The White Horse overlooks the marshland coastline in picturesque Brancaster Staithe, North Norfolk, which is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I’ve seen The White Horse described as a “pub with rooms” and I think that’s quite the understatement. It’s so much more than that… an award winning establishment with coastal contemporary style rooms (15 in total, some of them dog friendly) and a casual bar that leads to a gorgeous conservatory restaurant serving some truly outstanding food. There’s even an elevated deck terrace to take in the panoramic views of the tidal salt marsh. Sounds like the perfect getaway? Well, it was!
Paulo and I booked the “Room at the Top”, a spacious, split-level room complete with telescope for taking in the breathtaking views of the marsh, Scolt Head Island and the sea beyond. Definitely a wow factor!
Our seascape-themed room was immaculate and had everything we needed, including excellent in-room facilities for preparing coffee, hot chocolate and a variety of teas (the tea lover in me was quite pleased). We also appreciated the complementary bottles of still and sparkling water as well as the cookies.
The bed was loaded with pillows but there were comfy chairs and sofas by the gable end of the room, so we could relax, read a magazine and enjoy the peacefulness of the surroundings. There was a nice digital flat screen TV, which we didn’t even turn on once. Who needs TV when you can just look out the window?
The bathroom featured a walk-in shower, separate bathtub, luxurious towels and high-end toiletries.
Needless to say, all of our stress melted away by the time we descended for dinner in the restaurant. We arrived a little early and the friendly and helpful staff showed us the lounge so we could relax, enjoy a bottle of Prosecco and peruse the menu. We were able to place our order before we got to the table. It was really difficult to make a choice as every single item sounded delicious. We knew the food was local and therefore fresh so we decided on a combination of items from the regular and specials menu… seafood (oysters and mussels), meat (rib eye steak) and vegetables.
“The extensive restaurant menu celebrates the best of fresh local produce. Depending on the season, mussels, crab, lobster, oysters, shrimp, sea bass, mackerel and sea trout are in abundance. What better place to enjoy the freshest of fish delivered to the kitchen door by the village fishermen and local seasonal produce grown in beds across the road or gathered from the salt marsh. Fran Hartshorne, Head Chef, creates the menu to include daily specials from this local produce. The food is cooked simply but with skill and culinary flair”. (Official Website)
The beautifully-lit conservatory restaurant provided a cosy and romantic ambience. Whilst sipping on Prosecco and munching on tasty homemade bread, we admired the exposed brick and stones and all of the little decorative details. It really is a stunning space.
Service was attentive but not intrusive. Before long, our starters were brought out. I ordered the vintage cheddar beignets, served with cauliflower puree, tomato and Worcester sauce chutney, with some leaves on top. Presented on a slate, it was a real work of art *almost* too gorgeous to eat. The beignets were light and airy, with a sharp taste of cheddar that went really well with the tomato chutney and vegetables.
Paulo ordered a half dozen Brancaster Staithe oysters as his starter. They looked so fresh and plump on the half shell, I just had to try one. I loved the briny flavour and silky texture. I’ve had Brancaster oysters before and they are a must when in North Norfolk. They’re incredibly succulent and always super fresh. These oysters are from the beds at the bottom of The White Horse’s garden and delivered straight to their kitchen door, so you can’t get any fresher than that.
We were there during mussel season so naturally, I just had to order the mussels. They come from the mussel beds just a few hundred yards from The White Horse. Named after Cyril Southerland, who harvests the mussels at the bottom of the garden, “Cyril’s Brancaster Mussels” were cooked in white wine, cream, shallots, garlic and parsley and served with crusty, ciabatta bread. The pot was chock full of mussels but I still ordered a side of tasty hand cut chips (I can’t resist a good chip).
Norfolk is known for having excellent beef so Paulo’s choice of main course was the 28-day matured Norfolk 8oz rib eye steak, served with garlic & parsley butter, salad leaves and hand cut chips. He asked for the steak to be cooked medium and it was spot on. I tried a piece and it was so full flavoured and tender, it practically melted in my mouth.
We were both tempted by the same dessert… the White Horse lemon tart on a drizzle of raspberry vinegar ganache, served with a superbly crafted chocolate macaron. A feast of flavours!
We finished off the meal with some tea and coffee. Paulo had a double shot of cognac, the excellent Rémy Martin XO.
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. The food, drink, ambience and service were all impeccable. The restaurant is fully deserving of its 2 AA rosettes… and more!
Our culinary experience continued the next morning at breakfast. We arrived a bit early by mistake and were still made to feel welcome, even offering us tea, coffee and toast whilst they were setting up the buffet table. It’s really nice to have cheerful staff with a can-do attitude and I have to say the breakfast team left us with a wonderful impression.
Breakfast was in the same conservatory as the dining room and in the daytime, I could fully appreciate the view through all of the glass bringing the outdoors in. There is even a deck terrace for those warmer months where one can really take in the stunning landscape.
The breakfast buffet table was beautifully laid out, with its bright plaid tablecloth and charming labelled bottles of milk and juices. There was an array of cereals with a variety of dried fruit toppings, as well as little jars of jam and Nutella. Fresh yogurt and fruit salad were also available. As tempted as we were by this delightful buffet, we couldn’t resist ordering a hot breakfast from the menu, which again featured fresh, local produce.
I had the Classic Eggs Benedict: a toasted muffin, spinach, locally smoked ham and soft poached egg topped with herbed Hollandaise sauce. All of the flavours blended perfectly and didn’t overpower each other. I loved the Hollandaise sauce’s rich, buttery and tangy taste.
The smokehouse of experienced fish smoker Simon Letzer is based nearby so Paulo decided on Letzer’s smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. The soft and creamy eggs paired well with the salty smokiness of the raw salmon.
We enjoyed our mini getaway so much that we didn’t want to leave. Before we drove off, we took a nice walk along the coastal path easily accessed from the bottom of The White Horse’s garden, and admired the views.
This area of Norfolk is becoming a favourite destination of ours. The White Horse is the perfect representative of all the good things North Norfolk has to offer: stunning views, a seasonal menu featuring expertly prepared local produce, stylish, comfortable accommodations and a friendly team that make you feel welcome and want to return… time and again.
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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