The White Horse
Enjoy dinner, bed and breakfast with one of the best views in Norfolk. Aren't we the lucky ones?
If the old adage is true and location really is the holy grail of pubs, houses and businesses, then The White Horse should have perfected its own happy dances (possibly naked and wielding scarves).
Seriously though: if the sea was any nearer to this beautiful mash-up of pub, restaurant and hotel, diners would be munching on freshly-caught oysters with their feet dangling in the sea. On clear days, you can even see out as far as Scolt Head Island.
But The White Horse is a far cry from ‘stuffy’, attracting dog walkers in for a quick pint, couples after a fine view/fine dining combo and – come the weekend – families getting together for a Sunday lunch (bring the kids: you’ll be in good company).
Décor is very much about letting the views take centre stage, with the odd subtle homage to the sea – rope lights, wooden boats on windowsills, bright pictures of crabs. It’s bright and welcoming; stylish and classy.
The menu couldn’t showcase Norfolk produce any better, with fish and seafood unsurprisingly featuring heavily, sourced no more than a few metres away. My dining partner can’t resist the oysters au naturel with a dash of Tabasco, while my crispy lamb bon bons with roasted onion and wild garlic are rich and pop-in-the-mouth delicious.
Service is impeccable – our wine of choice arrives within seconds of the selection being acknowledged by our charming waiter (no iPads or notepads here – just good old fashioned memory). Once the wine is poured and tasted, he happily walks us through several of items on the menu to help us make a decision.
My free-range chicken with creamy mash, chargrilled lettuce and goats curd is a delight – earthy and wholesome yet not too heavy; Matt’s pan fried bream with sweet potato, burnt corn and chorizo tastes as good as it looks, if not better (burnt corn is “the nuts,” apparently).
During dinner, the conversation continually circles back to the performance nature is putting on for us through those floor-to-ceilings windows. In scene one (starters): a dark, moody cloud dominates the skyline; in scene two (mains): cloud gradually shifts to reveal a light blue sky dusted with streaks of feathery pink. Who knows what scene three (dessert) will bring! It’s like having box seats to the theatre with the added bonus of a butler.
And bravo to The White Horse for creating the best dessert concept: a medley of all four of the puds on the menu served with two glasses of dessert wine – and two spoons. We tuck into mini portions of lemon tart, rhubarb & custard, chocolate mouse, and coconut pannacotta served with burnt pineapple and rum jelly (I’m whisked off to the Caribbean in one mouthful).
Bed & breakfast:
While there are 15 rooms in The White Horse itself – the Room at the Top sporting a telescope for even more of those views). For me, the best choice is one of the garden rooms – of which there are eight.Trundle down the tiny path leading from the pub and step into the gorgeous extension, built into the natural contours of the land with a flat roof and Norfolk stone-clad exterior. Perfect for walkers, cyclists and other outdoorsy types, we take it in turns to either get ready or sit outside and watch the colourful boats bob up and down while the other gets ready, glass of fizz in hand. For one brief moment, all is alright with the world.
Inside, the modern garden rooms have large lounge areas, king-size beds and bathrooms with tubs. The sea is still very much in the picture here too – think pale blue tongue and groove-clad walls, turquoise sofas and seafaring ornaments and pictures. Having grown up in The Wirral, I real right at home.
All the home comforts you would expect are here: flat-screens, wi-fi (ordinary phone reception is patchy at best) and the same posh coffee machines George Clooney leads us to believe he sips at home, with loads of those colourful coffee capsules. Fans of mini bottles of wine be warned: there is no fridge, and therefore no booze (we were given a flask full of fresh milk on arrival to have with tea or coffee). Pooches are welcome in these rooms too – wood floors especially installed to tolerate muddy boots and paws.
Breakfast is served in the main restaurant too for another dose of theatre (this one of the drawn chorus variety). The impressive breakfast buffet is one of the prettiest I’ve experienced – more like a quaint deli or a farmer’s market than a hotel breakfast. Bircher Museli anyone? (do, it’s yummy).
Cooked breakfasts include the full English (everything locally farmed/sourced and free-range, of course) and several types of Eggs Benedict – ham, spinach or salmon. I go with ham and am so impressed with how pretty it looks, a pic instantly goes up onto InstaMuddy (being the wrong side of 18, you can imagine what a compliment this is to the chef).
If you can’t stay overnight – or it’s fully booked (in the height of summer this is very likely)- swing by for lunch. On a nice day, it’s the best way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon – kids, grandma or partner in tow. Personally, I’ve been here so many times since moving to Norfolk, I might as well move in. Now then, that’s not a bad idea…
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Dog walkers, romantic couples, groups of friends getting together for a catch-up or celebrating an occasion, families who have just spent the day on the beach, holidaymakers looking for the best of the area. Anybody really – you’re all welcome.
Not for: Diners looking for gargantuan plates of pub grub – the dishes are refined and sized so you can comfortably enjoy three courses.
The damage: Starters range from £5.95 to £9.00; mains from £13.95 to £22.50; and desserts are around £6.
The White Horse has a great summer of events lined up, from a Champagne and Oyster Festival to a delicious Lobster BBQ.
The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk PE31 8BY. Tel: 01485 210262. whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk