Alburgh: The Dove
On an unseasonally dark and stormy night, SIMON GOTTS finds some culinary comfort at a country French restaurant in the Waveney valley.
It was a wet and blustery Saturday night when my partner and I ventured to The Dove restaurant in Alburgh. The Waveney Valley is usually a tranquil setting, but on this particular evening it was anything but.
As a result, we were looking for a warm welcome and some fine food to compensate us for the rather unceremoni-ous battering we had taken from the elements.
The Dove is basically a country French restaurant located on the South Norfolk border. It is a family-run business and, in addition to the restaurant experience, offers bed and breakfast facilities.
Robert and Conny Oberhoffer have been running the business since 2000, although the restaurant has been in the Oberhoffer family since 1980.
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On arrival, I noticed that the entrance hall walls were adorned with testaments to Mr Oberhoffer's credentials as a chef and I deduced by the number of rosettes and certificates on display that we were in for an enjoyable culinary experience.
A glance through to the main restaurant area seemed to support this theory, as it was packed to the rafters.
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The menu also had plenty going for it, with starter options including crispy free range chicken with black forest ham and garlic salad with sun dried tomatoes and mustard vinaigrette and homemade Oberhoffer chicken liver pate with apricot and cumin chutney.
Main course delights on offer included grilled sirloin of prime local steak with rosti potatoes, saut�ed mushrooms and confit of onions and baked fillet of plaice topped with an olive crumb with roasted Mediterranean vegetables, garlic butter and a balsamic vinegar reduction.
In the end, my partner opted for a seared pigeon breast starter followed by roasted breast of Barbary duck glazed with black pepper and honey, while I went for the 'souffl� Arnold Bennett' starter, followed by slow cooked ten-der shoulder of lamb with a confit of tomato and black olive on creamed potatoes finished with thyme roast gravy.
Decisions made, we were then taken through to our table in the main dining area and is it at this point that I come to my first major gripe.
As we sat down, my elbow seemed to be only a matter of about 12 inches from the elbow of the bloke sitting on the adjacent table. There were couples on either side of us, but we were all so close that it was more like sitting at a table for six. It was so intimate that I thought the polite thing to do would be to introduce ourselves to our fellow diners, but I resisted the urge.
There was certainly very little hope of a conversation remaining private and by the end of dinner, although we had not been formerly introduced, I'm in no doubt that all six of us were much better acquainted.
I suppose some people would see that as a positive thing, but personally, I prefer to have a choice in the matter. Still, we were looking forward to the food.
When our starters arrived we were not disappointed. My partner was enthusiastic about the pigeon (although she said it was slightly overcooked), but I was very impressed with the souffl�, which was beautifully light and packed plenty of flavour.
On to the mains then, and my lamb dish was absolutely superb. It was cooked to perfection and the flavoursome, tender meat was superbly complemented by the tomato and black olives.
It was also a good-sized portion: too many restaurants nowadays seem obsessed with serving fashionably minis-cule portions, which is fine as long as they deliver intense flavours. However, more often than not, they don't, and you are left with an empty stomach to complement your empty wallet.
However, The Dove delivered on both counts, quality and quantity. Well, it did for me anyway. My partner was less impressed with her duck. She had asked for the meat to be rare, but was disappointed to discover that it was medium and, as with her pigeon starter, had been slightly overcooked.
Dessert was a bridge too far for me, but my other half was looking to finish on a high. So, she went for a warm dark chocolate fondant with whipped cream and homemade ice cream. The deep, rich flavours went a long way to making up for her main course.
As we left, we met Conny, who told us a bit about the business and how the next generation of young Oberhoffers were in training to continue the family tradition. If they follow their father's example, they won't go too far wrong.
The Dove Country Restaurant
Open: Wed-Thurs from 7pm (no bookings after 4pm), Fri-Sat from 7pm, Sun from 12pm
Prices: Starters from �5.55, mains from �15.25
Vegetarian options: Dedicated vegetarian menu
Wheelchair access: Yes