Greenbanks Hotel, Wendling

Sarah BrealeyGluten-free, vegetarian or just hungry, Greenbanks Hotel in the mid-Norfolk village of Wendling can cater for everyone.Sarah Brealey

For those on a restricted diet, trying to eat out must be so fraught with hazards that finding somewhere that caters to your needs willingly is a heaven-sent experience. No need for those discussions about what is in the gravy when the chef understands your diet. And then (glory be) there is the luxury of choice.

So if you are on a gluten-free diet, going to Greenbanks Hotel in Wendling must be bliss. The owner Jennie Lock can cater for other special diets too, but nearly everything on the menu is suitable for people with coeliac disease (who cannot eat wheat gluten). The only items which are not gluten-free are vegetarian - and even coeliac vegetarians can get something to eat, though it might be best to warn them first.

The restaurant is in a hotel which also caters for people with disabilities, with wheelchairaccessible rooms. Wendling, a tiny village on the Swaffham side of Dereham, is not the obvious place for a decent hotel and restaurant, but it seems to get plenty of visitors.

Most Read

The decor is a cut above most hotel restaurants, with bright colours, a full-length mirror on the end wall, and lively paintings and wall hangings. The meal mixes old-fashioned (melon as a starter) with the slightly more adventurous, like feta baked with spicy tomato sauce. My starter was the victim of a poor ordering choice on my part. Garlic mushrooms in a creamy sauce was perfectly competent, but nothing outstanding. It was a bit too similar to plenty of pub starters. Which would be fine were it not for the prices, which I will come onto. I should have had the dim sum, which looked like an exciting plate of little nibbles when it arrived at the next table.

The Real Ale Drinker had giant green-lipped mussels in a creamy sauce with sweet peppers and a touch of mushroom. The mussels had been removed from their shells, which made it look rather small, even though there was a decent amount of mussel meat in there. He drank a Flintknappers Ale from the Brandon Brewery, one of a reasonable range stocked from this brewery. There is a wine list, too, which we didn't look at.

Main courses stepped up a gear, with a game pie for him and a pissaladiere parcel for me. I'm not sure about the nomenclature here - usually pissaladiere is a kind of southern French pizza, or perhaps a thin onion tart would be a better way of putting it. But this was a filo parcel with a rich tomatoey filling, featuring peppers and onions and peas and some subtle spicing. It was unusual and very edible.

The local game pie was a hearty dish of the kind where each forkful follows the other with pleasure. It had chunks of venison, pheasant and probably other things too, in a meaty gravy and a thin puff pastry top. Both came with chunky saut�ed potato and a dollop of creamy swede pur�e. We also shared a dish of vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cabbage mixed, unusually, with some chopped celery. They were not overcooked, and the main courses overall were quite generously sized.

Next we had shared a dessert of three tiny chocolate tartlets. What they lacked in size they made up for in flavour, filled as they were with a rich, hot and near-liquid chocolate mixture that sighed with cocoa intensity. They came with a swirl of more cocoa-dark sauce, scattered with gold leaf, and a spoonful of thick cream.

Equally pleasing was the plate of Norfolk cheese - five specimens including a Norfolk White Lady, smoked Dapple and Binham Blue. It came with crackers, spicy chutney, and a few slices of pear, and was simply good local produce which could not fail to please.

It had been a meal which got better as it went on, but had no real dud moments, apart from the terrible factory-standard white rolls at the beginning, which seemed to have been bought part-baked and then finished off. The only remaining qualm was the price, which at �27 for three courses at dinner, is not particularly cheap. There was not any visible option to have fewer courses. Perhaps if you are on a special diet, you are happy to pay a little bit over the odds for the luxury of choice.

Maybe you would sink on your knees with awe at the prospect of just getting fed. And the restaurant has something of a captive audience in the shape of hotel guests, who made up most of the customers when we visited. If they reduced the prices a little, I suspect non-residents might be flocking in too.

Need to know

Where is it? Greenbanks Hotel is on Swaffham Road, Wendling, just off the A47 between Dereham and Swaffham.

Is there parking? Yes.

Do I need to book? Probably best, call 01362 687742. You can let them know of any dietary requirements too.

Disabled access? Yes, including the toilets.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter