3 great places for lunch in Norfolk
- Credit: Staff
Coast, town and country - three favourite lunch spots to try around Norfolk as chose by our editors
THE BURSTON CROWN, BURSTON, NEAR DISS
The Burston Crown was a beautiful sight on an unseasonably warm afternoon, its garden full of flowers against a backdrop of the mellow brick and pantile 16th century pub.
The welcome is warm too with the landlady greeting all guests as if they are old friends (I imagine many are as this is definitely the kind of place which would be a wonderful local.)
The chef and landlord once cooked for rock stars on world tours and his cuisine has soaked up flavours from around the globe (while doing classic and local very well too.)
The menu when we visited ranged from toasties to steak, and from Brancaster (mussels) to Singapore (noodles.)
My husband, already a Crown aficionado, began with those Brancaster mussels in a Woodforde’s cider, cream and bacon sauce, while I had chicken liver, juniper berry and spiced rum parfait.
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Both were almost dancing with flavour and came with enough breads and toast to have made a light lunch on their own. However, the rest of the menu looked wonderful too.
Ordinarily I would have gone for the pan-fried marinated halloumi with spiced crispy chickpeas, apple soy, broccoli, and yogurt and mint dressing; but slow braised beef and slow cooked beef cottage pie, topped with parmesan mash, onion puree and red wine sauce sounded amazing. And it was. I’m not normally a meat person (hence the almost halloumi) but the big cube of beef was meltingly tender and the sum of all those parts – beef, mash, puree, sauce, sprouting broccoli – was sublime. My husband came over all gallant and had the halloumi dish so I got to try that too. He waxed lyrical about the mix of textures and the crispy chickpeas.
Anyone arriving with a hungry heart (yes, the landlord cooked for Bruce Springsteen) should expect a a beautiful day (he cooked for U2 too.)
It was such a beautiful day that people sat out in the flower-filled garden. There were pretty beach-hut style shelters outside – and a lovely-looking cosy restaurant and bar with fireside sofas inside.
Desserts include sticky toffee pudding, pavlova and chocolate brownies and looked as splendid as the rest of the menu, but we wanted to check out the village's other claim to fame as the site of the longest strike in history.
The story of the Burston Strike School is worth revisiting, hopefully alongside another tour through the greatest hits of the Burston Crown menu.
THE MULBERRY TREE, ATTLEBOROUGH
Sometimes lunch out is a pragmatic, functional affair; a swift burger and a beer at a pub for example. And sometimes it is more of an event.
A visit to The Mulberry Tree in Attleborough feels more like the latter. Set in a handsome building, this smart bar/restaurant has a contemporary but relaxed vibe, and on-trend décor. Nice.
We rolled up for a late lunch, thinking we’d be hungry enough for three courses. For openers Mrs C chose the teryaki salmon, Asian broth and crispy noodles. Good choice; the fish was gently treated but rich with soy and the broth was fresh and clear and deep in flavour. Nicely prepared vegetables, too.
My charred halloumi, couscous and tagine-style sauce was a tester – halloumi can be a bit rubbery if ill-handled but this was done well. Lightly grilled, rather than cremated, the cheese married the couscous seamlessly, and a splash of garlic yoghurt dressing brought a delightful, light counterpoint to the rich tagine flavours.
We keep chickens at home, and every time I go out to eat, I promise them I won’t eat any of their sisters. I’m lying, of course, and so a plate of Parma ham-wrapped chicken breast, gnocchi, butternut squash, spinach and onions and garlic butter and blue cheese sauce was placed before me. Sorry, girls.
It was a solid effort; the wrapped breast didn’t dry out and the little onions and cubes of squash were delightful. I liked the gnocchi and the sauce was powerful and rich with the blue cheese but, with the Parma ham as well, things were a little salty.
On the other side of the table the mushroom arancini with mushroom stroganoff and wilted spinach went down well, with the caveat that the arancini may have been in the fryer a moment longer than was optimum. Good flavours though, was the report. The food looked appetising on the plates and the kitchen team clearly takes a good deal of care and pride in its work.
We erred in our initial judgement, though; the generous servings meant that we actually didn’t have room for dessert and regretfully declined. Next time, perhaps.
DUNES CAFE WAXHAM
Waxham Great Barn is magnificent at any time of year but in the winter its café is particularly wonderful.
We visited when the weather so wild that people seemed to be swept into the warmth on wave after wave of wind.
Outside the real waves were crashing high up the beach. Inside all was warm and calm and the hearty menu of lunches and cakes seemed the perfect way to relax after a walk (and stoke up ahead of another foray along the coastal path.)
The Dunes Café was recently voted best in Norfolk in a national award scheme and it’s easy to see the appeal of its winning combination of home-cooked comfort food and impressive history (next door to the pretty flint and brick café, and sharing its courtyard, is 500-year-old Waxham Great Barn, the longest thatched barn in Britain.)
Blown in on a stormy Sunday my first priority was hot chocolate. Ordered at the counter it arrived quickly and was suitably large, sweet, warm and reviving. Then came spinach, feta and mushroom potato bake for me (£8) and meatballs with marinara sauce and mozarella, served in a baguette (£9) for my husband.
We’d never seen meatballs and sauce in a baguette before but it worked well and tasted delicious (I checked) with good hefty meatballs slathered in a tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese – served with plenty of salad for colour and crunch.
My potatoes with spinach, feta and juicy mushrooms (£8) had a perfect-for-winter mix of hearty, hot and healthy and came in an oval dish, again with a good portion of crisp mixed salad.
There was soup, pasta and fish on the menu too. Our choices were filling, packed with flavour and enough to make us feel ready to brave the outdoors again - but not before we had snaffled a couple of cakes. We could easily have settled back into the warmth with another hot chocolate and a slice of pie from the range of delicious-looking bakes at the counter but there were seals to see further down coast so we left with large take-away chunks of caramel shortbread and oaty date crumble cake.
Dunes Café is open daily from 9am and has a completely different vibe on a sunny summer day with the courtyard full of tables. But it is this time of year when the atmosphere is most haunting. Legends swirl around neighbouring Waxham Hall, whose owner, three centuries ago, is said to have sold his soul to the devil, and feasted with ghosts on New Year’s Eve.
Back in the real world there’s still plenty of feasting to be done at the Dunes Café, which is run by the same team who ran the much-loved Dunes Café at Winterton until it succumbed to coastal erosion, and also have the River Café beside the Bure in Acle.