What a tonic!
The Gin Trap Inn in West Norfolk appeals to Sarah Hardy’s sense of style as well as her love of ambitious food.
Tucked slightly inland from the ultra popular coastline, The Gin Trap Inn at Ringstead is rather a revelation.
Traditional cosy coaching inn, it ain’t. It may look like that from the outside, with its white washed walls and agricultural artefacts on show, but there’s a gastro pub with an edge inside.
Bold wall colours (Farrow and Ball, of course), glorious reclaimed wooden floors, and amazing artwork give a cool vibe to this very pretty place.
There may be woodburners and plenty of those nooks and crannies, but the overall feeling is chic and well, rather exciting!
Not unsurprisingly, the pub is taking full advantage of the current gin craze and well, with its name, it would be daft not to. We think there are about 120 gins on offer including all our Norfolk favourites.
Bullards Gin, based in Norwich, also makes the pub its own label gin, which is Thai-inspired, with sweet mango and passionfruit so it seemed rude not to try one. Served with a straight up tonic, a slice of lemon and plenty of ice in a balloon glass, it was refreshing: fruity and just right for a summer’s day.
Also look out for plenty of craft beers and a solid wine list.
All this attitude is reflected in the menu, devised by head chef Stuart Wyllie, which has more than a nod to the Med and Middle East. It may well have familiar favourites such as fish and chips and ham, eggs and chips, but there are most certainly a few twists – how about pineapple salsa with your eggs and chips?!
There is also a real emphasis on vegan and vegetarian dishes and the menu is clearly marked up with gluten free options, too.
I had a very enjoyable lunch, sitting in the main dining area which overlooks the garden. I almost started with Morston crab on sourdough, and also fancied the sweet potato, cardamom and coconut soup, but instead went for a spicy hummus with crunchy vegetables, a colourful dish packing a good punch of flavour.
My dining chum and colleague Rachael chose the onion bhaji Scotch egg and raved about the crisp onion batter.
For mains, I had smoked haddock, chives and mozzarella fish cakes, with a lovely creamy parsley sauce, and I had a fabulous side salad, too – and a portion of hispi slaw, just to try, of course. Again, dishes burst with freshness, were crammed with herbs and spices and were exciting to look at and tasted just as good!
For mains Rachael opted for vegan tacos despite not being vegan. Tempted by the sound of flavoursome veggies; roasted cauliflower, avocado mayonnaise, pickled red onion, slaw, jalapenos, and those sweet potato fries, they didn’t disappoint.
The desserts continued to delight; tiramisu is always popular but I opted for Eton Mess, which was enhanced with a rhubarb gin for extra oomph, and was again a treat.
Rachael chose a child’s sized Sundae of the Day which was packed with strawberry ice cream, rhubarb soaked cake, syrup, dried raspberries and polished it all off – the cake noted as particularly delicious.
There are eight boutique bedrooms available, including two suites, and all have striking and individual designs. These are in both the main building and the inn’s converted stables – plus there’s a very sweet two-bedroom self contained cottage in the former brew house, which would be my choice!
The sheltered garden, with a rather splendid ash tree and play area, is just the spot for summer fun.
As you’d imagine, The Gin Trap Inn organises plenty of events and activities, and, on September 14 and 15, there is a gin festival where you can really let your hair down, enjoy live music and different, seasonal gins. It sounds like a hell of a party.
Do look out for manager, Sophie, who oozes good taste and charm, and runs a very friendly establishment.
What I like about The Gin Trap Inn is that they are keen, a bit like us, to ‘do different’. Their menu is more ambitious, the interiors are dramatic and they don’t seem the types to stand still.
Reviewed in Feast issue 28 – July 2018