Reviewed in Feast issue 40 – October 2019
For me, autumn always seems to herald a renewed quest to find the best roasts out there. And sometimes it pays to be a bit more adventurous than just popping over the road to the local pub.
So it was on a sunny Sunday in September that I drove to Heacham Manor Hotel, a Grade II listed country house which was built in 1580, during the reign of Elizabeth I.
Going for Sunday lunch at a manor house feels a bit of an occasion – and it is certainly an impressive place with well manicured grounds.
Heacham Manor is one of those eateries where you’re positively encouraged to relax in the bar first, rather than head straight to the restaurant. The Manor Bar in the main house offers ales, draught and bottled beers, cocktails, a full wine list and a selection of fine malt whiskies – I had half a Greene King and my daughter had an Appletiser. There’s also a nice eating area outside, overlooking the 18-hole golf course and the – squint or you’ll miss it – sea.
The AA Rosette award winning Mulberry Restaurant is no doubt named after the ancient mulberry tree in the gardens, which – legend holds – was planted by Pocahontas during a visit to Heacham with her husband John Rolfe. More than 400 years old, this tree still produces mulberry fruit.
The conservatory style restaurant is light and airy and, again, affords great views of the golf course. The menu is overseen by Neil Rutland, the chef who started the kitchen 10 years ago, and it reflects the fact that Heacham is in prolific farming country – the aim is to serve fresh seasonal produce sourced from local farmers, wherever possible.
The Sunday lunch menu is a fairly straightforward affair: it’s either one course for £12.95, two for £17.95, or three for £22.95, with four choices on offer for each course. We side-stepped the starters, although the salad of tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, pesto and mixed leaves which arrived at the table next to us looked very nice – instead my daughter made the most of bread and butter, which came on a slate.
She went straight for roast sirloin of beef, with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, braised red cabbage, roasted parsnips and seasonal vegetables, in a red wine gravy. In my humble opinion, you know you’re onto a winner when your roast comes with a bit braised red cabbage, and not too much in the way of boiled veg.
My daughter was pleased to see beef on the menu (the other option was slow cooked pork belly) as she’s always complaining that, on the home front, no-one seems to cook anything other roast chicken.
I would’ve been more than happy to see a nut roast on the menu as I still like the idea of a roast, albeit minus the meat. Instead, there was pan fried salmon on offer and the veggie option, which I chose, was a mushroom and blue cheese risotto with an accompanying Parmesan and rocket salad.
My daughter soon announced that she couldn’t manage any more cooked vegetables, so I gratefully received the roast carrot and broccoli in a cheesy sauce, which came my way. She did, however, admit to liking the sweet potato purée, and there was also a bowl of green veg to share (in theory, at least), which included French beans and leeks. So we certainly had our five a day!
For dessert, I opted for sticky toffee pudding, with caramelita ice cream, whereas my daughter went for a scoop of pistachio ice cream and mango sorbet, which came with a meringue and strawberry garnish.
The food is prettily presented, with friendly staff who are more than happy to chat and tell you as much or as little about your choices as you like, and they are happy to adapt, if and when necessary.
Dishes are well thought out, with high quality ingredients, and I rather fancy afternoon tea next time!
Bar a big table of people celebrating a birthday, our fellow diners were made up mainly of couples, and there was a relaxed feeling throughout –
well it was Sunday after all!