Dazzling burgers and very creative desserts at the award-winning Orange Tree in Thornham
PUBLISHED: 17:12 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:15 17 September 2019
Anyone looking for burger heaven in north Norfolk can find it at The Orange Tree in Thornham says Nick Richards
Take the trip along north Norfolk's coastal road from Cromer to King's Lynn and you'll stumble across beautiful village after village offering something great for any food fan.
Thornham, for example, around five miles from Hunstanton, has the impressive Drove Orchards with a restaurant and shops plus other lovely farm shops. In its small centre stands the multi award-winning Orange Tree.
There are 17 en-suite bedrooms on the Orange Tree site if you wanted to make your food trip into a food stay over but for me I was only interested in checking out just why the place has been so well decorated.
The Orange Tree has been named Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year for six years in a row in the Good Food Guide and is listed in the Top 20 dining pubs in the UK among a load of other awards, so they're a bit like the Manchester City of the Norfolk food world with title after title.
But as we know all too well, even the champions can slip up, so would this be a comfortable home victory or an away day disaster?
First impressions were unsurprisingly good. Thornham is a lovely village and the Orange Tree stands on an unmissable plot. It's a lovely old pub with a narrow entrance which leads to a bar - there are a couple of dining areas, one near the bar and another around a corner with four more tables up a small flight of stairs.
Inside its all stripped wooden floors, some exposed brick walls, wooden tables and comfy chairs. A jug of water with a couple of slices of lemon bobbing around in the top was placed straight on the table as my wife Lorraine and I perused the menus.
There's a vast drinks menu - everything from an alcohol-free bottle of Heineken (£3.50) which was what I ordered to a 175ml glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£6.50) - Lorraine's choice. It's a pub so all the usual beers, wines and spirits are available, plus wines going up to £100 a bottle and Louis Roederer Cristal champagne topping the drinks list prices at £220 a bottle.
Food-wise, we were told that the signature dishes - corn fed chicken breast (£17.45), ballotine of lamb (£21.95), bouillabaisse (£18.45) and pan-fried sea bass (£18.95) weren't available at lunch time so by hook or by crook we both felt drawn to ordering a burger.
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There were other options - pub classics like rib eye steak (£27.95), fish and chips (£14.95), plus Thai red curry (£15.95), plenty of salads and some sharing platters but the dishes 'from the smoker' seemed like the most unique offerings on the menu.
Swerving the buffalo wings (£13.75) and rack of ribs (£16.95), I opted for the 48 hour home-smoked brisket burger (£15.45). Wow! What an imposing and inviting meal with salad at the bottom, big chunks of brisket slathered in a bourbon sauce topped with a hearty mess of crispy onions and Monterey Jack cheese. Along with a fries on the side and a potent pot of hickory-smoked beans.
It was great - though impossible to eat without looking like a baby weaning himself on solids, I was an absolute mess after eating it. It's not really a burger - I mean you couldn't pick it up without bits falling all over the place and so although I loved it as a dish, I felt I ate it by picking at it and nibbling bits rather than getting that whole burger taste in one.
Judging by the noises coming from across the table, Lorraine had nailed that sensation. She had The OT Burger (£15.75) - beef patty, pulled pork, smoked dapple cheese and the same fries as me only hers were dusted in truffle and parmesan. The burger was medium well cooked with a moussey pulled pork and succulent cheese. It looked great and she said tasted even better.
The burgers and the food in general is lovely. Judging by all the awards it would have been shocking if it wasn't and thankfully we were left alone while we ate rather than that awkward "Is everything alright?" question just as you've taken the biggest bite of burger.
The great main courses were followed by two very nice desserts. The plan was to share the clear star on the menu - The Fairground (£14.95). Due to the fact I hate Simply Red I couldn't have this - and anyway it sounded incredibly sweet. It's a shared dessert which includes candyfloss, bubblegum panna cotta, popcorn, toffee apples, marshmallows and a whole load more sugar-laced nuggets. Sounds great, right?
I'll leave it for you to try.
Instead I went for the slightly more savoury-sounding pistachio citrus cake (£8.25) which was actually quite savoury. It was an oily and pretty earthy cake topped with strawberry gel, popcorn panna cotta, macerated strawberries and strawberry sorbet along with a sprig of basil which really worked. It was my kind of dessert, not that sweet, but a really nice and enjoyable couple of minutes digging in with a fork.
After taking that trip to burger heaven, Lorraine pulled out another trump card with her choice, Eton Mess Sundae (£7.95) - an extravagant sundae of meringue, whipped cream, bay leaf ice cream, pink peppercorn sorbet, macerated strawberries and a hot cinnamon beignet.
It was so good she ate parts of it with her eyes closed which is always a great sign.
Both deserts had a real fragrance to them - it wasn't just a load of sweet cake and ice cream thrown together but well thought out desserts that were interesting and different. That kind of sums up The Orange Tree in two words, really.