Weston Longville: Parson Woodforde
Now fully refurbished, the Parson Woodforde at Weston Longville is a welcome addition to the county's gastro pub scene, says SARAH HARDY.
It's a pub that has never seemed to quite reach its full potential. It's changed hands and changed names, been open and shut.
Sure it has plenty of history, is in a busy little village, is easy to get to and thus has no reason why it shouldn't thrive but there you go – life isn't always fair!
But the new team, which includes manager/chef David Smith, is determined to succeed and by the size of the crowd when we visited a couple of Saturdays ago, they're on the right track.
They have really made it lovely inside and out, have started to do breakfasts, have four rather nice-looking bedrooms and really want the pub to be at the heart of the village, opening all day and offering food and drink all day, too.
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Their Sunday lunch (�10.95) sounds a good bet and they're working on a beer festival, with 12 Norfolk ales and a couple of Norfolk ciders. Count me in!
I really liked the look of it from the outside. All smart and welcoming with big pots full of bloom, a neat little garden, all shiny and new.
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Inside this feeling of a fresh start continues while the original features are still intact. The bar area is cosy, with lots of nooks and crannies, while the restaurant, at the back of the pub, resembles an old barn with yet more exposed beams. Huge lampshades and polished wooden boards add a contemporary twist.
Walls are decorated with work by local artists (Keith Judge and Andrew King) and all pieces are available to buy so if you spot something you fancy as you tuck into your supper, you can snap it up!
But what about the food? As you've come to expect these days, there's an accent on local produce and suppliers – look out for Binham Blue and Norfolk Dapple cheeses, Swannington meats and real ales such as Grain and Woodforde's Wherry, of course.
There's a decent bar menu with traditional treats such as haddock and chips, burgers, rolls, soups, ham, egg and chips and you get to enjoy Sky Sports and masses of newspapers which I spotted in one corner! Prices are a little steep, perhaps, with dishes costing between �8 and �12.
But we were heading for the restaurant with its more formal atmosphere and posher menu. It reads well, with dishes accessible yet edgy.
We didn't 'do' starters, preferring to have mains and puddings. Does anyone manage a full three-course meal these days? But options include soup, terrines, fishcakes and the ever popular mussels although we've practically run out of time for these this season! Dishes were priced around �6 to �7.
As a main course, I played safe with the chicken option which came with Lyonnaise potatoes, slow dried cherry tomatoes with a vegetable naige cream sauce at �13.50. It was tasty and disappeared quick!
Two in my party went for pan-fried sea bass at �14.50 which looked very good with nice and firm fish, and the fourth went for belly of pork with mushroom and sage potatoes and a calvados apple jus also at �14.50. The latter is my choice next time! Lamb shank and a massive rib-eye steak were a couple of other possibilities.
Puddings, at �6.25, are a particularly strong part of the menu with several classic options.
My eye was drawn to the hefty cheeseboard offering at �8.25 which sounded like a mini ploughman's but instead I went for good old banoffee pie and extra cream.
The lemon posset, a thick little very lemony mousse, was another hit.
They have recently held plenty of events too – they did an Easter Sunday lunch with various activities for children and a posh royal wedding shindig with some yummy-sounding British dishes on offer. Coronation chicken, anyone?
So good luck to them, I hope this place does indeed succeed.
It's all there, a few little refinements are needed (I thought the service was bit slow) but it could soon be up there with the old timers!
The Parson Woodforde
Open: Food served Mon-Sat 8am-11am/12pm-9.30pm, Sun12pm-9pm
Prices: Starters from �5.50, mains �11.95, desserts from �5.75
Vegetarian options: Reasonable choice
Wheelchair access: Yes