A North Norfolk Pub Crawl
October 11, 2017
Trawling the best of the coast
Pubs in the late twentieth century served beer. Food was variable: crab sandwiches in season, the Three Horseshoes at Warham prided itself on its pies, and the King’s Head in Blakeney was owned by a couple of veteran troupers from the BBC’s Black & White Minstrel Show. They served good fish and chips, I seem to remember…..
The Three Horseshoes at Warham
If you knew where to go you could eat well, but then as now, it was always worth following a recommendation.
Then in the 1980’s three restaurants in North Norfolk appeared in the Good Food Guide: The Moorings in Wells-next-the Sea, the Ark at Erpingham, and Yetman’s in Holt. Each was owned by a husband and wife team, the wife at the stove and her husband front of house. They were all quirky in their own way, and generous in their approach. None of the three remains today, since the owners of two retired, and the third moved on to open Yetman’s microbrewery (scroll down for details).
Times have changed. Many pubs are now effectively run as restaurants. Most make the effort to serve their village community by keeping a bar area for locals who want to pop in for a pint or three and a bit of gossip, but the emphasis (and presumably the profit) is on the food. Here are three highlights from a summer holiday this year.
The Hunworth Bell
(a.k.a. the Hunny Bell)
The Bell was reopened in August 2017 by Ben & Sarah Handley of The Duck Inn at Stanhoe. We sat in the bar, there are two other rooms with more of a restaurant feel, but the same menu is served throughout. There’s also a large garden.
The bar at The Hunworth Bell
The printed menu has inventive variations on pub food (there’s fish and chips to be had) with “bar bites” and specials on a blackboard.
We chose two starters and a main with a couple of extras as a light lunch.
A generous bowl of “lager & lime whitebait” came with “Sriracha mayonnaise” (No, I didn’t know either – Sriracha is a Malaysian chilli sauce, giving a smoky warmth to the mayo – good with chips too)
Smooth Mackerel pate was served with cucumber relish, pickled cucumber, lemon puree and good sourdough bread.
Steak Tartare was hand cut, tender and delicate, but bright with capers and pepper, topped with a golden egg yolk. Pickled mushrooms still had texture, sweet and sour, not vinegary. Something I tend to order in Paris, this was an accomplished and sophisticated version of the French classic.
We also had hand cut chips, dark and savoury, and a salad with chunks of good tomato and roast beetroot.
The staff were friendly, the atmosphere relaxed, and prices are very fair. The wine list appears to be chosen with care. (I drank Yetman’s beer).
The Hunworth Bell
The Hunworth Bell, The Green, Hunworth, near Holt, Norfolk NR24 2AA
The Ship Inn, Weybourne
This village pub has a garden and a few tables outside, where you can watch the world go by when the weather’s good. Food is served until 8.30pm, but people eat early in Norfolk, so it’s worth a call on the off chance of being squeezed in for dinner around 8. (Check website for current opening times, which vary with the seasons).
The menu is varied, with plenty of fish (chowder, a platter of seafood from nearby Cley Smoke House, fish pie), including a mighty fish and chips – our waiter commented “it’s more like whale and chips”…..
And there’s always a choice of specials on the blackboard – lobster and crab in season, mackerel stuffed with chorizo, surf and turf, usually a curry.
While the food is very good, something that sets The Ship aside is the landlord’s acquisitive enthusiasm for gin. First noticed about a year ago when he proudly boasted a selection of 30, within weeks we heard it had grown to 40. This August the blackboard outside announced “We love Gin – 75 gins”, only to be told as we placed our order that there were more like 83 – and counting….
They do occasional gin and tapas evenings. Booking essential. (Very popular with the “Local Ladies”, apparently).
We chose a French “G’vine”, and an Edinburgh Seaside Gin. The G’vine is distilled from grapes and vine flowers, with hints of citrus and mint. The recommended garnish was mint, cucumber, a slice of orange, and black peppercorns.
The Edinburgh Gin derives spice notes from coriander and cardamom. The other botanicals sound less familiar – “scurvy grass”, ground ivy, bladderwrack – served with cucumber, black pepper and samphire (when available), it’s a punchy aperitif.
Tonic isn’t neglected. There’s Fevertree, Double Dutch, and 1724, which the landlord says is the best he’s tasted. Most commercially grown quinine now comes from Africa, but this is grown at an altitude of 1724 meters on the Inca Trail in the Andes. It smells sweet, but carries a pure, clean, bitter hit of quinine on the palate. We were advised not to drown the gin, but add half the tonic and top it up bit by bit.
The Ship Inn, The Street, Weybourne, Holt, Norfolk NR25 7SZ
Storm clouds over Beach Road, Weybourne
The Three Horseshoes, Warham
The Three Horseshoes at Warham has also been taken over this year. It’s pretty much unchanged since its heyday as a Pie and Pint place. Outside it’s a quintessential village pub in a quiet Norfolk village. The interior has been kept much as it might have been in the 1950s or earlier, with drinks served from a small central bar.
While we were there (August 2017) the newly fitted kitchen was being connected to a gas supply, so this should be one to watch.
The Three Horseshoes, 69 The Street, Warham, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk NR23 1NL
There’s one of the three restaurants from the 1980s whose name survives. Peter Yetman’s beer “brewed in Norfolk by one man and his dog” is worth looking out for in pubs and food shops in the area (including the Hunworth Bell and the splendid Picnic Fayre in Cley-next-the-Sea http://www.picnic-fayre.co.uk/)
Peter brews six styles of beer which he names by the colour of the labels (I think he’s “a visual kinda guy”). They range from light and crisp (Amber) to a “nice falling over beer” (Green).
In 2017 he reintroduced the first beer he ever produced (Yetman’s Yellow) to satisfy a thirst for Golden Ale and I.P.A.