The Ship Inn, South Walsham, food review: Pub classics and creative choices in cosy village pub
Just 15 minutes out of Norwich and on the edge of the Broads, The Ship Inn is a busy village pub with a menu strong enough to attract trade from further afield. Lauren Cope put it through its paces.
There are few ways to better mark the first day of autumn than a Saturday night in a cosy pub.
A glass of red wine, low beams, the promise of hearty food and knowing a wintry chill is outside - it’s absolutely my happy place.
So our night reviewing The Ship Inn, on The Street in South Walsham, couldn’t have been better timed.
In a sign that it was a Big Night Out - until 9pm, at least - we both went for starters: I chose the lime, coriander and chilli marinated calamari with Asian salad, mango salsa and mango purée, £7.50, while my partner chose the sweet chilli beef with Thai style salad, coriander and peanuts, at £8.
The calamari was lovely - nicely cooked and not stringy, with a crisp batter. The mango salsa packed quite a punch - the mix of sweet, juicy fruit and spicy chili was bright and lively, and the heat caught me off guard on first bite.
The mango purée worked well as a dip, and its mild taste worked well the spice of the salsa.
But the small mountain of sweet chili beef was the clear winner of the first round - it had a crisp crust, but was very tender, and had that winning combination of sweet and salty. I sneaked what I could off my other half’s plate, as I fought the food envy in vain.
I’m well and truly a starter person, but I think it can be hard to find a stand-out meal opener. This did the trick. 10/10.
For mains, my other half went for the classic beef bourguignon with dauphinoise potatoes, tenderstem broccoli, honey roast carrots and crispy parma ham, at £16.
As a disproportionately dedicated fan of honey roasted carrots, he was won over, and was equally impressed by the creamy potatoes. Feedback on the bourguignon was positive, with particular praise for the crispy parma ham, though he did admit my main won the second clash. An even draw on the food envy.
I picked from the specials menu, opting for roast pork belly, with black pudding croquettes, a pea and pancetta cassoulet and fondant potatoes.
The crackling was crispy and salty, but the meat fatty enough to stay moist and melty, and the potatoes were soft and buttery, with crispy ends.
I loved the pea and pancetta cassoulet, though could have done with a few spoonfuls more, and am a fan of anything that involves rich, salty black pudding.
The portions were generous - I had two decent size chunks of pork belly, and ended up leaving some, which is a sentence you will very, very rarely hear me say.
Stuffed and very content, we browsed the dessert menu longingly, but stayed away for the good of our stomachs. I was pretty impressed by the options though, and will one day return for the bakewell tart with white chocolate and raspberry ripple ice cream.
We wrapped up against the chill (admittedly, a very minor mid-September one. It was more of a breeze) and ended our Big Night Out at a respectable 8.59pm.
A 20-minute drive outside of Norwich or a short hop off the A47, it’s pretty accessible and very hard to miss. It’s a stone’s throw from South Walsham Broad and in the middle of Norfolk’s peaceful countryside.
Cosy. Low beams and warm lamps, but plenty of space. It was everything you’d expect from a village pub, and it’s difficult to find a more accurate way to describe it than cosy.
Really friendly - we were served by a few different people and all were lovely. We didn’t feel rushed, though the food did arrive more quickly than you’d expect.
There’s the usual soft and alcoholic drinks, as well as a broad wine list. I had a Viognier, which was crisp and light, while my partner had a Malbec oaked reserva, which he quickly followed with another. I took that as a good sign.
There’s no steps to get inside, but one or two in the restaurant itself.
Clean, fine - what you’d hope for.
There’s a large car park out the back - we arrived at 7.30pm on a Saturday night and, while it was getting full, we had no difficulty getting a space.
It is at the pricier end of pub fare but not unreasonable - dishes range from £6 to £8 for starters, and £14 to £26 for mains.
Either the beef starter, or the overall experience. For me, there’s something particularly special about having dinner in a cosy pub during winter (I’m aware I’ve skipped a season), an affection perhaps sparked by fond childhood memories. Either way, this ticked the boxes and felt like a treat.
Absolutely worth visiting. The food was lovely, the menu filled with a mix of pub classics - prawn cocktail and whitebait - and more creative options - coconut king prawns with glass noodles and a sweet chili Laksa broth. I’d love to try their Sunday roasts and return for dessert. A great spot if you’ve enjoyed a day out on the Broads, or fancy a special family meal out.
Value for money
Between quality and portion sizes, we didn’t begrudge the prices. The starters were large (if you’ve got a small appetite, perhaps best to skip them), and the mains very generous. We both ended up leaving some, which is almost unheard of in our house.