PUBLISHED: 08:04 30 October 2013 | UPDATED: 08:04 30 October 2013
Archant Norfolk 2013
I spent five years at school in Holt and for some reason Kelling was not on my horizon. But here we are at The Pheasant, close to where we would once visit Gache's for Speech Day lunches and occasionally dinner with school friends in the last year were memorable occasions.
The Pheasant has a new, local owner and is not part of a chain so not part of a formula. The building is famously solid and with the outside lights on, it presents a very elegant façade. When you go through the front door it hits you – the smell of a brand new hotel, which I really like, and the open space of the interior is good for the psyche, as well as all smiles from the initial phone call, the receptionist, the bar man and the waitress.
The garden design outside the lounge and the restaurant is minimal but good looking and well tended. The dining table flower was up-market silk but a little effort to put fresh flowers in place would be a good idea.
We sat in the lounge for a drink before the dinner - it was comfortable and classic - before we moved into the restaurant to survey the scene. Very good pair of wine glasses, starched napkins, polished cutlery but maybe a starched white tablecloth would complete and lighten up the dining room.
My starter was duck and pistachio pate with liver parfait. I was pleased, surprised and delighted by the presentation and the taste. A gourmet slice of paté was mounted by a quenelle of liver parfait and beetroot rémoulade. A decreasing ring of dots of apricot purée and a decoration of fresh, micro-salad completed the dish. Da again enjoyed her starter – home cured salmon, which was light in flavor and good balance with wasabi mayonnaise - but in her main dish why was the ratatouille made with tinned tomatoes which overpowered the delicate fish, when the summer was the time to use fresh ingredients and local tomatoes?
My main course was local pork saltimbocca, a well cooked, buttery dish but I don’t think the traditional marsala was around to make a sweet, unctuous, shiny sauce, and the addition of mushrooms would make a more interesting dish.
The next test was a sweet from the special menu - plum tarte tatin. To me, cooking to order is the only way to achieve a perfect result, then you achieve a crisp bottom and a caramelized puff pastry rim enveloping the fruit with no bleeding of juices. At first glance this tarte had an appealing caramel appearance, but fell down on the attributes of cooking-to-order technique.
With slight adjustments in the kitchen, Andrew Robinson, the head chef, should be able to match the elegant style of the hotel and dining room.
The Pheasant Hotel, Coast Road, Kelling, NR25 7EG; 01263 588382; pheasanthotelnorfolk.co.uk
Meet the chef
Andrew Robinson - head chef
When he was young there were always vegetables from the garden and tomatoes from the greenhouse, which made Andrew aware of fresh food and how great it can be straight from the ground. His father was a great inspiration to him and Andrew remembers the first time he showed him how he cooked some capers and, combining them with pan fried steak, crushing it down to release flavours, making him aware of how food could become more than the sum of its parts.
Andrew started off as an apprentice commis chef at Delia’s at Norwich City Football Club, learning in the work situation as well as studying at City College Norwich. He moved on to The Flying Kiwi group, learning how to run a kitchen and eventually becoming the head chef of The King’s Head in Letheringsett, before moving to The Pheasant.
He would like to flourish there as the hotel grows and in the future maybe own a restaurant with his wife, who is a great influence in choosing menus for the hotel.