We live very close to The Parson Woodforde in Weston Longville which is one of those villages vaguely near Norwich, Dereham, and Taverham. And yes, it is very pleasant to live close to a traditional coaching inn, complete with beams, a couple of fireplaces, wooden floors and more.
It achieves that happy balance of being both a place to eat, or just somewhere for a drink or two, as there’s a very nice bar area, with sofas in front of one of the fireplaces. There’s always a good selection of beers available, including Woodforde’s Wherry and East Coast IPA, and it’s a place you can have a morning coffee, too.
The pub, right opposite a Grade I listed church with a 13th century tower, is also a great dining venue, with a regular menu offering favourites such as burgers, fish and chips, a Thai curry and so on, plus a selection of daily specials, which offer more ambitious dishes like lamb shank, beef bourguignon and sea bass.
I think, by offering this choice, they capture all. My husband and I might nip in on a week night for a quick ham, egg and chips when we don’t fancy cooking but, equally, there’s a sophistication that people will travel for – making it that vital ‘destination’ establishment.
You can eat in the bar area, which I always prefer as it tends to be a bit more lively, but there’s also a large dining room at the rear of the pub where groups can be catered for, too.
The pub, which dates back to the 17th century, is now run by Allyson and Steve Marlow who have a background in catering, and favour local suppliers like Swannington Farm to Fork.
I’ve pretty much eaten my way through the menu, with a favourite dish being their rather enormous fish pie (£12.95), crammed with salmon, haddock and prawns and masses of mash and seasonal veg. You don’t have to eat the next day! My husband is a fan of their Swannington 8oz burger with all the trimmings (£11.95) and I also recommend the seafood platter (also £11.95), with plenty of scampi, mini fish cakes, mackerel and more. Another feast.
Starters include favourites such as beetroot cured salmon, chicken liver pâté and baked field mushrooms, with lashings of Binham Blue cheese, and their puddings include Eton Mess – a mighty thing to tackle, and thoroughly enjoyable. Their apple crumbles and cheesecakes are good, as well.
Prices begin at around £6 for starters, £11 for mains and desserts are from about £6. There’s a good wine choice, with many available by the glass. I am partial to their Italian Pinot Grigio rosé, San Antonio, at £3.60 for a small glass.
What’s nice about The Parson Woodforde is that they offer up plenty of events – they put on a New Year’s Eve’s dinner dance, they opened on Christmas Day, they have a great steak night on Wednesdays, and on the first Friday of the month, they have a ‘locals’ night where they reserve a large table for all villagers to solve the problems of the world!
They also have four bedrooms so you can stay over, if needed and, come, the better weather, there’s a big garden to enjoy.
Thus it operates as a real centre of village life – a vital meeting point for us all and I’m very much aware that we’ll all have to use it or risk losing it!
Reviewed in Feast issue 33 – February 2019