We liked it here. There’s a serious attempt at good food that, generally speaking, succeeds. It wouldn’t take more than a tweak here and tweak there, in both kitchen and front of house, to make it really good.
Cockles were served in one of those big metal cooking pots that the French call a Marmite – with a deep lid acting as somewhere to toss the shells. It’s a generous portion, with the cockles cooked in a light creamy seafood sauce. A Norfolk version of moules mariniere if you will
The other starter was less of a success. There were quenelles of crab meat – one white, one brown – which were fine in themselves. And a lime jelly provided a bit of a citrus kick. But the set cream added little and the avocado ice cream was just plain odd.
We continued the seafood theme into the mains. Fillets of red mullet were really nice and would have been even nicer if the skin had been crisped. No-one wants to eat flabby skin so, if the kitchen isn’t going to crisp it, the kitchen should leave it off. For veg, there’s fennel and monk’s beard. We hadn’t come across the latter before – it looked and tasted a bit like samphire. It was all helped along by a bouillabaisse sauce. The other plate featured fillets of lemon sole – again perfectly seasoned and cooked. There was an unidentified leafy veg and a butter sauce. Both plates worked well. What did not work well were the accompanying bowls of vegetables. In themselves, roast carrots, carrot puree, beetroot and swede are fine and would be great in the middle of winter. But serving them in June, when more seasonal vegetables are around, with the delicately flavoured fish was just a mistake.
We looked at the dessert menu but, truth be told, nothing appealed so we just got the bill.
The hotel has two restaurants. There’s the more formal Conservatory, where we ate. The other space, the appallingly named Eating Rooms, was being used for a very popular supper club event. Every couple of months, the restaurant invites a guest chef. The night we were there it was Steve Smith from the Freemasons in Wiswell, Lancashire – a favourite lunch spot of ours. A couple of months before, it was Steve Groves, head chef at Roux at Parliament Square (another place where we’ve eaten well).