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King's Lynn's top pub expert recommends some new places to try

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I love travelling, and over a normal year I might spend nights in 25 or 30 different places, ranging from friends’ or relations’ houses to hotels, B&Bs or even on planes, writes JEFF HOYLE.

This year has not been normal and over the last 12 months we have stayed at precisely one location away from home, a cottage in Dronfield. However, that has opened up new opportunities and we have been out far more than usual to eat. This is fun, saves cooking at home and supports the local economy.

We have tried to visit places which we don’t normally reach and one way to find them is to check out the CAMRA website Whatpub.

Barman, by Jeff Hoyle (50627787)
Barman, by Jeff Hoyle (50627787)

Anyone can use this and it attempts to list all the pubs in the country giving important information such as details of the beer on sale, the food offerings and the opening hours.

We have found some real local gems such as the White Hart Free House at Ashill, revived and relaunched during lock down. However, much as we have tried some of the local pubs are lacking in up-to-date information. Each pub in the area should have received a letter inviting them to update their details and we have attempted to chat to the staff of the ones where we have delivered the latest edition of Norfolk Nips, but some have slipped through the net. So, if you are a landlord or a regular, log on to Whatpub and enter any updates direct to the site. There is no cost and hopefully the free publicity will bring extra custom.

What has become increasingly apparent is that the traditional English local is becoming something of an endangered species. Many of the pubs that were noted for their ale are now more like restaurants that sell beer. There may be a small area reserved for drinkers, but most of the tables are set for food service. I can fully understand this and we have visited some excellent examples in the past few weeks. The Angel at Watlington in my view fully deserves its Fine Dining Award, The Gate at Fair Green was great value on Fish and Chip Friday and included a pint of fabulous Rooster’s beer.

Jeff Hoyle (50627784)
Jeff Hoyle (50627784)

The Partridge has managed the transition from village local to destination food pub really well, while the Three Horseshoes at Roydon was well up to scratch.

It looks like the ranks of these gourmet pubs is likely to be joined by others, such as the Stag at West Acre, where a public meeting was recently held about the future of this popular venue.

While I appreciate what these types of pubs have done and understand the reasons why, it is still refreshing to find an old fashioned local where beer is still the most important item on the menu. Recent visits to the Red Cat at South Wootton, the Union Jack at Roydon, Magdalen Cock and Tilney Buck were welcome reminders of the pleasure of just sitting with a pint.

Pubs are also being squeezed from another direction. Ever more popular are the café or bistro bars.

Should these be listed on the Whatpub website? If they serve real ale, then they surely must make the cut, but what of local examples such as the café on the railway station, Camillo’s Bar, the Poco Lounge or the new Tipsy Teapot?

Are these out of place on a pub data base, or should they be embraced as part of the future of drinking? At the moment, some are, some aren’t, but this is not set in stone. Log on and submit your updates – new venues welcome!

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