Lunch review: The Bell at Brisley

The Bell at Brisley (photo: Ian Burt)

The Bell at Brisley (photo: Ian Burt) - Credit: Archant

For the first of a new series – Let’s Do Lunch! – we visit the Bell at Brisley

There are days, especially in winter, when you come across a pub and think; “I could quite easily lose an afternoon here.” There are a few requisites of course – a fire with a few comfy seats placed strategically, a good pint and decent lunch.

The Brisley Bell is one such pub, I respectfully submit. We rolled up on one of those flat, grey January days when the chill winds from the north have leached all colour from the land.

Closing the (stylishly distressed) door behind us, the heat from the fire brought colour to the cheeks. It’s a good-looking venue, having been extensively refurbished a couple of years ago by owners Amelia Nicholson and Marcus Seaman, who also brought chef Hervé Stouvenel’s talents to the kitchen.

The hard work paid immediate dividends when the Bell won Best Pub in the 2017 EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards.

Tempting as the fireside chairs were, we had booked lunch and so were escorted to a table in the garden room, bright and airy, even on such a dull day. Menus were brought; it took me 0.03 seconds to choose, something of a record for one who usually dithers over dining choices.

Braised ox cheek with winter vegetables and fondant potato bellows ‘Eat me!’ As perfect fare for this time of year it takes some beating.

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It must have taken some preparation too, because it seemed to take an age to appear and I was, frankly, starting to get a little hangry. But the gastro grumpiness disappeared after the first forkful.

The ox was sublime, buttery soft and glazed with a wonderfully rich sauce which was full of powerful, warming flavours. The roasted parsnip, carrot and fondant potato did their work well, bringing the lovely earthiness of good root vegetables to the plate.

Mrs C was a little less excited about her cod in buerre blanc. Coated in a crumb, it was all a bit soggy, she averred, although tasty. It was a new item on the menu, apparently, so we’d cut them a bit of slack. A bit of firmer texture did come from the green veg, just the right side of done.

The 0.03 seconds I spent selecting the main course was bettered when it came to dessert time. Apple and mincemeat crumble with cinnamon ice cream? Where do I sign?

It was a belter, a proper-sized bowl of goodness; sweet crumble, firm chunks of apple shot through with the lovely tartness of mincemeat.

Madam’s flourless chocolate tart was a revelation, the deep, rich chocolate flavours offset by the lightness of the dessert; clever stuff.

Being lunchtime we eschewed any wine, though a quick look at the list (divided along good/better/best lines) showed some interesting and sensibly priced selections. At the other end of the bar, but no less importantly, Mrs C was impressed with the variety of Norfolk cordials on offer.

And so, reluctantly, we heaved ourselves out of the warm pub and away, a little heavier but not much lighter in the wallet – £40 for a very good lunch and a couple of drinks is fair – bemoaning the fact that the Bell isn’t closer to home.

It’s probably not on your doorstep either but if you do make the effort I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

The Bell, Brisley

The Green, Brisley, Norfolk, NR20 5DW, 01362 705024

Our review visits are unannounced and we pay for our meals.