Little Plumstead: Brick Kilns

Recently named in the top 10 vegetarian-friendly pubs in the country, SARAH BREALEY visits the Brick Kilns and finds more than just a land of lentils.

There aren't many pubs that have a selection of rescued animals (donkeys, geese, horses, goats, sheep...) in a field outside, and a sign on the door appealing for donations of used towels for them.

I am not sure if this is the same vein of animal-friendliness, but the Brick Kilns also has an impressive selection of vegetarian and vegan food, and was recently named in the top 10 vegetarian-friendly pubs in the country by animal rights group PETA.

Meat-eaters are welcome too, though, and you will find steaks, a mixed grill, and their famous jumbo sausage among other items on the menu. Fish is also something of a speciality, with skate wing, rainbow trout, plaice and Lowestoft cod among the options.

The wine list includes French house wines at �12.50 a bottle (there is usually a wine of the month at a bargain �10.50 a bottle) as well as slightly posher options such as Wolf Blass yellow label Shiraz at �18.95. The Real Ale Drinker tried the Adnams Bitter and the guest beer, Henry's IPA, (both 3.20 a pint) and pronounced them good.

The vegetarian options lean towards what I think of as a 1970s/ early '80s school of vegetarian cooking: lots of lentils, beans and wholemeal pastry – and nut roast, of course. There are more indulgent options too, such as a fennel casserole with eggs and cream, or toad in the whole with veggie sausages and gravy. There are an impres-sive 16 vegetarian main courses, of which five are vegan. Strangely, the vast vegetarian range does not apply to starters, which are limited to garlic mushrooms, egg mayonnaise, deep-fried brie, corn on the cob and perhaps soup. I had the deep-fried brie, which has become something of a clich�, but is still capable of being a delicious one. There were just two pieces, but generously-sized ones, which worked well in terms of the balance between batter and cheese. It was very good batter, actually, beautifully crispy, and the cheese inside was softly yielding without being liquid. It came with plum sauce – I think redcurrant might have been better, but you can't have everything.

The Real Ale Drinker had deep-fried whitebait, coated in breadcrumbs. There was a salad garnish and some bread and butter, so it was very nearly a light lunch rather than just a starter.

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This was no bar to him attacking his main course, half a roast pheasant with red wine, mushroom and thyme sauce, plus the same vegetables (you can have chips and peas or salad instead). Whoever had applied the sauce had been a bit over-enthusiastic, as the pheasant appeared to be going for a swim. The meat itself was good, mostly moist, but a bit too dominated by sauce.

I had a spinach and lentil pie with wholemeal pastry. The filling itself was a bit baby-food in texture, but the flavour was very nice, with some ricotta or similar to take the self-righteousness out of the spinach and lentils, and nutmeg among the herbs and spices to add flavour. It came with nicely crispy roast potatoes and an array of vegetables, some of which were a bit overcooked for my taste but were probably just-right to some of their older customers.

Sadly, we couldn't fit in desserts, but there is a brilliantly retro selection on the menu, including banana split, syrup sponge pudding, spotted dick and if you are lucky, even baked rice pudding.

I saw a peach melba go past, made with what appeared to be tinned peaches, squirty whipped cream, and strawberry ice-cream. Technically, it should be raspberry ice-cream, but who cares – it appeared to be going down a treat.

Brick Kilns

Norwich Road

Little Plumstead


01603 720043

l Open: Mon-Sun 12pm-2.15pm and 6pm-10pm (last orders 9.30pm)

l Prices: Starters from �4, mains from �9.25, desserts �4.95

l Vegetarian options: Yes, generally two starters and one or two mains.

l Gluten-free options: Yes, marked on the menu.