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PUBLISHED: 05:29 13 April 2015

Fillet steak with onion rings and tomatoes.   Photo by Mark Bullimore

Fillet steak with onion rings and tomatoes. Photo by Mark Bullimore

Archant Norfolk 2015

Rachel Buller treats her mum to a Mother’s Day lunch at The Chequers at Hainford.

Tempura prawns and side salad.   Photo by Mark BullimoreTempura prawns and side salad. Photo by Mark Bullimore

Reviewed: The Chequers, Stratton Road, Hainford, NR10 3AY; 01603 891657

Positioning yourself successfully somewhere in the middle between being a good, straight-forward local pub and a gastro foodie destination is, it seems, hard to do. But 17th century The Chequers at Hainford is trying to do exactly that, retaining that traditional feel for drinkers while serving great, simple food.

A picture postcard of a building with a thatched roof and an idyllic setting on the village green, it virtually begs a visit. Step inside and the ceilings are low with old beams zig-zagging across them – it is full of atmosphere. While others would be tempted to modernise, to whitewash the walls, add trendy tables and chairs and generally swap “original old” for a new version of old, the Chequers has held back. Ageing ornaments adorn the deep windowsills and mementoes from the pub’s past hang from the beams, all adding to the appeal.

Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake.  Photo by Mark BullimoreRaspberry and white chocolate cheesecake. Photo by Mark Bullimore

The menu itself is extensive, and ranges from traditional pub favourites to dishes with a more fine dining approach (and price tag).

As an early Mother’s Day treat, I thought I would take my mum out for lunch and, having driven past the pub on the way to her house countless times, it felt like time to give it a try.

For starters Mum chose the tempura battered king prawns (£6) which were light and crispy with a simple pot of sweet chilli sauce for dipping. I went for the charcuterie of meats (£7) and when the plate arrived it was full of Parma ham, salami, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, watercress, feta cheese and garlic bread. It was good, honest food – but there was easily enough for two to share.

As it was a cold day, the game pie and the moussaka were both very appealing, but the venison steak roulade with a herb and bacon stuffing and a rich port jus

The Chequers at Hainford.   Photo by Mark BullimoreThe Chequers at Hainford. Photo by Mark Bullimore

(£18) sounded delicious. While the flavour was good – the taste of the stuffing was rich and earthy and fantastic with the venison - there was an awful lot of it on the plate and in places it was overcooked and I have to say a little tough. A reduced, more refined portion, would have happily sufficed, visually as well as on the stomach. The vegetables – red cabbage, carrots and broccoli – were well cooked and added colour and contrasting taste to the dish.

My mum opted for the fillet steak (£20) and it looked amazing when it arrived. She likes her steak well done, which sometimes can leave it dry, but this was beautifully cooked and incredibly tender. The giant, crisped-up onion rings were an impressive sight and were deliciously hot and crunchy, and the sweetness of the roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine cut through the rich flavours.

With every meal there is a choice of potato unless specified, including chips, miniature roasted potatoes and dauphinoise. My mum opted for the latter and it was clearly freshly made, with lashings of rich creamy butter and garlicky potatoes which were tender on every layer.

At lunchtime, the pub offers an additional £8 hot smaller lunches menu, including gammon ham, eggs and chips; lambs liver, smoked bacon and mash, and Swannington venison and pork sausages on mash with fresh veg. All of these looked absolutely delicious when delivered to the table next to us and fantastic value.

I’d heard good things about the pub’s homemade desserts and we took a look at the menu. Apple and cinnamon crumble, panettone bread and butter pudding, spotted dick or chocolate fudge brownie – all sounded delicious. And it was definitely a case of saving the best until last. Mum wanted something light and refreshing, so went for the blueberry and raspberry sherry trifle – although this caused great amusement when it arrived due to the mountain of cream on top. But we loved the traditional, unpretentious style of this homemade treat, and it was packed full of fresh blueberries. I ordered the coffee crème brulee and was secretly pleased when the waitress informed me it had sold out and the alternative was Bailey’s crème brulee. Light, melt in the mouth and a lovely alcoholic kick.

The staff were friendly and happy to answer any questions about the menu and service couldn’t be prompter.

Expect to pay

Lunchtime – hot, smaller dishes £8

Evening starters from £4.50; mains from £12, desserts £4.95

The Chequers, 10 Stratton Road, Hainford, near Norwich, NR10 3AY; 01603 891657; www.hainford-chequers.co.uk

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