Only a short walk from King's Cross station, this surprising tapas restaurant and bar is sure to become a regular haunt for anyone who walks through its doors.
The Norfolk Arms is a bit like the wolf in sheep’s clothing – the traditional exterior is certainly deceptive. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were coming upon a traditional pub, but walk inside and you’ll get an incredibly nice surprise. Rows of Spanish ham joints hang in the window, along with bunches of garlic and peppers. The interior is predominantly dark wood, with white wooden tables dotted everywhere and simple wooden chairs. The bar area is large, with more hams hanging to the rear. A few paintings line the walls, but the simplistic decor hints that the focus here is placed elsewhere (the food, as you’ll later discover).
This place is going to be busy whatever night of the week you visit, so booking is certainly a good idea. Tables will continuously be filled and refilled with people, giving the whole place a feeling of hustle and bustle. The atmosphere is that of an authentic Spanish tapas bar, despite the setting being the bones of what was once a British pub. Staff are mostly Spanish as well, continuing the authenticity - and also very handy when you need some advice on what dishes to choose. They are incredibly helpful, but always busy, so service here may be a little slower than other venues. Persevere, though, it’s worth the wait.
Choose from a huge selection of tapas or a more ‘structured’ menu if you don’t fancy sharing. From the main menu, starters include split pea and Serrano ham soup with crème fraiche (£4.50) or, if you fancy an old favourite, go for a half-dozen rock oysters with shallot and cabernet sauvignon vinegar (£9). Mains like grilled whole sea bream, roast beetroot and sautéed green beans (£14.50) and braised pork cheeks in rioja with pardina lentils and roasted red pepper (£11) emphasise that the Norfolk Arms is serious about its food.
If you love the social style of tapas eating, choose a couple of dishes each and just keep ordering until you’re full. There’s certainly plenty to choose from: pork spare ribs with crackling (£5) offers impossibly tender pork with crunchy crackling; a half-pint of prawns with mayonnaise (£3) is a bowl spilling over with fresh prawns in their shells – simple but delicious; ‘rojones’ (£4) is pork belly fried in paprika – juicy meat with a hint of spice; and burrata mozzarella (£9), stuffed with white truffle cream and drizzled with extra virgin kalamata olive oil and oak-aged balsamic is a speciality, and perfect with the meat and fish dishes on offer. For the quality and the portion size, it’s all great value, too.
A good list of desserts, including banana pavlova and toffee sauce (£4.50) and mango and vanilla baked cheesecake (£4.50), are the perfect end to a fantastic meal.
It seems only fair to start your night here with a glass of Spanish cava – and it’s only £5.30 for a glass, £24.50 for a bottle. Wines start from just £2.65 for a small glass and £13.50 a bottle – very reasonable indeed. Quite rightly, both house white and red are Spanish. There’s also a good list of sherry, starting from £3.80 a glass. If wines aren’t your thing, there is a good list of beers from Kronenbourg to Newcastle Brown Ale and Sol, starting at just £3.60 a pint. A select list of popular cocktails is also on offer – think cosmopolitan and amaretto sour – from £5.50.
The Last Word
Whether you’ve searched the Norfolk Arms out or have stumbled upon it thinking it was just a regular pub, the shock of the unexpected interior and the fantastic food and drink on offer is a truly welcome surprise.