy, with the pub situated opposite the best fish bar in Norwich, Grosvenors’.
23 Pottergate, Norfolk, NR2 1DS (01603 633534, www.thebirdcagenorwich.co.uk)
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