Where did you go?
We went to The Chequers Inn which is slap bang in the middle of desirable Thornham – you know, that village that now boasts four great eateries and is fast becoming the heart of second home land – it’s hard to spot as you drive past, but this pretty white washed building is definitely worth a stop. Thankfully there’s a huge car park round the back as we all know what parking can be like in summer!
What’s the vibe?
This 16th century inn is part of the Agellus group which includes the nearby Lifeboat Inn and Tuddenham Mill over t’border in Suffolk. Extensively refurbished last year, all the charming bits have been kept like the exposed wooden beams and lintels, but the kitchen has been opened up so you can have a peek inside, and watch the young head chef Jordan Bayes work up a sweat.
Star of the show, for my money, are the two so-called ‘pavilions’ – little individual pods which can sit up to 14 of us in splendid isolation – in the back garden. Originally a bit of a quirky addition, they are now highly sought after for obvious reasons!
There are also 11 bedrooms on the first floor, all individually decorated – and with decanters of sloe gin. We need say no more!
Who’s in the team?
The owners make no excuse for saying that they are aiming high and chasing Michelin stars – and Jordan, who trained under Lee Bye at Tuddenham Mill, is super passionate about what he does.
What do we need to know about the menu?
Emphasis is on seasonal and local dishes – with great suppliers like legendary butcher Arthur Howell featuring on the menu. Soon you’ll spot Holkham venison.
Right now, post lockdown, the menu is short but that is always a good sign in my books, and it changes frequently to reflect what’s available. Jordan speaks in near hushed tones about his Josper grill from Spain which he uses to cook just about everything – over charcoal and oak. So dishes are created to order, and it shows.
What’s the price range?
The current menu is good value, with starters and puds at £4 and mains from £13.
We went for a mad hot summer lunch right in the middle of the heat wave. Thankfully, as I was frankly more than glowing, the old stone walls kept us nice and cool inside. We started with a plate of shared nibbles for £12 – smoked salmon from Staithe Smokehouse in Brancaster Staithe, olives, chunks of bread, oils, Wherry and haddock croquettes and more. It wasn’t overpowering, rather a great way to get your taste buds going – and who doesn’t love trying to ensure they get their fair share!
I dithered over a whole mackerel with salsa verde and lemon at £16 but opted for lamb kofta, served with pilaf rice, pomegranates and plenty of fresh, wonderfully fragrant mint. At £14, it was jolly good, all delicately spiced, and just right for a day that felt like you were actually in Greece.
Husband slurped his way – rather quickly – through homemade pappardelle with Norfolk lobster at £16, and declared it a creamy yes please. And he only had to wipe a tiny bit off his chin.
We couldn’t resist choux buns as a little something sweet to round off this zingy luncheon. Each dainty little thing was £4, and we enjoyed a strawberry and meadowsweet one – and no, I didn’t know what meadowsweet was either, but it is a herb with an almond taste, and also a Heacham lavender and lemon one which had a good, sharp bite to it. Down they slithered in one neat bite.
Tells us about the drinks
The wine list includes a very gluggable Albariño Bodegas Gallegas, and the bar serves plenty of local craft beers, including the ever popular Moon Gazer from Norfolk Brewhouse – and Norfolk Gin.
The Chequers Inn is perfect for serious foodies. It’s all about precision and care here. Fish is a real speciality – as it should be, with the North Sea almost lapping at its doorstep. Service is calm and reassuring in these somewhat unsteady times.