This is another restaurant on the A140; this time nearer to Diss. I had heard very conflicting reports on this place, from excellent to truly awful. I checked on the interweb and found the same thing – extremely differing views of the same place. Curious! It was time I went and checked.
It is actually on the A140, but I almost drove straight past it: there are no advance signs when approaching from Norwich and only eager vocal encouragement by my passenger convinced me to turn right, off the main road. There is extensive car parking spread over two separate areas, so being a lazy soul (with drizzle coming down) I parked near the entrance. The surface is atrocious and I carefully drove round the potholes; walking on this could be dangerous: it really should be seen to immediately. We entered via a lovely clean welcoming entrance that had one of its brass handles missing.
Inside was warm and welcoming, a smell of coffee and a smart waiter and a moth-eaten moose – the Old Ram evidently (with his nose painted pink, substituting for Rudolph) greeted us. There are many tables to choose from, distributed throughout the impressive interior: in twos and threes, and one or two hidden behind old oak beams: very cosy! We sat by the window. We noticed immediately that the chair seat covers were rather nasty: torn and greasy with age. Our drinking glasses appeared dirty too, but perhaps it was a faulty dishwasher; it wasn’t lipstick or fingerprints. The menu was a permanently fixed one, with variations such as ‘casserole of the day’ and ‘pie of the day’. A smart friendly waitress arrived quickly to take our order, but very slowly to bring the chosen food.
I had Roast Chicken Tagliatelle, which was excellent, my friend had Hunter’s Chicken with fabulous, truly homemade chips. She gave me a taste (and I know a good chip when I taste one,) and sadly one wasn’t enough: my friend kept a sharp eye on me henceforth.
I like vegetables, and was obliged to ask for a side order which we shared. Since when does one English carrot, 7 sprouts and a spoonful of green plasticky beans warrant an extra charge of £2.50, especially when barely cooked? The main servings were all smartly and beautifully presented and excellent quality, generous enough to feed two old fashioned ladies who don't like ‘food as art’. I had a glass of red wine that cost as much as a whole bottle of my usual, and my friend had a coke. Her choice of pudding was ‘off’ but she chose instead a brandy snap basket filled with ice cream, while I succumbed to ‘to chocolate pudding with a soft milk chocolate centre, served with ice cream’. Oh, excellent; both of them, and prettily served. My black coffee - the best I have been served recently - was hot, strong and fragrant; my friend’s cappuccino was too. The loos were excellent and spacious, and we wandered unhindered around the delightful rooms where diners were eating.
I had gone there purposely to assess those mixed reports. The truth is that it’s a mixed place. The frequent poor touches really let down the good aspects. Serious hard work had gone into the food, and it should have been worth the almost £40 we paid, but the whole experience wasn’t. It is conveniently sited for parties arriving from different directions; it has presence and a certain style, but falls short because of the small detractions. Would I go again? At almost twice the price of my cheapest meal (The Village Inn, Little Melton) I found it an expensive option so probably not; but if circumstances and someone else’s wallet got me there – well maybe.
The Old Ram, Ipswich Road (A140), Tivetshall St. Mary NR15 2DE - tel 01379 676794
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