The Dove, Alburgh

Sarah BrealeyIn southernmost Norfolk a fifth-generation chef with a military background is turning out impressive meals. Robert Oberhoffer's certificates and medals fill the hallway of the Dove at Alburgh, a restaurant-withrooms near Harleston which is in sight of the Suffolk border.Sarah Brealey

In southernmost Norfolk a fifth-generation chef with a military background is turning out impressive meals. Robert Oberhoffer's certificates and medals fill the hallway of the Dove at Alburgh, a restaurant-withrooms near Harleston which is in sight of the Suffolk border. He is keen for you to know that cooking has been in the family since his great greatgrandfather - and his son Philip is a budding chef too.

The Dove has been in the family since 1980, while Robert and Conny have been in charge since 2000, cooking in a 'country French' style and using local ingredients where possible. In the evening options might include souffl� Arnold Bennett and melon with Black Forest ham to start, followed by home-made smoked haddock in a basil butter sauce with homegrown green beans; pan-fried Blythburgh pork loin served on sweet potato and onions with a mustard grain butter sauce; or glazed Barbary duck breast with braised carrots and thymeinfused onions. There is a restaurant with white tablecloths, wooden floor, and white walls with paintings on. For drinks before dinner there is a more cosy and rustic lounge with sofas, and a couple of tables for days when they are full in the restaurant. The ladies' toilets were smart with nice toiletries, tiny individual towels for drying your hands, and a collection of aphorisms about men. (Sample: 'My husband talks sound sense. 90 per cent sound, 10 per cent sense,' and, 'How many roads must a man walk down before he admits he is lost?') The Real Ale Drinker reported less swanky (but still very respectable) gents', and that gentlemen had to make do with paper towels. Sunday lunch is popular, the prices a little lower than in the evening - though you must have at least two courses - and the food a bit simpler. The clientele for Sunday lunch looked wellheeled and mostly elderly, the cars outside large and new. We started with chicken liver pat� to chef Oberhoffer's own recipe, which was pronounced 'much better than average'. 'You would be surprised how often pat� can be quite bland,' said the Real Ale Drinker. It came with a couple of slices of toast and a salad garnish.


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My warm Camembert salad with sun-dried tomatoes (there is a version with chorizo too) featured lovely, oozing cheese, but was inexplicably missing the sun-dried tomatoes, though there were a few bits of normal tomato and some chopped gherkins among the lettuce. As our starters were cleared I waited to be asked how they were, but the question was never asked (though it was with the mains, which were highly satisfactory). The Real Ale Drinker was extremely happy with his lamb shoulder, which came with gravy, roast potatoes and a slice of Yorkshire pudding. Other options included loin of Blythburgh pork, roast beef (for a �2 supplement) and plaice, but I had a cheese souffl� on top of a stack of Mediterranean vegetables, with roast potatoes and a rich cheese sauce. It was more thoughtful, and unusual, than your typical vegetarian option. We also had a dish of vegetables - Savoy butter beans. We didn't strictly need anything else, but our greedy streak held sway and we ordered a bread and butter pudding and a morello cherry crumble cake. The pudding was simple and effective, with the right amount of wobble and some nice custard. The cake came hot or cold, and on reflection it would have been much better hot, for it was more of a pudding than a cake. It came with a scoop of fairly average cream of Cornish ice-cream - it would have been nice to see something a bit posher in a place with high aspirations like the Dove.

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Despite my few quibbles, we left happy, and the other departing lunchers looked equally satisfied. There seemed to be quite a few regulars among the diners, which tells you a lot about consistent quality.

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Need to know:

- Where is it? The Dove is on the A143 at Alburgh, between Harleston and Bungay.

- Any parking? Yes.

- When is it open? Friday and Saturday from 7pm, Sunday lunch (orders 12- 2pm), and Wednesday and Thursday evening, but if there are no bookings by 4pm on those days, they will not open.

- Do I need to book? Usually, yes, especially on Wednesday and Thursday evenings (see above). Call 01986 788315.

- What about vegetarian options? Plenty - there's a separate menu.

- Is there wheelchair access? Yes, including an accessible toilet.

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