By Cassie Waters.
When starting to explore the city it can be hard to know where to begin. The LCR has a lot going for it but as Freshers Week draws to an end the time has come to start exploring all Norwich has to offer. So as a seasoned Norwich drinker I have decided to offer up some help. Remember those Goosebumps books you read as a child? The ones which allow you to decide the plot, depending on what page you choose to turn to? This guide is kind of like that. Imagine you’re on a night out, at each step you will be asked a question about what you want to do and the kind of night you would like to have? From chilling in a bar to clubbing, no matter what your budget I should have you covered! So off you go on your drunken journey, have a drink on me.
So you’ve stumbled out of your taxi into the city centre and you have to decide where to go. Are you on a tight budget or is your student loan burning a hole in your pocket and you’re ready to splurge?
If you’re on a budget skip to Mischief.
If you’re got a bit more cash then head to St Benedicts Street or Bedford Street.
Threatening to topple Spoons from its domination of the start of a night is Mischief. For value for money you can’t beat it. Its £3 triples and £1 tequila shots threaten to make it both the start and end of your night, but if you can resist the urge to get too sloshed then it makes for a great place to start. Yes, it’s always busy, the tables are sticky and you’re not guaranteed any loo roll but it’s packed full of students and there’s never a dull moment.
Wanting somewhere more chill now or do you need to dance off those triples?
If it’s chill continue…
If you’re ready for a big night skip to the Clubs section.
St Benedicts Street
If it’s the start of the semester and money’s not quite so tight then St Benedicts Street is the place to start, with several great independent places to go drink.
If you like gin go to The Ten Bells, it has its own distillery, which can be seen behind a large window when you are seated, Norfolk’s first which produces Bullards Gin. Alongside their own they have a large selection of other gins to suit everyone’s taste. If gin’s not your thing then it’s still a great place for a drink, holding onto its origins as a pub but with the sleeker interior of a bar.
If you like a more alternative place to drink then a few steps down the road you’ll find The Bicycle Shop. Head downstairs and find the darkened bar, which to me has the feeling of the Leaky Cauldron or the Hog’s Head from Harry Potter. The candlelit darkness, intimate seating and array of old dusty books seem to encourage that part of the night where deep conversation is flowing. You’ll end up bent over your vodka and organic cola or raspberry beer, spouting epiphanies to your friends that you will laugh about the next day.
From here you can either continue your bar crawl on Bedford Street or head to Gonzos to continue the alternative theme in a more lively setting.
Not too far from St Benedicts is Bedford Street, home to Franks Bar and Bedfords Bar.
Franks Bar is great for a chill night or before the night starts to get more rowdy. It’s small and cosy, with a great selection of eclectic artwork to look at on the walls. And, if like me you get hungry midway through the night and can’t continue until you’ve had something to eat (please tell me I’m not the only one who gets this!), then they serve their food platters until late. I have many great memories of devouring their houmous and bread midway through the night before being revived, albeit smelling slightly of garlic.
Just next door you’ll find Bedfords Bar, the downstairs of which is the The Crypt, a small but atmospheric room with a domed ceiling and pillars dating from the 14th century, which holds many events throughout the year such as Itchy Feet and used to be home to NUA’s student night Signal. Upstairs the main bar is always busy but with lots of seating so that you can sit and admire the lights that hang in spirit bottles dangling from the vaulted ceiling.
If you’re a fan of a cocktail, particularly a two-for-one cocktail then head across the road to Turtle Bay. Whilst it’s not really in keeping with my independent bar theme, they have a large range of good cocktails, mostly rum based befitting the Jamaican theme, and even a cocktail lover like me is a sucker for a two-for one.
From here it time to go dance off those drinks at one of the Clubs or head home and sleep it all off.
Do you want a space for LGBTQ people that’s popular with all, cheap drinks, and to be able to dance to noughties pop music? Skip to Loft or, for a more strictly LGBTQ night, Flaunt.
Do you want a more typical clubbing experience? Dress up and head to Mantra or Mercy.
Do you want a more alternative ‘club’, to be able to dance to James Brown one minute and to Taylor Swift the next, with a projector playing Danger Mouse in the background? Go to Gonzos.
Prince of Wales
As many of you know and freshers will immediately find out, Prince of Wales is Norwich’s version of the strip, the very street Jeremy Kyle described as “unbelievable” when he paid a visit. Whilst I think Jeremy’s claims are pretty exaggerated, you’ll definitely see some interesting sights there on a Saturday night. Oh, and if your heels are killing you then pay a visit to the SOS bus, they’ll sort you out with a pair of flip flops.
If traditional clubbing is for you and you just want to get dressed up and dance till the early hours then Mantra or Mercy are the way to go. There’s not too much difference between them although Mantra markets itself as the more upmarket and classier venue. It’s all down to personal preference really, though on a Thursday night go to Mantra’s AfterDark student night and on a Friday night go to Mercy’s Cabana Club. Try and find a friend who has a Mantra wristband, it will save you a lot of money on drinks.
If you’d rather a club that’s aimed at LGBTQ people then there’s Loft or Flaunt. More recently Loft has been criticised for becoming too heavily populated by straight UEA students who want £1 entry on a Thursday night and drinks prices that rival Mischief but it remains as busy and fun as ever so get there early to avoid an insane queue. My friends and I have stubbornly queued for an hour and a half before because we’d waited too long to leave. But who doesn’t want to dance to SClub7 and then collapse in fake aeroplane seats!
However, if you want an LGBTQ night that hasn’t yet been overtaken by students, Flaunt is the place for you. It has all the charms of Loft but with much more space inside. Grab your chance before it becomes the next Loft!
Gonzos (Saving you from Prince of Wales)
As their tagline would suggest, Gonzo’s offers something different from the typical clubs on the strip. It’s my favourite place to end a night. Maybe it’s the arty hoarder aesthetic, maybe it’s the videos of He Man or Danger Mouse playing on the projector, or maybe it’s just the knowledge that David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” will be played at some point in the night without fail, but no matter where we go on our bar crawl, we will always end up here. Although I am slightly embarrassed by how well I know the bouncers just from visiting so much.
After the Clubs it’s time for the most important part of the night… food!
Do you want a huge slice of pizza with crazy toppings and names like The Fat Elvis and Cheesy Geezer? Go to Rocky Mountains.
Do you want a more typical kebab or cheesy chips? Go to Tastebuds.
You’ve had a brilliant night and now all that’s left to do is stuff your face, get a cab and crawl into bed. For the adventurous I recommend Rocky Mountains on Prince of Wales, they only serve pizza but it is to die for! It’s owned by the same people as Gonzo’s and they put in the same unusual flair they do with their food at Gonzo’s during the day. They have every type of pizza you could think of and more, from a full English breakfast on a pizza, to a deep fried pizza (tastier than it might sound!). Their twist on the standard margarita is my favourite with so many different types of cheeses on it. Be careful though, eat too much and you may meet the same end as the inspiration of their pizza The Fat Elvis.
If at the end of a night you crave cheesy chips or a donner kebab then Norwich offers plenty of choice, but my favourite place is Tastebuds. Their food is pretty similar to the other options available, but the prices are reasonable, there’s seating to slump in while you wait for your taxi and the staff are the nicest kebab shop people you will ever meet! We’ve ended many nights chatting away to them over pizza and chips. They know our names, our degrees, our entire life stories and we know all about them. So say hello from me!
All that’s left to do now is go home and repeat next week. I hope you have as many good nights out at these places as I have.