Food review: The New Forge, Aylsham
PUBLISHED: 07:37 06 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:52 06 May 2019
Classic dishes from the East and West meet at this unassuming country pub. Stuart Anderson went to the New Forge in Aylsham to sample both.
I've finally found a venue that combines two of my favourite types of food - Thai cuisine and good old British pub grub.
The New Forge mixes up homegrown classics with some of the most popular meals from the Land of Smiles just like a lazy afternoon on Pattaya beach.
It's billed as 'English and Thai fusion' but unlike the usual meaning of fusion where several cuisines are combined to create something in the middle, here they're kept separate as dishes most of us would recognise.
We kicked things off from the Asian side of the fence, choosing the New Forge mixed starters (£4.95 each).
This consisted of a sharing plate with two each of chicken satay skewers, pastries filled with minced chicken -tung tung - king prawn and vegetable spring rolls.
There was also a couple of fried minced pork creations on bread called na moo, which turned out to be my favourite.
The starters also came with a selection of dipping sauces on a separate plate - there was satay, sweet chilli, a gingery one and something else with slices of onion and other spring veggies floating in it that we couldn't quite identify. Other than that it was an unsurprising course, but nonetheless flavoursome.
I didn't have to search the menu for too long before I'd picked my main course.
Every Thai food fan has their favourite dish and mine has long been the reddish, spicy Panaeng curry. It's an explosion of flavour with dashes of everything from peanuts to coriander, and I'd eat it just about every day if I had the chance.
I'd always thought it originated from Penang Island just south of Thailand, but apparently that's wrong and the curry's name comes from the way the chicken was grilled for it.
In any case, at the New Forge it's also called 'dry curry' and I had it with beef (£10.95).
It was nice and filing, served with a scoop of rice and more than enough of that glorious coconut-milk based curry sauce to drown just about everything. The tender cuts of meat were topped off with slices of onion, beans and peppers.
I would have liked some extra chilly flakes to scatter over everything, but there weren't any extra condiments on the table and I wasn't fussed enough to ask.
My wife plumped for something much closer to home - a 10oz Sirloin steak (£14.95) from the main course grills section of the menu.
This steak was thick and juicy - spot on medium rare as ordered, and with a bit of fat for flavour but not enough to overwhelm the meal.
The meat came with a generous portion of chips (at least 20 by my count), a couple of smallish onion rings, fried mushrooms, a grilled tomato and serving of peas.
A perfectly decent pub meal, and something you'd probably only ever make yourself at home if you were pulling out all the stops for a visiting mother-in-law.
If you don't like your food fried I'd stay away from this one, though.
For desserts you can choose from a range of cheesecakes, a fudge cake and puddings (all reasonably priced at £4.50) as well as ice creams and sorbets.
We both picked the American chocolate fudge cake, getting door stopper portions.
Mine came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and she opted for to have cream instead, and the fudge cake was soaked in the stuff.
The cake was delicious, more like one your mum would make than something you'd find in a hoity-toity cafe and all the better for it.
The New Forge opened up a few years ago by a Thai/British couple, and they've created something a little bit special - a country pub with a mix of well-known and exotic food.
How does it measure up?
The New Forge is a large but cosy tradition pub with dark panelling and beamed ceilings. There are a couple of Thai elephant statues and pieces of artwork near the entrance the ambiance is distinctly British.
We had a great table for two down the far end of the main room next to a roaring fire, perfect for the chilly weather, but there's also an extensive beer garden for when things warm up.
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We went on a Saturday evening and were advised to book, there was a good crowd of family groups also on a night out.
The venue is situated near to the main roundabout just south of Aylsham, so about half-an-hour's drive from Norwich or the north Norfolk coast.
The waiting staff were nice and friendly, and quick with bringing out the orders from the kitchen although the meal didn't feel rushed. We got through three courses in about 80 minutes, which seemed about right.
All the beer, wine, spirits and hot drinks you'd expect at a country pub. She had a Jack Daniels and Coke for £2.80 and I went for a double hopped pale ale from Severn Brewing for £3.20, which was nice and tasty. I was offered a sample of the ale before I ordered, which is always appreciated.
I'm not aware that they had the two typical Thai lagers, Chang and Singha, but if they did I would have ordered one of them.
The pub is all on one level, and there's plenty of space between tables to move about.
There's free parking between the pub and the Aylsham Garden Centre next door.
Really decent pub prices and good value for money. Our three courses each, including two of the most expensive mains on the menu and a drink each came to a total of £50.80. Most mains around £10, and starters and desserts are all under a fiver.
My curry was brilliant, but I wouldn't say there was any particular stand-out dish that we ordered. It was all pretty tasty, and the snug atmosphere made it an overall pleasant meal.
A good selection of both Thai and pub dishes, so there's plenty to suit the traditionalists as well as visitors who want to try something a bit different.
It's a place I'd certainly head back to as it's cheap enough to make a visiting a regular occurrence and not just a special occasion.