Norwich: The Black Swan

Situated on a sharp bend in the old Norwich Road that snakes through the village, it has an imposing and attractive presence as it sits on the corner, overlooking the green swathe of Swan Plain with its fringe of houses and trees.

It was one of those winter days to die for. The light was brilliant, the sun's sharp rays creating a dazzling display to transform dull brown leaves into a rich burnished bronze. And the air had that crisp, clear feel that made you want to gulp it in. And where better to do so than on Cromer pier, its boards fairly bouncing with activity as well-wrapped day-trippers mingled with anglers and crab-hunters.

With our daughter visiting from London, we'd hoped for a splendid Norfolk send-off, but we hadn't anticipated anything quite so good as this. Beneath a broad blue sky scarcely broken by cloud the sea, drenched in sunlight, barely had the strength to lap the shore.

Now all we needed to round-off a perfect day was a satisfying Sunday lunch in a warming setting to continue that mood of relaxation and well-being which, let's face it, is a rare enough place to be these days.

Not knowing the Cromer eateries that well and wishing to be a little nearer our ultimate destination of Norwich railway station, we had turned our attentions to the villages along the way and, eventually and, as events turned out, fortuitously plumped for The Black Swan Inn at Horsham St Faith.


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Situated on a sharp bend in the old Norwich Road that snakes through the village, it has an imposing and attractive presence as it sits on the corner, overlooking the green swathe of Swan Plain with its fringe of houses and trees.

The Black Swan was new to us, although we'd passed it on many a sombre occasion heading to and from the nearby crematorium, and first impressions were most promising, although the acid test, of course, was yet to come.

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The restaurant area is separated from the bar and, having ventured into the latter for reasons of research, I might go as far as to say that they appear as though they belong to two very different enterprises. For while the bar has that traditional, unvarnished feel (if you discount the slot machine and pool table), the restaurant is all airy and light. What on first inspection seems something of an odd couple is nothing of the sort when you realise that the restaurant is the result of a rather impressive and fairly recent barn conversion.

Tall windows allow the light to flood into a long, beamed room that curves towards a garden that in spring and summer no doubt offers an alternative dining venue. For now, though, we were happy to relax in the comfort of a restaurant which, despite it being relatively late in the lunchtime period, was still busy with diners which is always a promising sign.

Having settled into our window position, which incidentally offered ample opportunity to make 'then and now' comparisons with the photographs lining the walls, we were faced with the usual dilemma of whether to experiment or stick to the traditional Sunday roast.

Ordinarily, we might also have been tempted by a choice of starters that ranged from Brussels pate with plum and brandy (£3.95) to Thai spiced fishcakes (£4.55), but with a train to catch, quite literally, we had decided to restrict ourselves to a main course.

Our one concession was to order an Australian Wilson's Quay Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, which at £10.95 a bottle, was a bargain matched only by its fruity taste.

As ever on such occasions, we decided on a family compromise. While my daughter went for the Special homemade crab, prawn and coriander fish-cakes (£9.45), my wife chose the pork rump steak marinated in Magner's Irish cider (£9.95) and I, forever the traditionalist, went for the Red Poll silverside of beef (£7.95), one of three Sunday roast selections on offer.

If the choices were contrasting, the results were a uniform and gratifying success. The fish-cakes, fluffy, plump islands in a sea of Mediterranean colours provided by courgettes, tomatoes and peppers and an accompanying salad spliced with strips of beetroot and carrot, were spot on, the flavours of the crab and prawns deliciously discernible.

Served on a bed of Champ potato and soaked with creamy cider sauce, the pork was tender and succulent, while the beef (I'd gone for medium rare as opposed to well done) was sheer bliss, lean and moist enough to melt in the mouth.

If I've ever had a better Sunday pub roast, then I can't remember it. For this was as near perfect a meal as I can recall. Coupled with the quality of the food, which must always be the overriding factor, were the generous portions, possibly over-generous for some among us, and the pleasure at having a wide selection of what were clearly freshly-cooked vegetables (roast and new potatoes, carrots, broccoli, leeks, cauliflower cheese and parsnip mash). When you add that to a staff who exude a relaxed efficiency, you can see why we left, with the sun slowly sinking behind a curtain of trees, already looking forward to the time when we might return to savour all three courses.

t The Black Swan, 25 Norwich Road, Horsham St Faith, near Norwichl 01603 897787

t Where is it? On a bend in the road about a mile from the crematorium.

t Is it easy to park? Yes, no trouble at all, thanks to the restaurant's recently extended car park.

t How about disabled access? Yes, again, there are no problems and the new restaurant boasts toilet facilities for the disabled.

t Any veggie options? Yes, the new menu offers four vegetarian options and staff are happy to cater for particular needs.

t Should I book? Certainly it's advisable to book for Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday lunchtimes.

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