Food review: Big portions at possibly the friendliest pub in Norfolk
- Credit: Liz Coates
It's a bright, crisp Friday and I fancy a jaunt to the coast.
I picture snuffling out a north Norfolk eatery and a bracing seaside walk, all blue-skies and windswept beaches.
My husband, on the other hand - on a rare day off - wants a proper, traditional pub. He is thinking roaring fires and foaming pints.
So we head to the Shoulder of Mutton in Strumpshaw, a pub since revolutionary 1789, in search of olde worlde Norfolk characterfulness.
At midday we are the first car in the car park.
Opening the door we are met by a blast of warmth from both the roaring fire and the antipodean waitress who breezes by with a cheery welcome.
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We can sit anywhere apparently and after a bit of mooching we plump for a table next to the wood burner. We are so delighted at this point they could probably serve us anything and we would find a way to enjoy it.
While so many pubs have gone down the contemporary re-style route the Shoulder of Mutton has stuck to its guns.
The decor is traditional and probably unchanged for a good while. A picture of dog with a partridge in its jaws stares down at us. There is one chap having a pint who also seems part of the furniture.
As time goes on more people come in who obviously know each. The waiter - charging about in a dress and trainers - still takes the time to chat to regulars even as her tables fill up.
It is friendly rather than cliquey - a pub oasis that has my husband briefly musing about Strumpshaw being a good place to live, close to Norwich and trains - such is the lure of this local.
Our drinks order was taken at the table and we set about eyeing the menu - which didn't appear to offer any mutton, shoulder or otherwise.
It is an eclectic mix. There are the traditional pub classics, beer battered fish, lasagne, pies, scampi, chilli, burgers, and steak.
But then also a tapas menu and a Mexican section.
Instead of starters we opt for two tapas dishes; baked sardines stuffed with anchovies, olives and tomatoes, and albondigas - lamb meatballs in a chipotle and tomato sauce with parmesan (£5.50 each).
They arrive with two great hunks of bread.
The former is too fishy for me and I don't like anchovies but my husband declares it "very tasty". The lamb meatballs have a lovely flavour, holding their shape just long enough to fork before falling apart in the mouth.
Choosing a main from such a varied menu is difficult.
My husband picks Brancaster moules mariniere with fries and bread (£14.95) from the specials board.
I go a bit leftfield with the chicken burrito (£11.95) stuffed with peppers, mushrooms, refried black beans, mozzarella, guacamole, sour cream and chipotle, served with homemade nachos and salsa.
The moules swim in creamy liquid - it's a good-looking bowl and a nod to my initially desired seaside walk.
Mine is a giant of a meal. I stare at it, already defeated.
Tucking in, the moules fulfil their expectation, with lots of finger-licking and sounds of appreciation coming from across the table. He asks for extra bread to mop up the sauce and it arrives quickly.
My burrito is soft and floury and very generously stuffed - as am I by the end of it.
For dessert we share a spiced apple and pear crumble and pistachio ice-cream to go with it (£5.50).
Although we're both full and debate whether we need it, it is the perfect palate cleanser.
We enjoy the Christmassy spiciness of the fruit and the crumble isn't at all stodgy.
Our bill came to £53.50 which included a diet cola at £1.25, and a pint of Ghostship at £3.80 so definitely affordable for a casual lunch especially as we wouldn't always have three courses.
This is possibly the friendliest pub in Norfolk. Everyone was super nice and attentive without being over-bearing, just a lovely vibe.
In all we spent around two hours at the pub, longer than we would normally take over a casual lunch but it was a lovely experience in authentic surroundings where the welcome was truly warm.
My next dish
Having enjoyed it so much we have already been back. I ordered a Thai green curry and my husband had the steak and both were again excellent.
An absolute gem of a pub with plenty of parking and a varied menu. There is an ever-changing specials board offering even more reasons to go back. We loved the wood burner and friendly staff, and there is plenty of outdoor seating making it a good option for the summer too.
If you like that, try these
The White Swan in Great Yarmouth where the tremendous fish dishes feel a bit special.
The Rose and Crown in Snettisham, another village pub which had also found a winning formula and is never empty.
Our food reviews are always independent. They are the opinion of the reviewer based on their experience of the venue when they visited. The establishment is not aware of our visit, is not informed we intend to write a review and bills are paid by the reviewer. The choice of places reviewed is also independent and is not based on venues which do or do not advertise in our publications.