Inn time

PUBLISHED: 08:59 03 June 2013 | UPDATED: 08:59 03 June 2013

The Duck Inn, Stanhoe. Picture: Ian Burt

The Duck Inn, Stanhoe. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

It was written in stone: Me, the macho driver, putting my foot down on the accelerator (keeping under 70mph of course!) and She, the clever one, reads the map and we arrive on time with no fuss at all.

But now the world has come tumbling down. After taking the same tablets for 20 years the doctor said I shouldn’t drive so we have had to reverse our roles. Da drives at a more economic rate and I don’t have enough brains to read a map. Therefore our trip to The Duck “somewhere in north Norfolk”, booking in for a late lunch, became very late; almost an hour beyond our scheduled time – horror not arriving in time to eat.

We arrived with the car park full and the inviting sign on the weatherboard “Welcome to The Duck Inn, Stanhoe” and the A-board “lunch served until 2.30”. We were just on time.

Inside it was buzzing and our table was still free and cozy. Stripped wooden tables matched stylish grey paint

décor, and a mixture of modern art and local paintings gave an up-to-date, easy-going ambience. We were guided by the smiling patronne, relaxed and engaging even though there were many tables to look after.

We looked at the menu with a cool glass of wine and extra cool glass of water because the glasses were retrieved from a refrigerator – a smart move. At last we were relaxed too..

We chose from The Duck Inn Specials, their à la carte version, which had thankfully only four starters and four main courses. Bar snacks may be a substitute for the starter. Appropriate for me to choose the braised pigs cheeks as a starter, as we had come by an enormous field of piggy homes just before the pub. Whether sourced very locally or not, it proved it was a good choice. Tender cheeks were accompanied by smooth cauliflower and tonka bean purée, wild mushrooms and piggy quavers. A “jus” put a good complementary edge on the dish. I admit

that I was ignorant about quavers but with a little research I found out that it is a rather up-market crackling.

Da had duck terrine on a large, white plate with no rim but a lip and was it repeated on other dishes. Made by Villeroy and Boch it allows trenchermen’s portion to be served but still gives spectacular presentation.

The terrine was garnished with pickled cherries with an interesting after-taste of orange and a rosemary mayonnaise – no Helman’s here, it was kitchen-made.

Her main course was generous as well. Pavé of cod, crayfish, lemon and fennel risotto. The risotto was moist and had the addition of some leek for colour, with plenty of crayfish and intensely caramelized fennel giving a welcome texture to the dish. Good fresh cod.

My pan roast rump of lamb had the lamb parked neatly piled in the middle with good, pink faggot atop and potatoes underneath, and lots of space for the admirable swirl of sauce and rosemary pesto around the focus of the dish.

Again the choice of sweet was reassuringly small with four choices plus ice-cream. The triple chocolate brownie on V and B plate was true to form with a planet-like oval swirl of salt caramel surrounded the neat form of the brownie and crème frâiche. A very good end with the espresso to follow.

I must go to map reading classes so we can get there on time for our anticipated next visit!

The Duck Inn, Burnham Rd, Stanhoe, near King’s Lynn PE31 8QD; 01485 518330;

Meet the chef

Ben Handley

Ben’s starting point was his love for cooking and hospitality at a very young age. His father was general manager of two hotels in Coventry, and he has fond memories of being taken round the hotels and especially the kitchens. It was such a fascinating place, so much noise, smells and creativity. The family would also eat out in neighbouring restaurants and he began a “recipe book” of the flavour combinations he’d been introduced to.

The family moved to Norfolk when Ben was five and his parents bought the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham, which is where his cooking career really began. After his family left the Lifeboat, Ben continued cooking, working temporarily as a relief chef around the country as well as working in Melbourne, Australia, too.

His time and efforts are now focused on The Duck Inn. He and his wife, Sarah, were delighted to have this opportunity and feel this is just the right kind of place for them. In terms of inspiration, chef Tom Kerridge, who runs the only pub with Michelin two-stars, is right on line, but at home it is his own kitchen. Ben, 38, comments: “Without them, their amazing staff, we’d be nothing.”

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