Restaurant review: The Honingham Buck pub

PUBLISHED: 15:06 26 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:06 26 February 2020

The Honingham Buck, in the heart of the village (photo: Simon Finlay)

The Honingham Buck, in the heart of the village (photo: Simon Finlay)

Don’t pass the Buck, says a pub sign in Honingham. Good advice? Dominic Castle finds out

There are not many occasions when having trouble parking your car is a good thing. But if the car park of your dining destination is pretty full on a post-Christmas January night you sense that this is an encouraging sign. Clearly, people want to be here.

This is borne out once inside the low-ceilinged Honingham Buck, all muted lights and country pub chic (and, praise be, with a carpet instead of those damnable clattery bare floors) - the place is almost full.

The menu is sensible, though another vegetarian option would be welcome. I have several weaknesses when it comes to food and piccalilli is one of them. I adore those little crunchy, tart, yellow bits of pickled pleasure and the fact that the Buck's homemade offering came with a pork and black pudding Scotch egg was double bubble for me.

It was a whopper, a cricket-ball sized planet of rich flavour with a crisp crust and a molten gold core, lifted even further by those little piccalilli pops.

My lady friend's weakness is cheese, especially blue. Norfolk's fine Mrs Temple's Binham Blue is here, offered up as fritters with red onion jam and crispy sage leaves. "Heavenly", she said.

Bavette beef steak is not a common sight on British tables; a leanish, long-grained cut, it is not a fatty meat and is on the thin side for a steak. What it does have going for it is reasonable cost and excellent flavour. It lends itself to simple treatment; a brief spell in the pan with a good rest after.

Mishandled, it can be a tough old thing, but the Buck's kitchen sent out a fine specimen, just the right colour and texture, well-seasoned and generous in size. With a dark shroud of crispy kale - surely the only way to enjoy this oddly popular vegetable - a scattering of wonderful parmentier potatoes and a deep, warm beetroot puree to hold it all together you have a very fine steak and chips with knobs on.

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Across the table a revelation took place. In all the years that Mrs C has eaten fish the skin has always been left behind on the plate, no matter how carefully chef has prepared it.

However, when her pan-fried fillet of black bream arrived the skin was not separated from the flaky white flesh as usual; it all went in. "Delicious; gives it a real crunch," she exclaimed. And so a new avenue of gustatory joy opens.

The dish was another good one, perfectly balanced with crushed new potato terrine, fennel shavings, spinach and lemon and caper beurre noisette. The smallest of criticism was perhaps a twist of salt too many.

Too full for dessert, we had decided we'd have one anyway. Under a crust of burnt sugar, a tonka bean crème brulee was a pot of exquisite, silken joy. The thinnest crunch of ginger snap was perched on top of a ball of zingy sorbet, a raspberry-red flash of summer.

Things called chocolate nemesis are too often clumpy cocoa accretions of disappointment; not here. A slice of light, rich cake, bubbly honeycomb with a gorgeous, slightly bitter taste and a sphere of Dann's salted caramel ice cream which actually has that salted taste and we're done.

It's a Lacons pub, so the beer is fine and they keep a decent Merlot; the bill came to £75 for all the above and, reader, that was money well spent.

Our review visits are unannounced, and we pay for our meals.

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