What’s the vibe?
Overlooking the glorious creeks and salt marshes of this special part of North Norfolk, The White Horse really needs no introduction to foodies as it has been a main player on the gourmet scene for years. The new Marshside Bar is practically on the tidal marshes while the Terrace Bar gives outstanding views over the coastline and out to sea. There’s a cosy front bar plus a large, airy restaurant, again with those enormous views. It’s all pretty cool and contemporary – look out for quirky Andrew Ruffhead foodie prints – wooden floors and seascape colours of lavender, sand and shades of blue are used throughout.
Who’s in the team?
Head chef Fran Hartshorne was one of the first female head chefs in the county and she continues to run an efficient kitchen, where, naturally, fish is a top seller. The rather charming Rob Williamson is general manager, and you’ll see his eyes dart everywhere as he surveys his empire! The White Horse is part of Anglian Country Inns which also includes the Jolly Sailors in the village and the Kings Head at Letheringsett, near Holt.
What do we need to know about the menu?
As mentioned, seafood is a real draw – with the enormous seafood platters something to behold. I also think the pork is always good here, and the accent is on seasonality, and local produce always features strongly.
What’s the price range?
Starters are from £3 to £13, mains are from £14 to £27, and desserts are mainly £6.95.
I went for a great smoked salmon and beetroot number (£9) served with a sharpish horseradish cream. The smoked salmon is from Staithe Smokehouse, in the grounds of the hotel and run by Fran’s husband, Phil. That’s Norfolk for you! It tasted as good as it looked – and it was a very pretty dish. My friend had six oysters, natural and tempura, (£17) straight from the oyster beds at the bottom of the hotel garden. It doesn’t get much better, does it?
Again, we went for the fish options. I had hake, with a herby crust, and served with a Cromer crab sauce and fennel on saffron mash at £18. Hake is great, isn’t it? All firm and meaty so holds its flavours well. Pam’s plaice (£16.95) was served with a shellfish butter, new potatoes and seasonal veg. Other options included dressed Cromer crab, a pea risotto and steak.
If I could have managed it, I would have had the selection of local cheeses (£8.50) which included Baron Bigod, Binham Blue and Smoked Dapple – delicious. The triple chocolate brownie is decadently divine, and lemon tart is a good finale to a fishy meal. Both at £6.95.
What about dietary requirements?
Dishes are clearly marked up on the menu, and can be adapted.
Tell us about the drinks?
Brancaster Brewery is part of the company so its beers are available, alongside local Fakenham gin, Black Shuck. I spotted sparkling wines from Nyetimber vineyard in Sussex, although I enjoyed a lovely cool glass of Pinot Grigio, Prima Alta from Italy.
Anything else we need to know?
There are 15 bedrooms, including several in the garden which are pet friendly. The Room at the Top is split over two levels, and has a telescope to look out to Scolt Head island.
If you enjoy casual fine dining, this is the place for you – even more so if you are a seafood fan. It is a great base to explore from, with much for walkers, bird watchers, golfers, cyclists and sailors. There is a children’s menu, but I think it’s more of a grown up place.