For once I remembered to phone to book a table; the young lady I spoke to was very polite and welcoming; she offered us a table inside the main restaurant, or out in the conservatory, then rattled off the menu together with details of the puddings. The place is easy to find on St Nicholas Street, quite near the bottom, in Norfolk House Courtyard - full of fascinating small independent shops. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm. (Tuesday is half-day closing in Diss).
Each restaurant or pub that I have visited has its own ‘best feature’; with some it is simply the food that is outstanding, with others it’s the old oak beams and wood fire that shine out: at Amandines it is certainly the laid-back friendly atmosphere. We chose to be seated in the courtyard within the restaurant; this had been created by glassing over the gap between two buildings and offered a quirky alternative to the main rooms and it was so light in there. There were two steps down to this part so possibly disabled eaters may have to stay in the top part. The restaurant was quietly full, but not crowded, and a wood burning stove promised heat for winter dining. During pauses in our lunch we were joined in conversation by diners at neighbouring tables. One couple had two children who were playing happily with some of the games provided that bridge the gap between toys and grown ups’ recreation – with mum and dad joining in.
The menu was chalked on a blackboard and I chose a Four Cheese & Thyme Tart which came with various Amandines salads and lovely tiny roast new potatoes; my companion chose a Goat’s Cheese Tart garnished with lemon and thyme dressing and the same salads and potatoes as I had. The two tarts were generously sized and the salads plentiful: there was coleslaw and a surprisingly tasty beetroot and chic pea salad; there was a fresh green salad too. Everything was beautifully presented and tasty and we both tucked in eagerly. For dessert my friend chose Pancake with Wild Cherry Ice Cream which was absolutely fabulous (she very kindly let me have a taste) and had the most aromatic cherry flavour I have ever encountered. I happily chomped into a vanilla cheesecake with sharp juicy mixed berries that was equally delicious and generously sized. Our coffees were big enough to swim in, and were hot, strong and fresh.
So why have I not yet mentioned that this is a vegetarian restaurant? Well simply because from the minute I entered the place I completely forgot! Unless you are a fan of a 12 ounce steak every day of your life, you will not notice that there is no meat or fish: vegans too are catered for, but it might be wise to phone in advance to check that any dietary concerns can be discussed.
Only one thing about the place worried me slightly, and that was the serving of food on wooden platters: for some reason mine was on an ordinary plate, but my friend’s and some of the others in the restaurant were on large wooden ones. The place has a food hygiene certificate rated at 5 (the highest) and my contact-in-the-trade says it’s perfectly O.K. – lots of places do it. So if you are bothered, ask for a ‘proper’ plate when ordering. Also slightly disconcerting was the fact that they only take cash. Be prepared for that, I was nearly embarrassed.
Wine £ 4
Coke £ 2
Coffee £ 4
Prices are slightly approximate as I lost the bill; I was so flustered about the cash payment.
Norfolk House Courtyard
St Nicholas Street Diss,
Tel: 01379 640 449
Right in the middle of Diss.
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