It’s been named one of the best pubs in Norfolk, but how does the food at The White Horse measure up?
- Credit: Archant
It has recently been named one of the best pubs in the county, so Stuart Anderson went to sample the fare at the White Horse in Blakeney.
What do you have to do get on the AA's guide to the best pubs in Norfolk? We headed up to the north Norfolk coast to see if we could find out by paying a visit to the White Horse in beautiful Blakeney.
As one of only 16 venues from across Nelson's County to be included in the AA's Pub Guide 2020, the bar was high.
To kick things off, we shared a pot of the crispy cockles (£7) from the starters menu.
They were salty and incredibly morish, and came with a pot of harissa and lime mayonnaise.
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This was my first time eating cockles and I found them brilliant - these were battered - hence the crispiness, and I certainly could have put away a pot on my own.
The mains section of the menu wasn't bursting with variety but managed to include a decent round-up of pub classics, with a few seafood surprises and trendy non-meat options.
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If you don't fancy the homemade pork burger (£16) you can try a camembert and mushroom alternative for £15, and there's even a 'vegan board' with hummus, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and various pickled vegetables (£16).
I went for the haddock (£16), battered made using Adnam's popular Ghost Ship pale ale. It was a sizable fillet of fish and certainly better than you'd get from most chip shops - the batter was crispy and not at all oily and the white meat was so tender it almost seemed to melt in the mouth.
It also had the freshness you would expect from a pub right by the sea.
The fish was served with a pot of mushy peas, and some home-made skin on chips which were so tasty they could have carried the meal on their own.
My partner went for the 8oz ribeye steak (£21) - the most expensive single dish - served with more of the same chips as well as a leaf salad with a little too much dressing.
It looked delish and as is often the case I found myself envying her selection.
There were two fillets which were definitely rarer than the medium rare she'd asked for which meant they were quite a bit chewier than you'd want. It was nevertheless a really well presented dish, and the one I'd probably order if I ever went back there.
It was a hot day and neither of us were up for a full dessert as part of our lunch, but they have all the usual suspects like chocolate torte, vanilla creme brulee and a cheese board for (£7-£8) and ice cream for £2.50 a scoop.
Instead we both finished with a cafe latte (£3) and went for a wander down the High Street. We ended up having a whippy from the little shop next to the old guildhall instead.
The White Horse is owned by Suffolk brewery Adnams. Although the Southwold-based firm operates several further south, this is the only one on the north Norfolk coast.
As such it lacks the atmosphere of a quirky, independently owned venue that can make pub-going such an experience, but the food alone makes it well worth a visit.
How does it measure up?
Setting and ambiance
The pub is light and airy, with softly painted walls and wooden floors, plenty of windows and a conservatory-style area with a glass ceiling. There's a long main bar/dining area with a couple of different levels as you move towards the sea, making it seem a bit like you're in the belly of a ship. A beautiful horses' head made of driftwood crowns the bar.
There's also a space out the back with plenty of tables and chairs - which you'd have to call an 'outdoor dining area' instead of a 'beer garden'. The White Horse has a slightly upmarket feel, and there's a definite focus on social dining rather than standing at the bar knocking back pints before a round of darts.
A very profession bunch who don't mess about. The venue wasn't busy when we arrived, but we were seated promptly, barely had to wait to order, and the food and drink all came out promptly.
The staff members who waited on us were friendly and made sure we had everything we wanted.
There's a full range of Adnam's ales on tap including an (almost) alcohol free version of their Ghost Ship pale ale, along with the brewery's Copper House gins. We just stuck to soft drinks, followed by a couple of coffees at the end of the meal, which were as good as you'd find at any cafe.
There are some steps involved but there's also tables near the top of the dining area where you don't have to navigate any.
There's a clean and tidy set of loos around the corner from the bar. There are a couple of steps involved and the ceiling is low, so be careful not to bang your head on the way out as I did.
The car park at the venue itself seems to be reserved for guests of the hotel, but there's plenty of other options a short walk away, including one further up High Street and another at the bottom of the hill next to the River Glaven. But this being Blakeney, they can fill up quickly during the high season.
The food and drink cost just what you'd expect for a nice gastro pub in a popular coastal village - expect to pay £15-£20 for mains and around £7 for starts, sandwiches and mains. Our total bill came to £55.50 for a starter, two mains, a couple of soft drinks and two coffees.
It was all pretty good, but the cockles were a bit of a standout for me because I'd never tried them before. The haddock and chips was also excellent.
If you like that, try these
The George, Cley next the sea
Another hotel/gastro pub inside a historic north Norfolk coastal building, the menu here is sublime - being thoughtfully put together yet brimming with classics, changing daily - from Scotch egg of the day, to locally-made sausages with chorizo mash and chef's pan gravy.
The Hunworth Bell, Hunworth
Near Holt, this is the second property for Ben and Sarah of The Duck at Stanhoe and has already won them much praise. Expect modern British food out of the kitchen, made with ingredients sourced from some of the best suppliers in the region.
The Crown Hotel, Wells-Next-The-Sea
Chris Coubrough's boutique hotel, restaurant and bar is well known for its sensational but unfussy food with a seasonal menu changing from week to week depending on time and tide.
*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.