PUBLISHED: 07:27 02 March 2015 | UPDATED: 07:29 02 March 2015
© Archant Norfolk 2015
Attentive service and great food mark out this hotel as a "flagship" of Chris Coubrough's Flying Kiwi Inns, says Angi Kennedy.
When Chris Coubrough stepped up to the stage amid enthusiastic applause to collect the Outstanding Achievement Award sponsored by Hansells Solicitors and Financial Advisers at the EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2014, in association with the East of England Co-Op, it underlined how established the master chef and his Flying Kiwi Inns have become within the county.
The Ship Hotel at Brancaster was the New Zealander’s fourth acquisition in the county to join the Flying Kiwi set, and some five years on is established as a great go-to spot for lovely lunches and dinners, as well as a delightful getaway on this popular part of the north Norfolk coast.
In charge at The Ship is general manager Scott Dougal, who was behind the bar when we arrived for our Sunday lunchtime visit. A friendly welcome from Scott and his team was a perfect way to begin, as we were shown to our large wooden table; with enough quirky touches around the relaxed decoration to keep the eye interested as we awaited our starters. At the bar is a good range of wines and beers, including of course Jo C’s Norfolk Ales produced by Chris’ wife at her brewery near Fakenham.
The lunchtime menu gives plenty of options for commencing dining, from favourite appetizers such as warm olives, mini chorizo sausages and spiced cashews and almonds to a mouth-watering range of Loose’s oysters fresh from the saltwater creeks here at Brancaster – how wonderfully low are these food miles!
Although Chris hails from the other side of the globe, he has always been passionate about Norfolk produce and using very locally sourced ingredients – the menu at The Ship changes frequently depending on what’s been caught off the coast as well as what’s in season in the fields. It is something he has spoken about often as a patron of the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival and through his television work with Coastal Kitchen for Anglia TV.
We went for the soup of the day – a steaming hot bowl of thick vegetables that would have served as a meal itself on a usual day, and a slate of creamy chicken liver parfait with Melba toast, peppery green salad and plump, zingy capers. I remember Chris telling us years ago that he’d turned to Docking Reclamation for a batch of 100 slates at 20p each when he discovered he didn’t have enough crockery at his first Norfolk venture, The Crown at Wells.
For mains we chose a traditional Sunday roast beef, a sea bream served with celeriac cooked three ways, and a waistline-stretchingly large beer battered haddock and hand-cut chips with a pot of homemade tartare sauce. A real range here. The haddock was cooked to perfection with crackly batter protecting the flakes of fish, certainly a hearty, happy dish; the sea bream was much more delicate and cooked very simply and well. It was laid upon pureed celeriac with green beans, a fresh, light dish, though I have to admit bolstered up with a few of the handmade chips. If anything, it was the roast that was the weakest point - good but not special, with a rather singed Yorkshire pudding.
Unfortunately our meal came to a hasty end when one of the party was taken ill and required medical assistance. In such an unexpected emergency, Scott and his staff were first class in their swift and professional help – not a usual thing to note in a food review but most certainly worth saying in this instance, which has thankfully ended happily.
Sunday lunch menu – expect to pay
Appetizers £3 a dish
Oysters from £2 each
Starters from £5.95
Mains around £14
Desserts from £4.95
The Ship, Main Road, Brancaster, PE31 8AP; 01485 210333; shiphotelnorfolk.co.uk