Seven years since launching, the Anchor Inn continues to EXCITE FOODIES on the North Norfolk coast, says Zoe Dunford
With cheeks glowing from fresh coastal air, ears ringing from the cries of cavorting oystercatchers and eyes full of the beautiful marshes and quay, there is no better place to treat the remaining senses of taste and smell than the Anchor Inn, Morston.
The emphasis here is on experimentation. Sunday lunch comes with an imaginative twist such as treacle-marinated beef, the Anchor Burger is served with bacon jam, while sorbet flavours are conjured in-house.
Peer into the kitchen on a weekday morning and through a cloud of flour you might glimpse chef and co-owner Harry Farrow rolling out home-made pasta, or pastry chef Margi preparing damson sorbet – a favourite of manager Alex Woods. Binham Blue was one flavour that didn’t quite work but it won’t stop them innovating. I suggest pomegranate and samphire and Harry gamely promises to try, so I’ll report back!
I dined on a Friday evening out of season but, as we head towards summer, it’s advisable to book to make sure of a table. I’ve learnt the hard way that Sunday lunch is particularly popular. Just a few months ago, a national newspaper listed it as one of the best 50 Sunday lunches in the UK.
The roast beef is of particular note. Harry chooses the best sirloins on-the-bone from Wells butcher Arthur Howell, who hangs them for at least three weeks. On a Thursday, Harry takes it off the bone and marinates it in mustard powder and black treacle, vacuum packing it to seal in the flavour and to slightly cure the meat. It is then cooked in a water bath before being roasted. The result is tender and sweet. Underneath this and your Yorkshire pudding, you’ll find a gem of a purée – made with caramelised celeriac or parsley root.
But I digress from my own meal! My dining companion and I were seated beside the roaring fire and within easy sight of the gin menu. I tried Monkey 47 served with juniper berries, lime and Fever Tree tonic. On return visits, I’m looking forward to Gin Mare or St Giles Gin, both inspired by the coast. My friend chose the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region, a great accompaniment to seafood.
She started with mushrooms on toast, which sounds unremarkable until you see the wild enoki and oyster mushrooms topped with grilled honey goats’ cheese and served on locally-baked sourdough. The Anchor is justifiably proud of its bread, which they call simply Ed’s bread and Simon’s sourdough.
I dived straight into seafood with Miso fish broth. Fungus-fermented soy beans don’t sound especially promising but I find the flavour of miso delicate and moreish – the essence of umami. It was served with mussels, cod cheeks, coriander and mushrooms, plus buckwheat noodles for a bit of depth. Both starters were £8.50.
I was tempted away from seafood by a main dish of lamb (£16). As well as generous slices of perfectly pink roast lamb rump, it came with delicious dollops of braised lamb shoulder (much tastier than it looks), home-made pasta, rocket and pine nuts. The unexpected Anchor twist came in the form of a sharp goats’ curd that balanced the softer flavours and made the whole dish one to relish.
My friend let me try her Brancaster mussels (£16.50), prepared with chorizo, Aspall Cyder, onions, garlic, cream and served with more of Ed’s bread. It was a welcome change to enjoy such strong flavours with a North Norfolk favourite. Other seafoods that make an appearance on the menu include lobster and smoked salmon from Simon Letzer in Brancaster, oysters from Richard Loose in the same village and crabs from Arthur Weston in Weybourne.
The sorbet flavours we tried for dessert were raspberry, apple and white peach (£1.50 per scoop). Harry looks forward to new flavours made possible by the changing seasons.
His quest to innovate also applies to finding ways to address environmental issues such as plastic packaging. He and fellow director Rowan Glennie won’t just be blown where the salty wind takes them, but will navigate their own path.
Reviewed in Feast issue 25 – April 2018