Woodton: King's Head

Though everywhere serves it, Sunday lunch is often better in your own home. However its worth leaving the house for at the King's Head in Woodton, says SARAH BREALEY.

Though everywhere serves it, Sunday lunch is often better in your own home. However its worth leaving the house for at the King's Head in Woodton, says SARAH BREALEY.

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I was on a slow train between Liverpool Street and Cambridge, Sunday engineering works having made this the least appalling means of travel back to Norwich, and observing the suburban tower blocks and terraced houses sprouting satellite dishes in a way that suggests that the smaller your home, the greater your need of escape via satellite television.

Sunday lunch is another means of escape, for those who need to leave the house but lack the wish to do anything actually outdoors, or for those who do not like to venture out after dark to dine. Were it not for the need to escape, you could just cook a Sunday roast at home, which would be just as convivial and probably tastier.

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You never quite know what you are getting with Sunday lunch. In some restaurants long menus become shorter, simpler dishes may appear, or your normally reliable local may offer a bog-standard carvery. Or the menu might be exactly the same.

Carveries in particular are variable in quality, but the King's Head in Woodton is a good'un. It's not one of those extravagant ones with 20 different veg: this is a country pub, after all, and a more modest scale is only fitting. There is a choice of chicken, beef or pork. We tried the beef and pork, both good quality and cut fairly generous. The veg are very good too: not overcooked, still bright of colour in the case of the greens. Even if you turn up towards the end of the session, which can be fatal in carveries, the veg are still fairly good. On our last visit there were roasties, mash, carrots, broccoli, and creamy leeks, as well as big Yorkshire puddings and a tureen of gravy.

And non-carvery fans need not fear, for you can also order from the normal menu which includes fish and chips, chicken dishes, moussaka and spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Both these last two come with garlic bread and reasonably nice salad with bits of pepper, tomato and onion. Both dishes were quite pleasant, not exceptional, the cannelloni nice and cheesy and the moussaka with slices of aubergine and potato layered in tomato sauce.

There are various puddings, the most tempting of which was the home-made chocolate brownie, which looked really luscious as it went past, but unfortunately they had run out when we came to order. The trifle was advertised as the chef's own recipe, and was pleasant enough, but seemed to be lacking a sponge layer or any sherry kick. The orchard pie, a good old-fashioned pie with apples and berries, was yummy served with custard.

And I liked the booklet of 'loyalty vouchers' - special offers designed to entice you back for another meal.

The cooking is done by the landlord, Nick Radbourne - he and wife Helen have been running the King's Head for about 18 months. It is good to see what might otherwise have been yet another closed village pub serving the community and apparently thriving. They have made it a good place for real ale lovers, with regularly changing guest beers that might include things like Wolf Hero and Elgood's Golden Newt. The Real Ale Drinker enjoyed a pint of Little Sharpie from the Humpty Dumpty brewery. There is a wine list, too,

The King's Head is still very much a pub, not just a place to eat - diners are encouraged to have a drink in the bar and called to their table when their food is ready. One end of the pub is laid out as an eating area but still keeps the pub character, though I am less keen on the extension in which the carvery is served, which acts as another dining area - it is a bit bare and distinctly lacking in atmosphere. Come on, King's Head: sort this out: then we can sit in surroundings that match up to the food.

The slow train to Cambridge, by the way, was rather charming, passing by rivers and lakes, with canal boats dipping in and out of view, and rabbits and geese in the fields. On any other day I would have been charmed by the slowness, but this was a Sunday, and I still got back in time for lunch at the King's Head. An escape, possibly - from a day that looked beautiful but was too cold to stay out in - but a pretty fine one.

t The King's Head, Hempnall Road, Woodton, 01508 482329

t Open: Food is served 12-2.30pm and 6-9pm, and 12-3pm and 5-8pm on Sundays.

t Prices: �6.95 for the carvery, �7.95-�8.95 for most main meals.

t Wheelchair access: To the building, yes, but the toilets are not adapted.


Food: ***

Service: ****

Atmosphere: ***

Family: ****