Surlingham: Coldham Hall
- Credit: Archant
It's called Coldham Hall, but this cosy thatched, riverside pub at the heart of the Norfolk Boads is anything but cold, writes ROWAN MANTELL.
We arrived by water, edging a hire boat alongside the staithe as dusk was falling.
It was a blustery, wet evening, so opening the door and stepping into the pub was a delight. We had never been here before, by river or land, but this chic, cheerful and friendly pub was so welcoming we will definitely be back.
Last weekend, with the wind whipping across the water, we appreciated the warmth of Coldham Hall. In the summer the pretty riverside gardens must be a fantastic place to enjoy a drink or meal – with one of the best views in the Broads.
We hadn't booked, but were soon enjoying halves of local draught beer and cider, (after an initial hot chocolate to warm up) while waiting for meals of chargrilled gammon steak and chunky chips, pan-fried liver and bacon and mash, and a intriguing-sounding vegetarian gateau.
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We chose a table in its own cosy compartment in the bar but for a slightly more formal feel there is an adjoining attractive restaurant overlooking the river.
The menu is both imaginative and refreshingly simple. The food itself includes starters of pan-fried herring roes or bubble and squeak cake and mains of chicken stuffed with blue cheese or roasted mushroom burgers. But there is nothing fancy about the pricing – almost every main is £10, almost every pudding is £5. At lunchtime there are baguettes and omelettes for £4.50. The £5/£10 menu began as a special promotion and is now continuing through the spring.
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Our meals arrived quickly and were a triumph. Our 13-year-old thoroughly enjoyed the gammon, topped with fried egg, and we all loved his skin-on hand cut chips. My husband's liver and bacon was accompanied by some particularly delicious buttered tarragon carrots and the pub's own red onion marmalade.
Coldham Hall chefs make their own pickles and chutneys which are sold in jars as Yareside condiments.
The vegetarian gateau was beautifully textured layers of roasted aubergines, courgettes, peppers, mushroom and mozzarella, between pancakes. If I was being picky the salad dressing was rather heavy, but that would only be because the salad itself was so much more impressive than an average flaccid side-salad.
The menu mentions all the right buzz words and this really does seem to be locally sourced, home made and cooked to order food. Suppliers include such luminaries of the local food scene as Swannington Farm to Fork and the Lowestoft Shellfish Company.
Desserts change every week - this weekend feast on such sweet and satisfying delights as double chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream or vanilla cheesecake with a strawberry coulis.
We were out on the river well before the start of the main summer season and barely saw another boat all weekend. However a good number of people had made the journey along the carnser (apparently Norfolk dialect for causeway) from Surlingham. The staff were unfailingly smiley and friendly on a cold, wet evening.
The pub has an interesting history too – once a ferry ran from Coldham Hall across to Brundall to bring in the punters. And they were almost punting, with contemporary accounts saying the oarsman always stood in his boat.
This is not just a holiday pub, but a vibrant all-year-round local, with a riverside restaurant well worth a journey by river or carnser.
Open: Mon-Sat 12-3pm and 6-11pm. Sun 12-6pm
Food: Mon-Sat 12-2pm and 6-9pm
Prices: Starters and desserts around £5, main courses £10
Vegetarian options: Good selection
Wheelchair access: Yes