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Where to go for pub food in West Norfolk

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, November 1, 2019

You used to go to the pub for a pint, but increasingly a visit seems to involve a meal.

There aren’t many pubs that can survive these days just by serving beer, especially in the villages where the drink-driving laws make it difficult for many potential customers to reach the premises.

The Cock Inn, Little Thurlow
The Cock Inn, Little Thurlow

I can only think of the Cock at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, the Union Jack in Roydon and Tilney Buck in the surrounding villages that don’t offer meals.

Many of those that do offer food have upped their game, as is indicated by the new Michelin guide listing 18 pubs around the country which have been awarded one star and one with two stars.

To the best of my knowledge I have been in two of them a long time ago when the food on offer was more likely scampi in a basket than a fancy tasting menu such as the one that was reviewed in my Sunday paper recently that came in at around £140 per head for the full eight-course experience.

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, November 1
The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, November 1

In truth, I probably enjoyed my fish and chips at the Coach and Horses at Tilney the other week as much as I would the poached oyster, puffed quinoa or smoked turnip broth described by Jay Rayner. Still, pub food is becoming more interesting.

The Portuguese influenced dishes such as the chorizo stew I had at the George and Dragon at Newton by Castle Acre was excellent and certainly didn’t suffer from what a friend calls ‘too much plate’. Neither did the ‘all you can eat Mexican evening’ out at our Pub of the Year, the Rose and Crown at Harpley. We will be back next month for another go.

We might also return to the Angel at Watlington where seemingly ordinary pub food was elevated to another level by the skill of the chef.

It is an interesting call by Elgoods, therefore to move the Victory at Clenchwarton upmarket. I believe that Jed, who will be jointly running the Partridge as it is to become, has experience at the multi award winning Duck at Stanhoe.

The Bar Man column
The Bar Man column

This has been a major success story since it was launched in 2010. Formerly the Crown, my main recollection of the old days was a slight disagreement with the landlord about his habit of smoking behind the bar while serving, and my attempts to explain that we did not have to list him in the Good Beer Guide if we didn’t consider the pub suitable.

I guess that the impact of this transformation is the driving force behind the Clenchwarton refurbishment. I will be interested to see if the trick can be repeated in what at first sight seems a long way away from the more affluent North Norfolk coast.

Hopefully they will continue Rod’s excellent monthly quizzes which we have supported for many years, and I can check out their food with our traditional pre-game meal. I might even have to look beyond the steak.

What I won’t be choosing will be the new BrewDog invention, the flexitarian burger. Described as a half beef, half vegan hybrid it consists of a patty composed of 50per cent beef and 50 per cent plant-based ‘Beyond Meat’.

My black-and-white view of the world makes it hard to reconcile a burger with some meat as in anyway vegan. Nor do I understand those who describe themselves as part-time vegetarian.

I rarely eat meat between about 2 and 4 each afternoon, but I will leave the vegetarian label to those who are truly committed and deserve it.

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