The Norfolk Arms, Bloomsbury
Last night was white wine and gossip time again, and this time we deserted our usual Soho haunts and went on a hunt for somewhere around the Kings Cross area where we may be able to drink substantial amounts of wine without bankrupting ourselves (tricky at the moment. See also: Skint Suppers) and ideally with the option of snacking on some small plates. Kings Cross is well on the way to regeneration and there is a long list of places on my hitlist (Shrimpy's, Grain Store, Camino) but none of these quite fit the bill last night due to lack of funds or table. We were briefly tempted by the £4 cocktails and £10 bottles of wine all night at Big Chill House before remembering that we are hurtling rapidly towards 30 and this is not a suitable Monday evening venue for us anymore. A little bit of googling later we stumbled across The Norfolk Arms, an unassuming pub with an impressive tapas list: we're big fans of tapas, so this looked perfect.
We hadn't booked but there were a couple of tables available to fit the four of us on and there was a nice buzz despite the fact it was a Monday and everyone really should have been at home being virtuous or working off the sins of the weekend. Ignoring this, we settled in with a nice bottle of Spanish house white (£16) and started dribbling at the menu. We chose a couple of dishes each, which I believe to be the following but my guesses are not helped by the fact the menu online is slightly different to the one we ate from last night:
Babaganoush and pitta
Blue cabrales bruschetta, toasted walnuts, thyme honey
Rojones: fried paprika pork belly
Speck, ricotta and goat's cheese roll
Salt cod balls with aioli
Some kind of incredible deep fried cheesy ball
Lentil and chorizo stew
The babaganoush was lovely and smokey, as it should be; the bruschetta was insanely good and something I will make at home once I can permit refined carbohydrates back into my life; the speck and ricotta rolls were just the right combination of tangy acidity and creaminess. I'd say these three, which are in the title pic, were the stand out dishes - in addition to the cheesy balls which were just calorific heaven - and everything else was the good side of pleasant too. Apart from the rojones, which were really really disappointing. These were my choice from the menu, and I was hoping for some super indulgent crispy outside, unctuous wobble inside giving way to a deep Spanish porkiness. Kind of like when I ate the AMAZING crispy piglet belly at Flesh and Buns. You know, something like this but more paprika-y:
Image courtesy of Miss Maven Muse on http://mavenmusings.com/2014/01/20/fleshbuns/. Look how amazing food can look when you can actually operate a camera properly.
But it was not to be. Instead, what was presented was more like the sad result of leaving a pot of goulash in the oven for too long. Days too long. For so long in fact that it would not matter that goulash is made with beef, as you would not be able to tell which animal the dried out protein was once a part of, such was the overriding flavour of paprika. You can see the dish below, its the bottom one.
However, this really was the one blot on a very very beautiful Spanish landscape. The staff were just the right level of attentive, and the bill was a genuine pleanant surprise. For three bottles of nice house white and nine or so tapas dishes which was a good amount to feed four, we were required to part with just twenty seven English pounds each. We skipped out of there and went for another bottle across the road feeling positively flush and planning to return soon.