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Review of the George & Dragon, Newton by Castle Acre: Village pub seems to have the secret to success





So, how does a historic village pub, off the beaten track and far from the golden sands of the North Norfolk coast and its affluent visitors stay afloat in the middle of a long-running cost of living crisis?

That’s a question many unfortunate former pub owners never found a successful answer to, despite the blood, sweat and tears shed over countless hours.

However, the George & Dragon in Newton by Castle Acre seems to have the answer, if my visit on a cold Wednesday lunchtime is anything to go by: and that is, to have a great selection of hot and cold drinks, generous portions of food at affordable prices and the aim of being at the heart of the community.

My Katsu Tofu Burger
My Katsu Tofu Burger

I visited the 18th Century pub with my adult son and daughter for a spot of lunch and, on entering, we were immediately comforted by the warm and welcoming appearance of the place.

Wooden floors and ceilings, an open fireplace and a huge array of old books lined up on shelves around the dining area all added to its quaint charm.

We ordered drinks at the bar – a large Coke for me and Tilly at £4.50 each and a pint of Norfolk Adder cider for Alfie (£6). I later had a pint of orange juice and lemonade (also £4.50). If not driving I would have taken advantage of the great choice of beers, which includes Woodforde's Wherry, Adnams Ghost Ship and local guest real ales on tap.

Alfie had the Crispy Halloumi Burger
Alfie had the Crispy Halloumi Burger

There is also Guinness, Carlsberg and a large selection of keg guest products, plus drinks from West Acre brewery Duration Beer are also stocked, as well as wines supplied by London’s Lea and Sandeman, which specialises in small vineyards and individual vintages.

As we were shown to our table, near the roaring fire, we noticed two couples eating and some others enjoying a coffee and a chat. We also heard talk of the monthly pub quiz which sounds popular. These observations suggested a pub serving its community.

The latest menu was published only this month and although we decided not to have starters, they included Nachos, Bang Bang Cauliflower, Vegetable Samosas, Salt and Pepper Squid and Garlic King Prawns.

There was a choice of ‘main plates’ or ‘pub fayre’ for the main course and we all selected from the latter, me choosing the Katus Tofu Burger, which came with a kimchi coleslaw and skin-on fries (£14); Alfie opting for the Crispy Halloumi Burger with roasted pepper, rocket, chimichurri and fries (£14); and Tilly having the Chicken Tikka Madras curry, with pilau rice, garlic and coriander naan and mango chutney (£15).

My daughter opted for the Chicken Tikka Madras curry
My daughter opted for the Chicken Tikka Madras curry

Other mains included steak, sausage and mash, roast chicken, mussels, sea bass and mixed grills from the main menu and, from the pub fayre, beef or chicken burger, haddock or scampi and chips, or Tilly’s curry but as a king prawn or vegan option.

This was the first time I’d eaten tofu in a burger and it was gorgeous and crisp, with the katsu sauce tasty and the chips a nice accompaniment. Alf said his burger was also top-notch, with the large pepper adding plenty of juiciness, and Tilly loved her dish too, although the portion, as with all our meals, was particularly generous and she could not finish it.

The curry was spicy without being overbearing (she opted for less chillies), the naan bread very tasty and warm and the chutney extremely tasty.

My Vegan Cheesecake
My Vegan Cheesecake

She had no room for a ‘proper’ dessert but did enjoy a scoop of chocolate ice cream (£2.50), while Alfie went for the pub classic Sticky Toffee Pudding with spiced rum butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream, and I plumped for Vegan Cheesecake with mixed berries and ice cream – both were £7.50.

My cheesecake was beautiful and the lack of any dairy products was not at all detrimental to the taste, Alfie said his pudding was sweet and moist and Tilly said her choice was perfect for someone who was full but still wanted something sweet.

Last time I visited this pub was back in the Nineties when it was more spit and sawdust than great food and homely atmosphere – it’s moved with the times and I hope it’s flourishing. It deserves to be.

My son enjoyed a Sticky Toffee Pudding dessert
My son enjoyed a Sticky Toffee Pudding dessert
Tilly's scoop of chocolate ice cream
Tilly's scoop of chocolate ice cream

Or whole bill came to £81 which I thought reasonable for the superb food and four drinks.

Ratings out of five:

Food: Our party included a meat eater, a vegetarian and a vegan and the food served up was excellent for us all. ****

Drink: There was a great choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, both hot and cold. ****

Staff: The lady who served us was friendly and helpful and the chef was also very pleasant when he came out of the kitchen as we were leaving. ****

Decor: The pub had an old-world charm without being dated or, indeed, tacky. ****

Price: For the lovely food and the great setting, the price was bang on. ****



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