Saturday 24 August 2013

Hall Road Diner - Norwich

(Now closed)

118 Hall Road

Limited parking spaces outside

Breakfast served daily from 7am - 2pm

Birchy's Diner is under new management and has become Hall Road Diner.
Read my review of Birchy's Diner here

It still has plenty of outside seating.

 Inside looks pretty much the same.

A loyalty card is a great idea, buy five breakfasts and the next one is free. 

The sauce selection with quality brands is impressive.

Each breakfast comes with a free tea or coffee, nice touch and great tea!

The menu offers a good choice but it can be difficult deciding what one to go for. The bumper option offering mushrooms and tomatoes would have been nice.

 The bumper breakfast comes with toast and bread & butter, just toast arrived though.

The bumper breakfast arrived nicely presented on a large oval plate.

The bacon looked good but the sausages didn't look as quality as I had remembered them being.

The eggs were fantastic but the fried bread was no longer golden and crispy like it used to be.

 I quite enjoyed the bumper breakfast but had concerns about the quality of the sausages and crispiness of the fried bread. I also wondered about the veggie options available and wanted to try the mushrooms and tomatoes. I decided a second visit was needed to have a closer look.

- Visit No 2 -

 On my second visit I discovered that the veggie options were nicely covered on the menu.

This time I chose the medium breakfast so I could try the mushrooms and tomatoes, I ordered extra black pudding too.

 The fried bread was still not crispy enough though.

The black pudding and bacon were nice but the sausage lacked quality.

 The tomatoes were excellent and mushrooms deep fried.

The perfect fried egg.

The economy sausage.

Birchy's Diner had been a favourite of mine for a long time, it featured on my recommended section of the blog and served a consistently good breakfast at a great price. Recently I discovered it was under new management and had changed name to Hall Road Diner, the recommended sticker I had given to Birchy's Diner was still on the window and had now appeared on their loyalty card too. I was keen to find out whether the change of management and name had any impact on this once great breakfast that I had enjoyed many times in the past...

Upon entering -  The layout inside was pretty much the same as it had been before. There is seating either side of the cafe and plenty of outside seating too, the counter and kitchen is at the rear. Each table has a menu, a good choice of sauces, salt pepper and sugar. The menu offers a good selection of different size breakfasts but the larger options don't offer tomatoes and mushrooms, you can order a medium breakfast which comes with mushrooms and tomatoes but you only get one each of sausage and bacon. An option containing double sausage and bacon with all the other key items would make a great addition to the menu. Place your order at the counter, pay, collect some cutlery and the food will be bought over when it is ready. I liked the traditional feel of Hall Road Diner and it is clearly poplular with the locals and is always busy. 7/10

Service - The staff here (I think some remain from Birchy's) are friendly and efficient. You are given the option of tea or coffee when ordering and not long after that the breakfast arrives. On my second visit I ordered extra black pudding, I noticed whilst drinking my tea that somebody popped out to the shop to buy some black pudding, now that's good service! I also asked if I could swap a slice of my toast for fried bread, this was no problem. 9/10

Contents - I tried the bumper and medium breakfasts on my two visits, I will focus on the medium breakfast which offered a more vast selection of items. 
1 sausage, 1 bacon, 1 fried egg, 1 hash brown, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, fried bread, black pudding (ordered as an extra for 80p) buttered toast and a mug of tea. 8/10

Presentation - On both occasions the breakfast placed in front of me were presented beautifully, the undercooked fried bread and economy sausage did stand out though and kind of ruined the view slightly. 8/10

The food - The quality sausage I had eaten many times at Birchy's had been replaced with a deep fried economy type, a real disappointment. The bacon and black pudding were nice though and the fried egg was perfect. The tomatoes were cooked beautifully and tasted delicious, the hash brown was deep fried and crispy, the mushrooms tasted ok and were also deep fried. The buttered toast was great and the beans had a good consistency. That amazing golden and crunchy fried bread I had experienced at Birchys was sadly now undercooked and drenched in oil. 7/10

Value for money - The medium breakfast with extra black pudding cost £5.75 and came with buttered toast and a hot drink. 8.10

Veggie option - Yes, 3 different veggie options.

Overall - A great cafe with friendly staff serving a vast selection of breakfasts. For me the quality of the sausages and fried bread let it down a bit though. I can no longer say it is a place I recommend visiting but it is certainly worth a look though. 8/10


  1. Hi Mr Fry-up Inspector. Thank you for taking the time to come and see us again. We very much value your review.

    As you say, we are the same old Birchy's team - just a new freshened up sign and menu. We received your "Recommended" sticker through our door on the day we changed the sign.
    Please be assured, we had no intent to claim any accolades we had not earned. We - the staff collectively - decided a change of name might freshen up our image as “Birchy” has not actually worked here for years. We considered "Tony's Cafe" but he is too modest so instead we went for "Hall Road Diner".

    We will be tweaking the next menu print in response to your feedback. We will also make it much clearer that the breakfasts on the menu are suggested meals based on the our most common orders. We encourage customers to tailor their ideal breakfast with whatever SWAPS or EXTRAS they fancy. Tell us also if you prefer strong or weak tea, hard or soft eggs, dark or light toast. We do our best to please - even if we have to send out a runner!

    As ever, we aim to provide the best quality and service at the best possible price. We haven't changed our staff or our suppliers and we NEVER cut corners on quality of produce.
    All of our ingredients are locally sourced in Norfolk. Even our vegetables are collected from the grower's own farm shop.

    We absolutely can't understand your experience with our sausages. Are you sure there is no mistake?

    The close up photograph certainly looks like an economy sausage but it doesn't look anything like one of our sausages.

    We NEVER buy economy sausages, not even for sausage casserole. Sausages are by far the largest stock outlay every week. We occasionally get given samples to try but nothing yet has tempted us to change. We had half a dozen taster sent in about 3 weeks ago that were truly awful. Actually inedible. They got thrown out.

    We have used the same long established local butcher for years and we buy their premium product, delivered fresh twice a week:-

    In the cafe we get nothing but compliments on our sausages. I have myself eaten some this morning I have spoken to at least 10 different customers, all of whom agreed that the sausages were "lovely". Several said that they were the main reason they keep coming come back to us.

    We have never once had a complaint. Something is wrong here?
    Have we have been knobbled by a rogue sample sausage?

    Please give us another try – we rely on our sausages as one of our best features. They have definitely not been replaced by any cheap economy ones - we know that would be breakfast suicide.

    Thank you,

    Sam Raven
    On behalf of all at Hall Road Diner

  2. Hi, thanks for your reply. I only ever usually visit somewhere once before writing my review but felt so passionate about keeping Hall Road Diner in the Recommended section I visited a second time to be certain. Everything seemed as it was which is excellent but the sausage situation did baffle me, the look, texture and taste was much different to before. My other concern was the fried bread which was no longer golden and crispy but soft and holding lots of oil. It was these two things that brought the score down but if put right would certainly ensure Hall Road Diner is recommended again. I will be more than happy to visit again and revise the review score based on my findings. Keep up the good work and see you again soon!

  3. I really appreciate you coming back to me - and all the hard work you do with the blog. Your photos really are excellent.

    Having re-read your post I realised that you visited twice. I am truly shocked and disappointed that your experience was not top notch on the sausage front but I do appreciate your honest feedback. I will pass it on to all concerned and investigate further. Our sausages need to be 100% all the time not just most of the time. I have to agree with you - that close-up picture doesn't look appetising at all. Nothing like the one I had this morning.

    I believe you get what you pay for and we do pay for quality meat. We will never replace proper local farm food with any cheap alternative but we will obviously have to do a bit better on the quality control in future.

    There is no good excuse for missing your bread though. My apologies for that and for the mildly anaemic fried bread too. 8/10 overall is a fair result on the day. We will obviously have to work on a few points to regain our prized Recommended status. We will be trying so - watch this space!

    Thanks again for a very positive and fair review and we look forward to "not" seeing you again in the near future.

    Best Regards,