Review: The Honingham Buck
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
This village pub is creating a stir with fabulous food, heritage ales and new B&B rooms
The food, like the village, is unexpectedly beautiful. I almost bypassed the starters and sped straight on to the main course, but would have missed the chance to experience asparagus, sea beet, quinoa and egg yolk, poised on my plate, as lovely as an oversized butterfly (but considerably more delicious).
I’ve been close to Honingham hundreds of times, seen it signposted off the A47, and kept on towards Swaffham or King’s Lynn, Wales, The North or wherever I was heading. What a mistake. Honingham is a pretty little place, as warm and sleepy and curled-up as a cat, on the sunny Saturday we stopped. The main street curves around cottages and gardens, and at the heart of the village is The Buck. Just across the lane are the old village pump and a telephone box, neither used for their original purpose but well cared-for. The phone box is particularly fascinating with a mini lending library and a comprehensive history of the village inside.
The Buck has been the village pub for well over two centuries and is still serving its original purpose, dispensing food, drink, hospitality and good cheer, but has been updated very recently. There are rooms now, nice-looking apartments, some with mini terraces out on to the garden, all named after Lacons beers.
The historic Great Yarmouth brewery was revived in 2013 and the Honingham Buck is its first new pub in 50 years, serving Lacons’ craft ales and heritage brews alongside more common pub and restaurant tipples.
The pub and restaurant have that attractive atmosphere of sleek modern décor enhancing centuries of slightly quirky history. There are tables in the spacious stone-flagged, wooden-beamed bar but we chose to eat in the restaurant where jewel-coloured, velvet-covered chairs glowed against neutral floors and white tableware.
The menu shines too. It is a proper chef’s menu, with unusual seasonings and unexpected ingredients, inspired pairings, and ultra local produce alongside the exotic and far-away. And there were exotic words to learn. The menu sensibly fits everything from pre-meal nibbles to the cheese board on to a single side of A4 but is heavily seasoned with unfamiliar words. Maybe a committed foodie wouldn’t make a meal of words such as tonkatsu, verrine, kimchi, dukkah, freekeh, labneh, yuzu, tonka and casa luker, but I needed a translation. To his credit our waiter was more than a match for the language, able to explain exactly what each dish involved.
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My charred asparagus was as delicious as it was beautiful. It was all about flavour and texture and was definitely an appetiser rather than a starter masquerading as a main course. My husband enjoyed chipotle hummus, served in a pretty glass jar with flatbreads and marinated feta.
And then there was a magnificently presented cube of pork belly for him, the chunky meat topped with crackling and set, tower-like, on squares of black pudding and finely shredded cabbage. Swirls of piped mashed and smoked potato were yet another surprising and impressive flavour sensation.
I had small pillows of hazelnut and sheep’s cheese gnocchi, served with wild garlic pesto and roasted salsify – the ingredients imaginative and the results inspired.
With food this good I wasn’t stopping before dessert and the tonka bean (a more intense version of vanilla, I learned) crème brulee, was ravishingly creamy, served with a circle of brown sugar shortbread and sphere of white chocolate ice cream.
I also learned that if you see a sign for Honingham, follow it - because The Buck is a destination worth quite a journey.
Expect to pay
Starters: £2.95 to £7.95
Mains: £10 to £20
Desserts: £5.95 to £7.50
The Honingham Buck, The Street, Honingham, near Norwich, NR9 5BL; 01603 880393; www.thehoninghambuck.co.uk