Dray Yard Smokehouse Norwich Review
We are always up for a good feed here at Average Joe’s, so this weekend we thought it would be rude not to try out independently owned Dray Yard in our home town of Norwich.
On approach the restaurant is pretty unassuming with a grey blue colourscheme accented by a vertical exterior sign. It’s low key but inviting with big windows showing the passing footfall what’s going on inside with the opportunity to show off the customers to the world outside. The first thing you notice about the place is that they start seating customers at the back first, which doesnt make the best use of those big windows. We booked at peak time, so it was a little bizarre arriving to an empty front area.
We were seated at our table and given a chance to review the menu. The Smokehouse theme is illustrated by the array of grill options including ribs, pulled pork, burgers and steaks, and it was the latter which tickled my fancy with the good lady opting for a very ‘southern’ sounding mac ‘n’ cheese. While we were waiting for our food we had the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere or lack there-of.
Unfortunately the interior feels as though the restaurant has been opened prematurely, and seems unfinished and as a chap who feels that success is all in the details it was plain to see that these had been overlooked. As a rule I enjoy consistency and continuety within businesses and brands and Dray Yard lacked this. There was a rustic looking sign hanging from the rafters, a contemporary picture of a bull formed from words, and some bold and colourful artwork on one of the walls. The problem was that none of these things told a story of any kind, or really gave the place a ‘southern style smokehouse’ feel; it was all just a bit random and the art was pretty sparcely positioned excentuating the stark white walls making the place feel more like a school canteen than anything else. There is a large blackboard with the guest beers on, which seemed a bit rushed, and although the menu referred us to a specials board for desserts, there wasnt one.
The staff were in uniforms but with a grey, red and white colourscheme one would expect the uniform to incorporate this, yet the staff were in dark green polo shirts, more akin to those of an Army PTI than a waiter.
Enough of the aesthetics you may say, tell us about the food…
So the steak arrived served with fries and onion strings (shreds of fried onions) and a choice of side. I went with a side salad. The steak was well cooked and well seasoned, and the menu assured me it was also locally sourced, something we’re definitely in favour of. The fries were tasty but a little anaemic and the salad was flavourful given the addition of a pleasant salad dressing. The onion strings were pretty good if a little more difficult to get on your fork than the equivalent onion ring.
It wasn’t too bad, but at £17, I would have liked a more smokey flavour and a less boring plate than the standard oval one it was served on. I’m getting used to getting my slab of meat on a slab of slate or wooden plinth or something a bit different. Just a little extra which makes a song and dance of my meat. Something that makes it look a bit less conventional and makes the food worth paying for. Maybe its just me.
The good lady’s mac ‘n’ cheese was a bit of a disappointment. There were about 3 pieces of actual macaroni (which we would imagine had run out) and instead she had a bowl of penne in cheese sauce which is neither macaroni or smokehousey in any way, and for £9, the portion should definitely be bigger, even if there was a small side salad that came with it.
The list of beers and ales was good with some local stuff alongside Brooklyn Lager, and for those of you driving you have the option of a Coke Float and a Lemonade Volcano.
All in all, Dray Yard has a lot of potential, but severely lacks character and identity, and without this we cant see how a small independent restaurant can be a success. We need to be offered value, character or exceptional food to lure us away from the international or chain restaurants, but on this occasion the Average Joe was looking for something a little better than average.