What’s in a name? In the case of coastal bistro and bar Bang In Wells, more than you might realise.

I thought that the memorable moniker was a play on its location. On the corner of Wells-next-the-Sea's main shopping street, Staithe Street, it really couldn’t be more central.

What I hadn’t realised before my recent visit is that the café-by-day, restaurant-by-night is named in memory of the legendary Lord Glenconner, Colin Tennant, father of the owner, Christopher Tennant.

Lord Glenconner married Lady Anne, daughter of Thomas Coke, the fifth Earl of Leicester whose family seat is Holkham Hall, and close friend of Princess Margaret (her jaw-dropping autobiography, Lady In Waiting, is an absolute must-read).

As well as buying the island of Mustique and turning it into a luxury playground for royalty and rock stars, Lord Glenconner also owned a restaurant in St Lucia, called Bang Between The Pitons – hence the name.

My friend and I visited on a Friday night, just as the summer holiday season was getting into full swing and Bang In Wells was buzzing.

It turned out that we’d picked a good weekend to have a mini break on the north Norfolk coast.

It was one of those warm, sunny evenings where if you didn’t know better you would have said you were abroad.

While St Lucia might have been a bit too big a leap for the imagination, people were out for a promenade, dressed up in their finery and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face.

The chatter echoed out from Bang In Wells into the street, providing a warm welcome.

We were quickly greeted by our friendly waiter. We'd booked ahead and were glad we had as most of the tables were taken – and it looked like those that weren’t were reserved.

Located in a characterful Grade II listed building, Bang In Wells is a Tardis-like little warren – we were led through the bar to our table for two in a cosy, tucked-away dining room which led out on to the courtyard.

It has a relaxed neighbourhood bistro vibe – we loved the rustic, colourful and quirky décor, with flickering tealights adding to the laidback feel.

Like most places in Wells, Bang In Wells is a dog-friendly establishment – ours was virtually the only table that didn’t have a cavapoo or two in residence underneath.

Eastern Daily Press: A crisp rose and some mixed olives to enjoy while perusing the menuA crisp rose and some mixed olives to enjoy while perusing the menu (Image: Archant)

Feeling a bit giddy and in need of sustenance after a day of hiking in the salty sea air, my friend and I ordered a glass each of the crisp Chateau De Campuget Invitation rose (£6) and some mixed olives (£4.50) to share while we perused the menu.

The wine list is small but perfectly formed with four whites, four reds, one rose and prosecco to choose from, and local breweries and producers are well represented, with Adnams Ghost Ship, Woodfordes Wherry, Lacons Encore ale, Whin Hill sparkling cider and spirits from the Black Shuck Distillery, including their sloe gin and honey rum liqueur, available.

And it is one of those menus where I could have happily had anything. If I hadn’t eaten fish and chips the previous evening (when in Wells...) I would have definitely gone for the Bang Style Fish and Chips (£16) - the twist being that the fish goujons come with a panko crumb.

As befitting the coastal location, seafood has its own section on the menu, including the Smoked and Crispy Fish Tray (£18.50) - smoked trout and horseradish pate, crayfish tails, fish goujons, smoked shell on prawns and breaded whitebait, served with pickles, dill tartar sauce, lemon mayo and warm ciabatta.

One of Bang In Wells' specialities is its paella (£17.50) – there was even a chalkboard outside proclaiming that it was back to tempt people in – which is what my friend went for.

Eastern Daily Press: 'Summer in a bowl', the paella is one of the signature dishes at Bang In Wells'Summer in a bowl', the paella is one of the signature dishes at Bang In Wells (Image: Archant)

I was intrigued by the Tantanman (£15) – a white miso and tahini noodle bowl with soy and sesame mushrooms, crispy onions, chilli, coriander and crispy shrimp chilli oil (which can be made vegan) and chef’s curry (£16), which on the night we visited was a korma which came in meaty and veggie versions, served with brown rice, poppadoms and mango chutney.

But when mac and cheese is on a menu, I find it impossible to resist. Even at the height of summer, I love nothing better than some comforting carbs. Four topping options are on offer – tomato and olive, blue cheese, garlic mushrooms, and my eventual choice, after a bit of deliberation, bacon (£9).

I decided some foliage was needed too, so added a house salad (£5) to my order – other sides on offer, which would be great for a party to share, include Cajun potato skins with lemon mayo (£4.50), nachos (£5) and garlic ciabatta (£4).

I was on tenterhooks while I was waiting for our food to arrive. Not because of any delay – the speed of service was just right – but rather it was one of those restaurants where you had dinner envy every time one of the waiting staff walked past laden with dishes, wafting tempting aromas our way. It all looked and smelled so good.

Perhaps I should have gone for the curry like the diners on a neighbouring table? Or maybe the slow cooked pork tacos?

When our plates arrived in front of us, we weren’t disappointed.

My friend’s paella was sunshine in a bowl. Sticky saffron rice with spicy chorizo, hearty chunks of chicken and shell-on and off prawns (a finger bowl was provided for when things got a bit messy) and festooned with coriander.

There's a very good reason why it’s their signature dish.

Eastern Daily Press: 'Pasta and cheese alchemy' - the macaroni cheese at Bang In Wells'Pasta and cheese alchemy' - the macaroni cheese at Bang In Wells (Image: Archant)

And, if, hypothetically, I was keeping a spreadsheet of my favourite macaroni cheeses, then the one at Bang In Wells would be going straight in at number one.

It was pure cheese and pasta alchemy. Dreamily gooey, but you’re not likely to make (too much of) an exhibition of yourself in public.

The macaroni was cooked to perfection – al dente, unlike when I cook pasta at home and forget to set a timer, and the creamy, oozy sauce was packed with punch. I should have asked what blend of cheeses the chef used.

The bacon and crispy onion topping added an extra burst of flavour and texture.

Eastern Daily Press: The house salad - it's important to eat your greensThe house salad - it's important to eat your greens (Image: Archant)

The dressed salad provided a nice colourful and crunchy contrast - a tangle of baby leaves, bell peppers, carrot, sun dried tomatoes, red onion and piquant pickles, which kept things interesting.

Did I have room for pudding? Well, technically not – sadly the dark chocolate brownie with raspberry sorbet (£8) would have to wait for another visit.

But perusing the menu I could hear my grandma’s voice in my head saying surely I could fit in some ice cream? And as it was Dann’s Norfolk ice cream, it would have felt rude not to. So, I ordered two scoops (£2.50 each) – one of chocolate and one of vanilla.

Eastern Daily Press: There's always room for ice cream, especially if it's Dann's Norfolk ice creamThere's always room for ice cream, especially if it's Dann's Norfolk ice cream (Image: Archant)

My friend opted for the Sharrington strawberry crumble – like macaroni cheese, it turns out that crumble isn’t just for winter – with a generous scoop of Dann's vanilla ice cream (£8). She enjoyed Bang In Wells' summery iteration, but observed that she might have liked a bit of apple or gooseberry sharpness as well as the sweetness of the strawberries.

Eastern Daily Press: The crumble, made with Norfolk strawberriesThe crumble, made with Norfolk strawberries (Image: Archant)

The bill for the two of us, excluding service, came to just over £56.

Setting off for the quay to end the day by catching the sunset, we were in full agreement - from the food to the service to the ambience, they've got it all Bang on.

Bang in Wells is open from 8.30am-5pm Sunday to Wednesday and 8.30am-9pm Thursday to Saturday. There is a full breakfast menu, served daily from 8.30-11.30am, with sandwiches available at lunchtime.

Coffee is served all day, and with a woodburner, it would be a great place to warm up after a bracing winter beach walk.

There are also four guest rooms – Tewksbury, Hayloft, Feathers and the Attic Suite – if you fancy making a stay of it.

To find out more visit banginwells.co.uk

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.