Now, say it quietly, but I quite like cooking. Admittedly for a family with varied tastes – all demanding – it can be challenging but I love simple dishes, prepared with great ingredients.
The recent lockdown has tested this beyond all reason. Constantly serving up breakfast, lunch and tea was relentless and when we could finally eat out and basically not cook, I was first in the queue.
My choice was our local, The Parson Woodforde in Weston Longville, between Norwich and Dereham, a big part of village life and much missed. We booked to go with our neighbours to celebrate our small steps of freedom and normality.
It was the same as ever and yet totally different. We prebooked, which we usually would, and answered various questions about the party – to dine inside, tables had to be made up of just two households.
Upon arrival, you have to wait by the door, have your temperature taken, use hand sanitiser, and are then shown to your table – where you basically stay put. Staff, in masks, serve you everything, from your drinks to the food, and there are protective screens around the bar.
I didn’t find it a scary or unappealing atmosphere. The place looked squeaky clean and there was certainly plenty of space, with diners kept a good distance from each other.
There was a comprehensive choice of dishes from a regular bar menu and a more elaborate special’s board, with local producers such as Swannington Farm to Fork and Dann’s Farm ice cream featured. Some dishes were old favourites and there were a few new ideas, too – think everything from burgers to lasagne, stir fries to mixed grill to a fish of the day. So far, so good. The wine list was the same so I was straight in with a glass of Pinot Grigio rosé while Himself had a pint of East Coast IPA.
Starters, ranging from £7-£11, included a wild mushroom and goat’s cheese tart and my scallop gratin (£11) with spinach, sundried tomato, cream and Applewood cheese came on a bed of samphire which gave a nice sharp bite.
My husband’s lamb koftas (£8) was a meal in itself, with naan bread, salad, a minty dressing and more – and was much enjoyed.
Our neighbours went for the Wednesday night, steak night special – two rump steaks, with chunky chips and sides plus a bottle of wine for £25. Their steaks came as instructed and did, I have to say, disappear quickly! The fat chips were much appreciated.
I went for fish pie, with salmon, haddock, prawns and white fish (£14), which came with a mountain of veggies and my husband had a Thai green vegetable curry (£11), served with prawn crackers and basmati rice. These are our go to favourites and we tucked in with gusto.
Desserts didn’t defeat us. All priced at £7, I tried a lush Eton Mess while other options included cheesecake and chocolate brownies.
It’s great to have our local up and running; pubs are such an important part of the community and ours ticks all the boxes – there are solid pub dishes like your fish and chips and more ambitious dishes like a poacher’s pie for those ‘special occasions’.
Dining out in our current troubled times is different but is just as enjoyable – we were last to leave the place, of course.
And best of all – no washing up!