Dining out on Valentines Day

Catering by William Gowing

There are so many lovely places to eat around the West Beckham area. It has proven difficult to narrow it down to just a handful. But, on behalf of visitors and guests to Rookery Farm, we have taken on the not so onerous task of doing the research. The result? Our own list of top five places to enjoy a romantic dinner a deux, on Valentines Day, or frankly, any other evening in the year.

In choosing our top five, we have made some strict guidelines. No chains; must offer local, seasonal produce; they must provide a good vegetarian range; and the establishment must be within 15 miles of Rookery Farm.

So, in no particular order, here are our five dining recommendations.

Wells Crab House, Wells-next-the-Sea

This husband and wife-run eatery is a small, intimate and informal restaurant which offers a friendly, relaxed and welcoming dining experience. Dishes are centred around beautifully prepared local and seasonal seafood dishes.

The produce is as local as it can be. Crabs and mussels from Andy Frary on his Andorra Star 2 boat. Lobsters from Billy Ward on his Malfreen Boat. Oysters from Richard Loose from Brancaster. Those seeking landlubber dishes will be delighted to know the meat is supplied by award winning butcher Arthur Howell.

While the dishes are local, the menu is wide-ranging. Many of the dishes are developed from travels afar by the owners and chef. The restaurant is mostly fish and seafood platters but a changing monthly menu and a innovative specials board make sure every taste is catered for.

Wells Crabhouse

Wiveton Bell, Wiveton

The beautiful and historic public house in the village of Wiveton holds two AA rosettes and a Michelin Pub Guide Inspectors’ Favourite award and it is easy to see why.

The Wiveton Bell is situated a mile inland from Blakeney, close to the unspoilt marshes of the North Norfolk coast. Its location, in the quiet hamlet of Wiveton, is just one of its many charms. The beautifully decorated guest rooms are another. But the starring role in this pub’s rise to recognition is its food and drink offering.

On the drinks menu are a carefully selected range of wine and gins, including many local spirits; and a great selection of local guest beers.

The menu is a fantastic selection of locally sourced ingredients, including smoked salmon from Cley Smokehouse, Brancaster mussels, locally-reared, free-range meat and locally-grown vegetables. The talented kitchen team turn the beautiful local produce into fine dining dishes such as Treacle-Cured Beef Fillet, with Beef Fat Carrots, Braised Shallot and Sauce Bordelaise; or Blue Monday Arancini, Butternut Squash, Sage and Brown Butter. For dessert it is hard to look past Salted Caramel Tart, Yoghurt Sorbet and Hazelnut Streusel.

Wiveton Bell.

The Salthouse Dun Cow

Sitting in the gardens of the Salthouse Dun Cow on a sunny day is as close to heaven as a pub setting can be. Unfettered views across the salt marshes means visitors are drinking in the fresh air. The view is served up with the aroma of salty sea and herbaceous borders of the marshes.

The food matches the view. Cattle grazing on the marshes are of the same stock as the beef on your plate. The sea, that is a mere stone’s throw away, has provided much of the fish on the menu. In season, the samphire has next to no travel miles attached.

On the website, the owners say: “Our aspiration is to be a pub that happens to serve good food – not a restaurant that happens to have a bar.” There is an impressive and carefully selected wine, beer and spirit list. The menu is full of top quality dishes. This is a pub that punches high above its weight when it comes to a dining experience.

 The Dun Cow, Salthouse

Morston Hall, Morston

Morston Hall is a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. Owner-chef Galton Blackiston and his wife Tracy have run the Michelin starred restaurant for the past 26 years. It has built an impressive reputation for high-end dining.

The seven course tasting menu is changed every day, and seasonal, local produce is at the core of the Morston Hall dining experience. Examples from the menu include: Butternut Squash Veloute with Kings Lynn Brown Shrimps, Wild Stiffkey Sea Bass, Richard Vaughan’s Middle White Suckling Pig, Bungay Raw Milk Cream.

Morton Hall itself is a country house hotel, with origins in the 17th century. It is in the village of Morston, just a few hundred metres from the Norfolk Coast and two miles from the town of Blakeney.

Morston Hall 

The Moorings, Blakeney

For something local and low-key but with all the elements that make a great meal out, try The Moorings in Blakeney. Just about everything on the menu is inspired by the local produce. Reviewers across a number of websites also rave about the home-made desserts.

Whether it is asparagus, pigeon, crab, mussels, venison, partridge – everything comes with the word ‘local’ in front of it.

The same family has run the Moorings for 20 years. Their ambition has always been to “provide all our guests with wonderful, simply cooked food, fresh and wherever possible, local.” The fact they regularly appear in two reputable food guides is a bonus.

The Moorings

These are our recommendations. If you have enjoyed a fantastic meal in the local area, do write and let us know about it so we can pass your recommendations on to other guests.