The Brisley Bell
This uber stylish country pub in the heart of Norfolk has a Michelin trained Chef offering a tasty menu and six beautiful quirky rooms – definitely worth a detour!
Location location location – The Brisley Bell is set just off the village green, think men in whites in the summer and only 30 minutes from Norwich, Holt and the North Norfolk Coast.
If you’re looking for a quintessential Norfolk village pub then this ticks all the boxes. It’s gone through quite a transformation from when I last saw it in my teens and I was pleasantly surprised by the contrasting stylish interior to the 17th century exterior.
A few essentials – there’s plenty of parking, it’s dog friendly (very) and welcomes families. There are several different areas to this pub – bar, snug, green room, garden room and your experience will change depending on the time of day and who you’re with.
There’s also a beautiful garden with gazebo eating area, croquet lawn, love swing and a meadow for the kids to explore – worthy of a mention in our 12 Pubs with Fab Gardens feature.
The owners have done a great job of mixing the oldie Brisley charm with some fabulous modern and eclectic details. The rich warm colours, heavy drapes, and textured wallpapers make this pub incredibly warm and cosy. Plenty of unique touches such as the old tree stump gazebo and giant pheasant feather picture which I’m coveting for my dining room wall.
The traditional bar room is very much in keeping with the original pub and where you’ll find many of the locals. The snug is home to comfy chesterfields and a fire place – perfect for a Sunday session of reading papers and drinking red wine.
The Garden room has wall to ceiling windows and a library crammed with classic novels. Plus a few stuffed animals and skulls – tastefully done but veggies be warned.
Finally the Green Room – a calm dining environment perhaps suited best for grown ups or those with romance in mind.
THE SCOFF & QUAFF
Like the pub, the menu combines the traditional with some lovely modern influences and our dinner was superb. French Head chef Hervé Stouvenel is Michelin trained and at this point I have to reference the beautiful garlic aroma which filled the pub and had my mouth watering before I even looked at the menu.
For starter I had a Halloumi, pesto and cherry tomato salad and Mr O had Garlic Butter scallops and roasted pepper mille-feuille, both beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.
For main Soy braised short rib of beef with roasted vegetables and horseradish mash and Pan-fried calf liver with crispy pancetta and silver skin onion sauce. Incredibly rich but fabulously hearty and filling.
Big pants on and for the the finale – a good old fashioned apple and rhubarb crumble with cinnamon ice-cream. Mr O let me down at this stage and so I battled on solo to get the job done.
The staff were friendly and you got a real sense of family and loyalty. Our waitress knew the menu back to front which I always find useful as I’m terrible at deciding my main course. She also knew her booze and recommended a lovely bottle of red. However, if you don’t like to ask – the wine menu is rated as ‘Good’, ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ – keeping it nice and simple!
Breakfast is a buffet plus a whatever you fancy cooked – there’s no specific menu. We ate in the snug looking out over the village green and it was a beautiful way to start the day.
The converted flint barns now house six individually designed rooms all named after Norfolk places – such as Windum and Stewkey. Us born and bred types will smile at the nod to the local dialect and ‘outsiders’ I recommend you chat up a local at the bar and they’ll happily bring the names to life.
We stayed in Hindul – a dog friendly king sized room with disabled access. I was a little disappointed not to have one of the roll top bath rooms (Hunny and Troose have them in the bedroom) but we did have a beautiful bathroom with walk in shower and amazing flowered wall paper.
First thing I do when I arrive is check out the information folder and the complimentries. Both get a big muddy tick – the guide showed lots of local knowledge and the home made shortbread was a winner.
The eclectic design continues with a lovely mix of high spec modern features such as the Delonghi coffee machine and DAB radio with traditional antique furniture, tapestry wall hangings and heavy drapes. Lots of lovely bespoke touches such as the huge wooden headboard made from a slice of oak tree and the railway sleeper window supports. The owners Marcus & Amelia have a great design eye and the mix of colours and patterns in each room is impressive, I left with a few interior design ideas!
Because everywhere you need to visit is approximately a 30 minute drive, this is an ideal base to explore Norfolk. Plus, if you prefer the peace and quiet, you’re away from the busy tourist hubs . If travelling with kids – three rooms are large enough for a Z-bed (for an additional £25 a night) but families with teenagers may need to book two rooms.
One word of advice – the underfloor heating takes a while to adjust, so make sure you set it as soon as you arrive otherwise you might find yourself a little stifled at night.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re pretty much smack bang in the middle of Norfolk, so most places are only a short drive away.
But starting on your doorstep – The Brisley Bell offer dusk and dawn country walks with local environment enthusiast David Diggens. Or how about a one day introduction to bee keeping course with David for £150.
Norwich is also only 30 minutes and is full of great things to do and see. Click here for a full muddy round up of why it made the Sunday Times best places to live list.
Famous for our seals – head to Blakeney for a boat trip (also on the Times best places to live list) or if you want something a little more adventurous, check out Coastal Exploration Co. for sailing trips from four hours to three days.
Good for: Locals to foodies to interior enthusiasts – it’s a moderately priced menu with creative food in a stylish pub environment. Dogs and kids are more than welcome with lots of space indoors and out for both.
Not for: Anyone offended by stuffed animals or skulls?!? Seriously I can’t see who wouldn’t enjoy a trip to the Bell. It has a laid back country charm which would appeal to most.
The damage: Starters range between £5.50 – £9.25; Mains range between £13.95 – £22.50; Desserts all £6.50. Double rooms from £88 in low season (January); and from £126 in high (August). Breakfast included.
The Bell, The Green Brisley, Norfolk, NR20 5DW Tel: 01362 705024