Tacolneston: The Pelican

Andy Russell The former 16th century coaching inn is a homely, inviting pub with its old beams and fireplace adding to the character. The menu offers enough choice without being bewildering with five starters and 10 main courses on the Sunday summer menu.

Andy Russell

Ask youngsters what's the worst part of learning to drive and many will say the cost. And I wouldn't disagree. I passed my test 30 years ago, but my younger son is learning and it's bad enough putting twice the normal dose of petrol in our little runabout without then passing interesting pubs as we poodle around the county looking for different driving routes.

That's how we came across The Pelican at Tacolneston - a village I knew little about apart from it has a huge TV transmitter. And having made a note to return to The Pelican I can tell you that, like that TV transmitter, you can expect a good reception.

The former 16th century coaching inn is a homely, inviting pub with its old beams and fireplace adding to the character. The large bar and adjoining seating area are welcoming with large sofas ideal for sitting back and relaxing with a drink while perusing the menu. The menu offers enough choice without being bewildering with five starters and 10 main courses on the Sunday summer menu and another four special mains the evening we went.

Having chosen we were taken through to the large Stable Door restaurant and the caterer in our party was clearly impressed by the thoughtful touches that helped set the scene - a large oval table with crisp white linen cloth meant we could all see each other and talk without having to lean round people. And it was good too see wine and water glasses already grouped on the table and two jugs of water appeared.

We would have like to have eaten outside in the al fresco covered seating area in the garden, which looked fantastic through the window, but the weather deterred us.

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I had had a real job choosing a starter because they all sounded so tempting but between us we managed to try four out of the five.

The breaded king prawns with chilli sauce (£5.75) was a sizeable portion, nicely presented as was the potatoand horseradish salad on a carpaccio of beetroot, topped with warm crispy bacon (£5.75).

I was nearly swayed by the crayfish and mixed salad with lemon mayo dressing (£6.25) but deferred when my wife chose it and, having tried hers, I would not have been disappointed.

My wife would have liked my choice but, being wheat intolerant, it was not suitable. Shame, but it meant I had it all to myself, just as well as it was delicious and suitable for vegetarians a jug of piping hot broccoli and stilton soup (£4.95) poured into a bowl to leave a dollop of pear relish with a piece of stilton on top like a small island.

Main courses also offered plenty of choice but the specials won over most of our party with two opting for the chicken jalfrezi with coconut rice (£8.95). I sneaked a forkful from my younger son's plate and it was delicious - the sweet rice and the spicy chicken.

We were obviously in chicken mood with the chicken chasseur, new potatoes and vegetables (£10.50) finding favour with three of our diners. Again it was a hearty portion of chicken and nicely presented but apart from bits of vegetable in the sauce it came with only red cabbage not a favourite with one person but credit to the kitchen for quickly supplying a portion of carrots.

A main course portion of the tasty crayfish with a mixed summer salad and lemon mayo dressing (£12.50) also proved popular with the seafood fans although I noticed my elder son left all the blackberries!

I had dithered - the minted braised lamb shank, pan-fried sea bass fillets and, off the specials, spicy fishcakes took my fancy but I was obviously in vegetarian mode and had the roasted Mediterranean vegetable tartlet, topped with warm goats' cheese, with home-cut chips and salad (£10.50). It was moist, tasty and satisfying, if a bit heavy on the tomatoes, and new potatoes might have been better than chips.

With most of us struggling to do justice to the big portions, desserts were out of the question but the knickerbocker glory - vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice-cream with sauce, cream wafer and fruit - sounded too good to miss so one was duly delivered… with four spoons! And the 'final hurdle' of cheese and biscuits proved more a case of the final straw although we did manage large cups of filter coffee.

The bill for seven including a round of drinks and a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the extensive wine list came to £155.90 to which was added a 10 per cent service charge which I happily paid because the busy waitresses were very pleasant, friendly and helpful. That said, if it wasn't for the fact that I had had a pleasant Father's Day, I might have knocked a bit off for having to prompt them about the bottle of wine which had not appeared.

All in all, The Pelican is a friendly, go-ahead village pub with a high standard of food and facilities. And, unlike its namesake bird, the bill wasn't too big!

t The Pelican, Norwich Road, Talcolneston; 01508 489521; www.the-pelican-tacolneston.com

t Where is it? Talcolneston is about six miles out of Norwich on the B1113 to New Buckenham.

t What about parking? The pub has a large car park.

t Do I need to book? Despite The Pelican boasting the large Stable Door restaurant inside and a new covered al fresco eating area in the garden booking is advisable.

t Is it suitable for children? This is a family-run pub and families are welcome. There is a outdoor children's play area.

t Are vegetarians catered for? There was a vegetarian starter and a main course.