The Marsham Arms, Holt Road, Hevingham: Traditional pub grub with a fine dining twist
- Credit: Archant
A 19th century coaching inn, the Marsham Arms delivers a fine dining twist to traditional pub grub. Stuart Anderson went along to sample the fare.
The menu reads like an episode of Game of Thrones - partnerships are formed (the hot salmon mousse and smoked salmon duo), something gets battered (the haddock) and then all of a sudden - boom! There's a huge plot twist right out of the blue which turns the whole story around.
In this case it was the steak section: 'Reared in Norfolk and butchered within a five mile radius of the pub, this beautiful product is then aged in one of only four Himalayan salt chambers in the country, making the steaks mouth wateringly delicious, full of flavour and worth the wait.'
10oz of rump sound enough? Don't mind if I do!
My wife Becca and I ordered the duo of smoked salmon and trio of Cromer crab starters to keep us busy while waiting for the main event. The heart of the beautifully presented salmon dish was the mousse, smooth as silk and peppered with capers, it was an apt contrast to its crunchy cucumber pedestal.
The Cromerian dish consisted of a crab cake, crab mayonnaise and a claw, the latter which, she declared totally without irony, contained so little meat it was without a point. The cake, sown with fine slices of chilli, was a real treat, and I found myself marvelling at the range of subtle flavours and textures which can be coaxed out of north Norfolk's famous crustacean.
The steak arrived on a plate as big as an elephant's ear with a farmyard-fresh aroma, and it took me about a second to get stuck in.
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My medium-cooked cut was tough enough that you need a sturdy knife to cut through it, but so tender it still melted in the mouth.
It was a brilliant piece of meat with clear and intense favours. The salt chamber had worked it wonders without leaving a hint of brine - we were told the cut had been in there curing for 58 days.
I bolted on a portion Binham blue cheese, port and bacon sauce which was well worth the couple of extra quid - the smooth cheese adding an extra dimension to the dish. Also on the plate was a small mountain of slow-cooked chips, a mushroom, rocket, and a tomato that exploded with flavour.
She went for the slow-roasted pork belly, delivered atop a raging sea of sour cabbage, mash and black pudding, the base baptised with a Aspalls cider and sage sauce.
This main seemed to sum up the Marsham Arms in a nutshell - a traditional dish with no surprises, but prepared with fresh ingredients to a standard pretty close to perfection.
The supple meat peeled off easily and was nice and tender in the mouth, and there was enough crackling around the 'hull' to feed a small army.
Turning our attention to pudding, I found I couldn't say no to the Belgian chocolate cremeaux - a sleek, dark, chocoholic's dream decked with vanilla mascarpone, raspberry reduction and caramelised white chocolate.
Becca found this one a tad sickly, but I scooped up every crumb.
We also went for the rather more disco looking strawberry cheesecake, a seasonal special.
A long, pink wedge topped with shards of meringue, it came on black dish spattered with cream and a little jug of it for you to splatter some more.
Interiors are fresh and modern, with a row of booths in the lounge a cosy fireplace. The enclosed garden space at the front looked inviting, but was strangely deserted on a hot summer's day.
The staff were prompt and attentive and altogether lovely. We were offered water for the table and questions about the steak curing process and vegetarian options were knowledgeably answered, We weren't left waiting to pay at the end of the meal.
We shared a glass of house red - a delicious Portuguese Stella Rosso which nicely offset the mains. They do a range of real ales in the tap room, as well as an on-trend gin menu and a rainbow selection of Norfolk Cordial.
The garden room, lounge and function room are all on the ground floor, and there are no steps to worry about at the entrance or on the way to the loos.
Small, but cleaner than you find in most pubs.
There's ample parking on shingle at the front and side of the pub.
Dishes seem well priced for the fare's high quality, with most mains around £13. Our bill came to £85 for three courses and a drink each, but that included the rump steak outlier which cost £24.90, including the sauce.
Steak lovers won't want to miss the salt-aged special, but to overlook the other corners of the menu would be a mistake. The Cromer crab trio was a brilliant dish and the pork belly is more than enough to keep most carnivores happy. Don't forget to leave room for dessert as ours both look and taste spectacular - well worth their £7.
Norwich, Aylsham, Holt and the north Norfolk coast beyond - just as it was in days of yore this coaching inn is conveniently on the way to a lot of places so it's well worth stopping by. Classy, delicious dishes served in cosy surrounds without a hint of pretension.
If you like that try these
The Recruiting Sergeant, Horstead
In a village not too far away there's another contemporary pub renown for its top-notch, locally produced food. Don't miss the Sunday roast here, especially in the colder months when you can enjoy the roaring fireplace.
Nelson Head, Horsey
Why not combine an outing to see Horsey's famous seals with a stop off at the rustic Nelson Head? It's a dog-friendly pub which does brilliant steak pies and Cromer crab dishes. There's an open fire winter and a big beer garden for summer.
The Bell, Brisley
Another peak of Norfolk pub grub can be found in this 17th century establishment, where Michelin-trained head chef Hervé Stouvenel puts a worldly spin on local favourites.