Candlelit Sunday roast fit for a king and a sensational dessert at historic South Norfolk pub
- Credit: Archant
On a glorious late summer day last September, my brother and I met up for a drink and a sandwich at The Burston Crown, sat outside in the sun and both agreed it was a wonderful place that summed up everything best about a rural pub in a small Norfolk village.
I thought about returning to do a full review as I was keen to see what this pub, which was named South Norfolk Community Pub of the Year in 2016, could offer a family for a Sunday lunch.
My return was different to say the least from that September sun. Two days after Valentine's Day and the remnants of Storm Dennis lashed against the windscreen of my car as I drove back to Burston, just three miles north of Diss.
Thankfully inside this pub, which has stood here since 1580, the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming. An open fire comforted drinkers just in from the rain near the bar and, as we took our seats in one of two small dining areas, the mood was enhanced by festive lights strung around an inglenook fireplace plus candles and roses on the tables.
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Windows were steamed up, there are no overhead lights, just exposed breams. This pub had low ceilings but was high on atmosphere with that convivial hum of happy diners making a lovely soundtrack to a meal in a pub that played no music. The Burston Crown clearly likes to let its punters do the talking, providing a natural backdrop rather than some cheesy music being pumped through tinny speakers. Plus, for someone that hates eating in an overly bright restaurant or pub, it was perfect.
After ordering drinks, we perused the set Sunday menu. The pub has an offer of two courses for £17 or three for £22 which seems fairly reasonable. I worked out you could order dishes totalling £25 in this offer so there is a saving to be made it you like a lot of food!
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There were four starters on the menu, each priced between £5.50 and £6.50 - a chicken liver, port and juniper berry parfait, pea and mint soup, tempura-battered squid and grilled halloumi.
As we were eating with my two boys, aged seven and four, we just plumped for a main course and dessert.
Eight dishes made up the main course. There is a vegan and vegetarian option, a Norfolk free-range food platter, 10z ribeye steak and two fish dishes, plus two Sunday roast dishes.
My wife, a bona fide roast obsessive wasted no time in ordering roast leg of lamb (£12). It was packed with garlic and rosemary and full of flavour, although as lamb so often is, had a lot of fat on it. Still it was well received and came with thick gravy, a Yorkshire pudding and plenty of vegetables, including lovely buttery carrots and tasty cauliflower cheese. The other roast dish was beef - she said she would have chosen that next time, but still said that overall it was a pretty good roast and for the money, a great big plate of food.
As a fish fan I was tempted with the brown butter baked plaice (£15) but noted it came with braised fennel and fennel veloute. I'm not a huge fennel fanatic so instead I rather reluctantly went for deep fried haddock in Adnams beer batter with chips and peas (£12.90). I say reluctantly as I like to be a bit more dynamic with my food choices. Thankfully the quality of this fish dish blew my middle-aged socks off. It was sensational. Really moist fish in a light and crispy batter, solid chunky chips and, hooray, a load of peas. Not crushed, mushed, bashed or boshed, regular standard
just-like-in-a-school-dinner peas. And a nice wedge of lemon and some punchy home made tartare sauce.
Really, really good.
My boys were more than satisfied with the choices on the childrens' menu - three dishes (all £7.50 including ice cream). They turned down lasagne and salad and went for chicken goujons with chips and burger and chips respectively. The goujons were the pick of the two dishes, similar light crispy batter to my haddock and succulent chicken. Compared to the flat and lifeless nuggets of doom they've sampled in fast food restaurants they were a different world.
Portion sizes were good for children and you'd probably get away with feeding a child up to 12 with these dishes.
While the boys tucked into delicious and very rich chocolate ice cream as part of their meal deal, there were choices to be made by their parents on the dessert menu.
Aside from cheese and biscuits (£7.50), everything on this menu is between £5.50 and £6 with ice cream, sorbets and apple crumble and custard figuring alongside our Sabbath selections.
I had pecan pie with vanilla ice cream (£6) which was OK. It was a nice bit of pie but not nutty enough. It tasted more of chocolate than anything else and didn't have that gooey pecan hit I was after. I still made short work of it but it didn't dazzle like the dish being devoured opposite me. I'm no big sticky toffee pudding fan but the dish served up at The Burston Crown is top of the puds. It's £6 and comes with a butterscotch sauce. It's really good, not heavy and dense but rich in flavour and matched up with a delicious sauce.
It certainly took the Crown of all the dishes we tried.
Setting and ambience:
Couple of miles north of Diss, The Burston Crown has been here for 440 years. It's a lovely old pub with a small bar and loads of atmosphere. A complete world away from a modern chain pub. Full of character and charm everywhere you look.
Lovely staff, friendly, smiling, relaxed and made us feel very welcome. Food arrived quickly and nothing was too much trouble.
Full range of drinks as you'd expect in a pub. I had a pint of Adnams Old (£3.90) while the others had an orange juice. Drinks on tap include Carling and Budvar, Adnams Best, East Coast IPA and Aspalls Cyder. Jug of water with our meal was also provided.
It's a really, really old pub with a small steps down through two narrow doors. While the owners will certainly welcome anybody you may want to think again if you have a wheelchair or pushchair to consider.
Nice and clean
Plenty of parking although on a Sunday it fills up pretty quickly.
Price and value for money:
I paid £61.80 for two courses, two childrens' meals and four drinks which offered good value. At £22 for the three course meal, a couple could dine here on a Sunday for £50 and spend a lovely afternoon in this pub and emerge completely stuffed.
Just like my first visit last summer, the Burston Crown didn't disappoint. The upbeat staff and atmosphere inside helped made it a Sunday lunch to remember. The food is generally excellent in quality and there doesn't seem to be any pressure to eat up and leave, rather an emphasis on taking your time and enjoying the slower pace of country life.
I'd recommend booking ahead and would say it's probably an ideal pub for adults to eat at - although our children were made more than welcome and there are good choices on the menu for them, I didn't really feel like it was the sort of place you'd want to take young children, it's far more of a pub I'd return to with my parents or my brother!
Our reviews are conducted without a restaurant's prior knowledge and are an independent account of our visit
For more information, see www.burstoncrown.com