Fine dining - a taste of Norfolk

Everyone who visits Norfolk knows we are spoilt for choice when it comes to food.

Crabs fresh from the sea, samphire picked that morning from the marshes, vegetables straight from the farm, award-winning meat... Whether you cook it at your cottage or pop out for a bite to eat, you are guaranteed something to remember – from Great Yarmouth’s famous market chips to restaurants boasting Michelin stars.

Yes, it might surprise you to know we have some excellent fine dining around – and some of it is right on the doorstep. If you don’t even want to leave the house we can arrange some excellent caterers for a dinner party or romantic dinner a deux while you’re here – just ask us for more details.

But if you’d rather eat out, one of our favourites is The Swan at Ingham, just a short drive along the coast road. Closed for almost two years after a devastating fire, the restaurant is open once again with its seasonal menu for lunch and dinner, including a menu du jour, a la carte and tasting menus. Norfolk-born Chef Patron Daniel Smith won his first Michelin star when he was 23 as head chef at Morston Hall (more of that later).  You may have seen him on BBC2’s Great British Menu, and he brings a lot of the ideas from that series to the table.

How does baked cannon of lamb with a Norfolk mustard herb crust or a Binham blue cheese tart or lime parfait with champagne jelly sound to you? The building is lovely too. Built in the 14th century it includes part of a priory and is full of history. Call 01692 581099 or visit their website to book. We recently tried out the fixed price lunch du jour and it was superb.

Now, you may not think Great Yarmouth has much to offer where “fine dining” is concerned, but it has some very nice restaurants indeed. Pamela’s is a very well kept local secret but is well worth hunting out. A small, unobtrusive door opens into a sumptuous cocktail bar with velvet banquettes, fairy lights  and amazing cocktails, canapés and champagnes on offer. After a while perusing the menu, diners are taken upstairs to an open plan space with light wood, white tablecloths and stylish decor. The food is delicious and served with some imaginative touches. The salt is grated from rocks, there are straws of appetite-whetting ginger and herbs, baskets of exotic bread and the dishes are presented like works of art.

Just to give you a taste, how about a disc of chicken liver pate on a wafer of biscuit, scallops with ham hock croquettes or delicate mushroom ravioli to start, gin cured salmon or tender duck to follow and a deconstructed gin and tonic cheesecake with tonic jelly cubes or a cheese board of half a dozen local cheeses to finish? Service is impeccable, too. There isn’t a website but call 01493 331000 to book. They are not open every night so it might be best to call well in advance.

About half an hour’s drive away is The Norfolk Mead hotel, at Coltishall.  This Georgian country house hotel is popular for luxury weekends away, but its delicious food is available to everyone in the intimate restaurant. Executive chef Anna Duttson and her team use quality local ingredients in imaginative ways which look as good as they taste. Sea trout with smoked mackerel spatzle, whipped goats cheese with a rosemary emulsion; salmon fillet with purple potatoes and crispy mussels, wild mushrooms with arancini and smoked beetroots; lemongrass and popcorn pancetta, vanilla brulee with glazed pineapple... Our mouths are watering already!

They also do an excellent Sunday lunch and afternoon tea. Visit www.norfolkmead.co.uk for more details. They also have a lovely private dining room which you can hire - worth it for a special occasion. 

Further afield, Morston Hall, near the north Norfolk town of Blakeney has a Michelin-starred restaurant with a seven course tasting menu which changes daily and includes locally caught brown shrimps, Stiffkey sea bass, locally reared pork, locally made ice creams, Sunday lunch and afternoon tea. It’s a lovely setting and the chef/owner award-winning Galton Blackiston, will even share some of his recipes with you. Visit www.morstonhall.com to see more. We have tried the sunday lunch which is a very special treat. Booking is essential.

The broadland village of Horning has an excellent fish restaurant – the Bure River Cottage. Locally smoked salmon, mussels and Cromer crabs share a menu with skate wings, sea bass, bream and monkfish – all supplied from Norfolk and Suffolk. Visit www.burereivercottagerestaurant.co.uk for more.

Norwich is also blessed with some excellent restaurants of all standards. One of those is Roger Hickman’s Restaurant, an intimate restaurant which pays great attention to detail, flavour and presentation. Its tasting menu with accompanying wine flight is very popular and it offers thoughtfully chosen a la carte and tasting menus for vegetarians – nothing is an afterthought here. Visit www.rogerhickmansrestaurant.com for sample menus and bookings.

Other favourites in Norwich include Bishop’s www.bishopsreatsurant.co.uk; The Farmyard (which serves top quality local food in a more relaxed setting – they call it ‘bistronomy’) www.farmyardrestaurant.com; Benedicts (run by chef Richard Bainbridge who used to be at Morston Hall) www.restaurantbenedicts.com; Brummells (a long-established fish restaurant which is worth a visit for the quirky decor alone) www.brummells.co.uk; and The Assembly House, where chef Richard Hughes serves excellent food in the most delightful setting. If you’re in Norwich for the day, pop in for afternoon tea. www.assemblyhousenorwich.co.uk.

We could list more, but part of the fun is discovering them yourselves. Perhaps you could let us know if you come across any fine-dining gems we haven’t found yet...

 

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