Food review: ‘Absolute perfection and I couldn’t fault a thing’ - Could this be Norfolk’s finest place to eat?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:18 28 February 2020
Donna-Louise Bishop feels she’s found food perfection in north Norfolk at a pub that seems to get universally excellent reviews. Find out why she only had good things to say.
You don't have to go many weeks before The Hunworth Bell makes an appearance on yet another 'best of' food list.
In fact, in my 30-something years of living in the north Norfolk area I've not heard a single bad word about the place. So it seemed an obvious choice to escape to on a dark and dreary Saturday night.
As described on the eatery's website, this historic pub "celebrates classic British pub food" - and celebrate it does.
Multi-award winning chef Ben Handley and his wife Sarah took over the pub three years ago and after renovation opened in August 2017.
As well as a menu which has the Great British seasons at its heart, it contains pub classics alongside its more complicated dishes. There's also an impressive 'bar bites' sections for those wanting a light snack or a mini taste-sensation.
Ben and Sarah are also known in the area as the owners of the The Duck Inn, in Stanhoe, scooping even more accolades including The Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year 2017 for the East of England and being listed and praised for its cuisine in the 2018 Michelin Guide.
So with all that hype, the bar was already set pretty high.
After giving our reservation details, we were made to feel welcomed straight away. We were quickly seated and provided with a drinks menu, which we ordered from as soon as we were able to pick our jaws off the floor due to the stunning surroundings.
The place, known affectionately as the 'Hunny Bell' in the local area, has a modern country cottage vibe to it which meant we felt comfortable while perhaps just a little bit posh at the same time.
We were served by about three or four different people throughout our meal and each staff member was smiley, attentive and down-to-earth. This has to be one of the best places I've visited for customer service.
It took us a while to decide on what we planned to eat as the succinct menu gave a lot of variety and option to choose from. As soon as our starters arrived though, we knew we were in for a treat.
I opted for the original 'Mr H' scotch quails eggs, mustard and tarragon mayonnaise (£7.50), an option which was also available on the 'bar bites' menu. The little parcels of scrumminess had incredible layers of taste throughout.
My partner had the peppered beef fillet carpaccio, smoked truffle aioli, Parmesan, and capers (£8) and was kind enough to give me a little taste. The beef just melted away in the mouth and was a pleasure to eat. The portion was pretty generous too.
Next up was our mains, which arrived in perfect time to let our starters rest and our stomachs wanting more. Was it actually possible to look forward to seeing the food presentation just as much as eating the meal itself?
My Briston chicken breast, rosemary baked potatoes, Serrano ham, prune, almond, and chicken velouté (£18) didn't disappoint. The velouté was rich and creamy and the prunes were a surprising yet welcomed addition to the dish. The chicken was tender and had a divine flavour which was complemented perfectly with the Serrano ham.
My partner's chargrilled seabass fillets, chorizo, saffron potatoes, and wild garlic (£20) was the winner of the two mains though, packed full of stonkingly good flavour. I'm still dreaming about that chorizo (which again, I was allowed a tiny sample of).
I'll be honest, neither of us had much room left for pudding but that wasn't going to stop us. We were far too invested in the menu to quit by that point.
I picked a tonka bean panna cotta, cookie milk, salted caramel, with cookie and coffee crumb (£7.50), while my partner opted for a the triple chocolate brownie, salted caramel, honeycomb, with vanilla ice cream (£7.50).
Although delicious, my dessert probably had a bit too much cookie flavour for my liking (but I can't say I wasn't warned by its description) and actually the panna cotta on its own would have been enough.
However, the brownie was the personification of perfection and left my partner silent for a good five minutes while he devoured it. The icing on the cake was the honeycomb which packed a punch.
With (too) full-up bellies and smiles on our faces, we left The Hunworth Bell content and happy. Even the drive home in the dismal weather couldn't dampen our spirits that evening.
For more information or to see the menus visit the website www.hunworthbell.co.uk.
Setting and ambience
The Hunworth Bell is tucked away in the little village of Hunworth, between Holt and Melton Constable, and is situated just off the village green. Although we visited on a pretty miserable dark and windy night, on arrival the pub shone like a little beacon in the night and still managed to look spectacular in it's surroundings. Once inside it became a welcomed haven to the elements outdoors and our breath was taken away by the cosy, yet modern and spacious, restaurant and quirky bar area. Our only regret was not being able to see the outside seating area set up outside as I imagine this would be a great place to grab a quick bite to eat in the summer, while watching the world go by with a drink or two.
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The staff were pleasant and attentive. Our food arrived quickly and we were well looked after throughout our meal. Our meal was ordered without a single pen or paper in sight and the service people showed a great understanding of the menu on offer.
There was a fairly extensive drinks list, especially wine, but what took my fancy as the designated driver was the exceptionally tasty Norfolk cordials. My first glass of elderflower with tonic (£2.40) was quickly devoured and I had to experience a second. It was as good as a friend's homemade variety (but that's just between me and you, and a few more readers).
Although the car park isn't paved, it is fairly level so anyone with mobility issues or wheelchair users should be able to move around just fine. There is also a designated disabled toilet. And while there were some vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, staff at The Hunworth Bell were so incredibly helpful that I'm sure a phonecall ahead could see even the most complicated dietary requirement catered for.
There are two sets of toilets within the building, both clean and in keeping with the style of the building. While one set is up a couple of high stairs, the others are on the same level as the restaurant, so disabled access is good. There are also baby-changing facilities. Oh, and possibly the nicest handcream I've ever come across is provided too.
There is ample space for parking in the generous carpark provided behind the restaurant, just tucked off the main road.
Price and value for money
Okay, so this isn't the cheapest of meals but the prices are 100pc justified for the quality of the fresh food provided. Flavours of the dishes go above and beyond what was expected and this is a meal that won't be forgotten for a very, very long time. In total our three-course meal came to £77.50p including drinks, which was two glasses of the elderflower cordial for me and a pint of Becks Vier (£4.20p) for my partner. And were we full by the end? Yes. Absolutely yes. Not a single crumb remained on any of our plates and we couldn't have eaten another bite even if you'd paid us to.
For me it was the tiny, yet delicious, original 'Mr H' scotch quails eggs. I hope they are still on the menu for a return visit to sample the bar bites in the summer!
If you're after a special meal with a loved one, or somewhere to celebrate a special occasion, then this is the perfect place for an evening meal. Although I don't doubt for a minute that it would also make the perfect backdrop for a chilled drink in the summer with some delicious nibbles.
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