Norfolk’s Best Eats
Seeing as half of Hants heads there come Christmas.
Admittedly my colleague over in Cornwall would find this post a breeze to write, with more Michelin-star restaurants than seagulls in the county these days, but that doesn’t mean you can discount Norfolk when it comes to fine dining. The county’s food and drink scene has been burgeoning – and improving – for years, with more independent producers coming on board (Candi’s Chutney, Norfolk Charcuterie, Norfolk Gin…) and more restaurants raising their game (even serving it in some places: take a bow please The Gunton Arms, pictured above).
Relying on nature’s larder is easy in Norfolk, with a 93-mile coastline resplendent in Brancaster mussel/oysters/lobster and sweet Cromer crab, and a rich countryside perfect for farming, with a growing number of specialist butchers and farm shops. Being one of the driest, sunniest climates in the country is a gift too, ideal conditions for growing malting barley – cue a macro of microbreweries.
More chefs are adopting the farm-to-fork process, too, cutting out food miles and using what’s grown and reared locally, as well as shunning pesticides, relying on the seasons and – in some cases – preparing pieces of land to grown their own fruit, veg and herbs.
So, whether you’re celebrating an occasion, are on holiday or simply want to get dressed up and go somewhere fancy, here’s Norfolk’s cream of the crop for fine dining. Starched white napkins at the ready please:
Morston Hall Hotel, Morston:
With its Michelin-star and 4 AA rosettes, the highly-regarded restaurant at the Morston Hall Hotel is popular for dinner, Sunday roasts and even breakfasts – book ahead to avoid disappointment. Dinner is a set tasting menu in a single sitting (at 7.15pm for 8pm) with eight courses for £75. Add a wine flight for £50. The menu changes daily to ensure only the freshest of ingredients are used.
On today’s taster menu:
Salt baked celeriac with Baron Bigod (a local cheese); North Sea Dover Sole with Beaufort Crust salsify puree; Holkham Hall Venison with salt baked beetroot, cabbage and white pepper jus; and hazelnut Bavarois (a layered cake) with chocolate sorbet.
The Neptune, Old Hunstanton:
The Neptune might not shout about its Michelin star or its 3 AA rosettes but this 18th century coaching house on the North Norfolk Coast is worth the noise. Head chef Kevin uses the best seasonal produce, including locally-landed fish and Brancaster Lobster, organic pork, local lamb and game, and fruit from Drove Orchard to create its eight-course taster, dinner and Sunday lunch menus.
On today’s dinner menu:
Brancaster lobster, Star Anise mousse and pea puree; filet of Wild Sea Bass, Brancaster Cockles, aubergine compote and smoked crab mayonnaise; and Tonka bean Pannacotta with Norfolk strawberries and honeycomb.
3 AA Rosette:
Roger Hickman, Norwich:
Flying the flag for modern fine dining in Norfolk, Roger Hickman doesn’t tinker with the produce too much, believing that “the best ingredients speak for themselves.” Serving modern British cuisine, guests can enjoy lunch, dinner and a taster menu, including a menu especially devised for vegetarians.
On today’s lunch menu:
Confit rabbit terrine, pea mousse and pickled mushrooms; chump of lamb, confit potatoes, courgettes and roast shallots; strawberries, elderflower and basil.
2 AA Rosette:
The Grove, Cromer:
Established in 1936, this family-owned and run hotel, glamping site, restaurant and pub is a short hop from the beach, with much of its award-winning menu showcasing the best of the sea. Head Chef (and former forager) Simon Marsh also uses his expertise in the field to bring local, more unusual ingredients to the table.
On Sunday’s lunch ‘s menu:
John Davies’ Cromer crab cake; roast Sirloin of beef with garden vegetables, roast potatoes, fluffy Yorkshire pudding and lashings of rich gravy; hand-made ice-cream.
Brasteds, Framingham Pigot:
Menus change with the season at this fine dining restaurant with boutique rooms. The food philosophy is on celebrating local produce through exceptional customer service, while the menu is predominantly British with a modern European twist. Executive Chef Buzz (yup, that’s his name) has been in situ for a decade and, in 2010, catered for The Queen.
On today’s a l carte menu:
Hand-dived king Scallops, crisp artichoke, cauliflower snow and Sicilian lemon emulsion; John Brasted’s iconic fish pie with Hampshire watercress and sauce Beurre Blanc; lemon curd parfait, fennel pollen ice-cream and sorrel leaves.
One to watch:
Opening in 2015, we are sure the Michelin Star is in the post for Benedicts, which last year won Best Restaurant in the Norfolk Food & Drink Awards and Best Restaurant in the Muddy Stilettos Awards. Everything Chef Richard Bainbridge creates at Benedicts is locally- sourced and designed to show off Norfolk’s produce.
On today’s taster menu:
Norfolk quail with burnt orange; Norfolk lamb with Jerusalem artichoke, parsley sponge and truffle; Cromer crab with apricot and almonds; and Champagne tart with English raspberries.