Food review: From cold meals to delicious dining - here's the proof of a restaurant renaissance on Norfolk's east coast
PUBLISHED: 11:54 17 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:14 17 June 2019
As regular visitors to the east Norfolk coast, my partner and I spent more years than we care to remember bemoaning the lack of decent restaurants in that part of the county.
In fact I remember one particularly disastrous food review which summed up the gastronomic experience in the area. On this particular occasion, a good 10 years ago to be fair, we'd spent an age trying to find somewhere that looked half decent near to our seaside bolthole and settled on a pub a few miles inland.
However, all did not go to plan and we were served cold and poor quality food in a restaurant which thought playing commercial radio loudly over the speakers created the perfect atmosphere in which to dine.
I guess I should not have been surprised when, in the time between the review section of the paper being sent to print and it hitting the newstands, the establishment closed down.
However, years on from that experience, I can happily report things are very different now and, just in case you haven't noticed, there's been something of a renaissance in the restaurant trade in the area.
Some of my particular favourites are mentioned in the panel with this story, but for this review, myself, the other half and our two nippers decided to try somewhere relatively new - The Smokehouse Bar and Grill, in Ormesby.
Regulars to the area will likely know this building as what used to be The Grange, just off the roundabout to Caister, however in the last year or so its new owners have been quietly working away transforming the interior into an American-style diner.
And what a great job they've done. We arrive to be welcomed by a very friendly waitress before being whisked away to one of several dining rooms and placed in a booth (a godsend as any parent knows because it gives you hope the youngster's louder moments will go unnoticed).
My only regret at this stage was that we hadn't arrived early enough to give the very welcoming main bar a try.
So far so good, however, and this trend carried on after a quick scan of the menu, which is not only extensive, but also manages to veer away from the same cliched offerings some similarly-styled diners deliver. I would love to try the Penang Curry on my next visit.
As the son of a coeliac sufferer I must also praise the amount of gluten free options to choose from. We'll be back no doubt to give those a go.
For starters the Alabama Popcorn Shrimp (£4.95) and Louisiana Chicken Strips (£4.95) both looked very tempting. I will admit, however, that having already spotted the excellent dessert menu we'd decided to hold off until later.
Straight to the main course therefore and it's very clear The Smokehouse takes great pride in its extensive and creative burger menu. And rightly so.
I went for the Smokehouse Sliders (£12.95). Perfect for a food envy sufferer such as myself as I got to eat three mini burgers, namely Buttermilk Chicken, Boss Hog and Old Timer, served with fries, salad, slaw and pickles.
All were delicious and very generously sized, but my highlight was without a doubt the Boss Hog, made up of juicy and tender BBQ pulled pork. The wife went for a Whole Rack of Ribs (£16.95), which of course I had to help her with simply to confirm for this review they were delicious and full of flavour.
The kids menu offers up seven options and both of ours plumped for the chicken nuggets, with chips and beans (£4.95), which was guzzled down with great gusto, though I will admit the portion size could be reduced and it would still be a fullsome meal for a youngster.
And finally to desserts, something which The Smokehouse clearly gives a lot of thought to as well. The four of us shared a Pecan Pie and Devils Cake (chocolate cake) both of which were beautifully presented, generously sized and very scrumptious. A bargain at just £4.95.
In fact, our whole meal for four, including two beers, felt like a decent price, coming in at £56. And so left four happily full people, all of them looking forward to returning some day soon.
Easy to get to, in a grand building and boasts two play areas should those young ones be getting a little fidgety.
Nice family atmosphere. Busy but cosy.
Excellent. Our waitress was very friendly and nothing seemed too much trouble.
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A wide range, decent prices and particularly impressive selection of gins. The milkshakes looked great too.
A thumbs up from me.
Given the type and size of food I found it very reasonable. This can often be a benefit in this part of Norfolk - it can be a bit cheaper.
The desserts were extra special - and that's from someone who doesn't boast a particularly sweet tooth.
A brilliant place to visit with family or friends.
IF YOU LIKE THIS, TRY THESE IN THE AREA
LACON ARMS, HEMSBY
A short walk from our regular holiday spot, this pub has spent lots of money over the years renovating and upgrading the menu. It's paid off and this is a great place to spend an hour or two with the family.
THE BOATHOUSE, ORMESBY
Excellent view and excellent food. This has quietly become a must visit destination in this neck of the woods. Decent little kids play area too.
THE INGHAM SWAN, INGHAM
Back to its very best after a fire meant a complete refit was needed. By far and away the best destination for food lovers looking to splash out on something a bit special.