Muddy Eats: The Jolly Sailors, Brancaster Staithe
When you mix children and pubs it’s hard to get the balance right – say they’re not welcome and you lose half your clientele; encourage them in and you risk reducing your establishment to the noisy, sticky, disruptive mess akin to my lounge on a Saturday afternoon.
But every now and again you stumble across a pub that works extra hard to ensure the adults aren’t the only ones having fun. And boy does The Jolly Sailors in Brancaster Staithe fit that bill, with an ice-cream stall in the summer (Mr Whippy machine and all); seats that look resemble ice-cream cones for little ones to squidge their bottoms into; a playground with both a pirate ship and a climbing frame; a massive beer garden for them to run off steam; a stand for taking silly photos (to go on Snap Chat perhaps?); a dedicated menu of pasta, pizzas, burgers and chocolate brownies; and a snug room with darts board for older children. Phew – I mean, throw in a tree and a fat guy and you’ve got Christmas!
Jealous? Don’t be… there is plenty for grown ups too, with the largest selection of rum on the coast (the pub does have Sailor in the name, after all), a BBQ, a smokehouse, themed deck chairs, live music, quiz nights, real ales, and – of course – a delectable and varied menu of locally-produced pub grub, including seafood sourced from across the road, stonebaked pizzas and British classics. There’s also a takeaway service available plus a late-night kitchen on Fridays (until 10pm).
If this wasn’t enough, the multi award-winning Jolly Sailors pulls up its stripy sleeves and wades in to help the local community, creating a separate menu for North Norfolk Food & Drink Festival and hosting a Pirate Fun Day during the October half term. There are even t-shirts for sale with all the money going to East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Inside, the Jolly Sailors is charmingly higgledy-piggledy with several rooms, a snug and an open fire – perfect for a cosy winter visit – while the beer garden and a covered area outside make it great for the summer, the whitewash and navy décor giving it an almost Greek feel.
Sitting in the beer garden, my lunch partner and I can’t seem to choose what to eat – several things shouting at me from the double-sided menu. It’s only when I head to the loo that I notice a specials board and have to start the decision process all over again. The problem? It’s only 12.30pm and I can’t feasibly eat a starter, a main course, a dessert and sink a beer in the sunshine without falling asleep at the wheel on the way home. I do love both a homemade scotch egg and a pint of prawns though – next time…
Pulled, literally, between the pulled pork burger from the Smokehouse (what are Burnt End Beans, I wonder?) and the classic burger, I opt for the latter and add bacon and cheese (What? I didn’t have a starter!). The Jolly Sailors operates an ‘at the bar’ ordering process – simply head up and ask for what you want: on this occasion the chicken, chorizo and seafood Paella and the burger. I’m surprised to see how small the kitchen is considering the wide choice of dishes on offer – at weekends Head Chef Nick Ramsay (and kitchen) can cater for up to 800 hungry patrons!
The burger is cooked to perfection and served with skinny fries, homemade slaw, a tangy relish, a thick slab of melted cheddar and two strips of bacon – why oh why did I wear skinny jeans? “The prawns are smoked,” claims my lunch partner who mentions at least twice how lovely his main course is. I lean over and try a piece of chicken with some chorizo and rice and it is, indeed, a dish to rave over.
I can’t really eat anymore but feel that I must try a pudding in the name of research (you’re welcome), so head up to the bar once again to order the cheesecake with lemon drizzle, a crème brulee with homemade shortbread and two Americano coffees with milk. Neither puds disappoint, with the brulee’s top passing the crack test, the shortbread the crumble test and the cheesecake the suck-your-cheeks-in-and-look-like-you’ve-swallowed-a-wasp test (it’s lemony!).
Stuffed, satisfied and slightly sunburnt (is it really September?), I reluctantly get into my car for the hour-and-a-half journey home. Was it worth the long journey just to come for a meal? Yes, it Jolly well was. Time to spare? Walk lunch off on this beautiful beach, just a mile-and-a-half away.
Days out with the family really don’t get much better than this.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Couples, friends, families and rum lovers after a quick drink, lunch or an evening meal in friendly surrounds.
Not for: Diners looking for table service or an a la carte menu.
£-££: Reasonable – starters: from £2.50, mains: from £8.95 (kids £4.75), puds: from £5.50 (kids £3.50).
Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk PE31 8BJ. Tel: 01485 210314. jollysailorsbrancaster.co.uk