What a catch

PUBLISHED: 05:26 27 April 2015

Sea bass served on chorizo risotto. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sea bass served on chorizo risotto. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2015

For a seaside delight to suit all tastes and budgets, Rachel Buller visits a wonder of our west coast.

Chocolate and salted caramel tart. Picture: Matthew Usher.Chocolate and salted caramel tart. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Old Hunstanton is sometimes a little bit overlooked – caught between its bustling, bucket and spade next door neighbour one side and the more refined and genteel, gastronomic coastal villages to the other. But this traditional village is a real gem, the beach is wide and sweeping – as magnificent on a crisp, blustery, winter day as it is in the warm stillness of summer – and it is full of beautiful old buildings.

Best of all, in The Lodge, it has a pub, hotel and restaurant which strikes that tricky balance of offering both relaxed, simple dining and proper foodie plates.

The fabulous Victorian building has been completely refurbished and is open, light and spacious with a real sense of the sea – but still very much in keeping with its original period. There are comfy chairs and cosy booths and a great outdoor seating area perfect for the summer. There is even a play area, so the younger visitors can enjoy themselves while you relax and soak up the sun in the garden.

The menu is a great mix of light bites and hearty main meals, with a daily changing specials board. The Lodge also has a fantastic pizza menu, starting at £7.95, a children’s menu and a great wine list. There is a strong emphasis on locally sourced produce and fresh fish. Dishes such as sea bass tortellini with saffron cream, roasted fennel; prawns and seared king scallops are among the starters and there are great fish options on the main menu, including pan fried hake with olive mash; fish pie and traditional fish and chips.

The Lodge in Old Hunstanton. Picture: Matthew Usher.The Lodge in Old Hunstanton. Picture: Matthew Usher.

There are also plenty of really good vegetarian dishes – including homity pie and the super food salad, and also several gluten free options which is always refreshing to see on a menu.

Having already eyed up the dessert menu and not wanting to be too full to enjoy it, we decided to share a starter of nachos with all the trimmings which was more than enough for two. Smothered in grated cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole with a smattering of hot jalapeños, they were simple and tasty.

For main course, it was a difficult choice. The shin of beef stew, with Woodforde’s Wherry, crusted mustard and herb dumplings and creamed potato, (£15.95) and traditional sausages with bubble and leek mash (£11.95) both sounded amazing – especially on a chilly day – but while at the coast, it felt rude not to have fish. So I went for the fillet of sea bass served on a chorizo risotto with confit leeks and a tarragon red wine dressing (£15.95) . . . and what a good choice. The sea bass was perfectly cooked and the chorizo risotto managed to add heat and flavour without overwhelming the taste of the fish. The little leeks were sweet and delicious.

My mother chose the slow roasted pork belly, rosemary and lemon, red onion and herb potato cake, curly kale, marinated tomatoes and roasted garlic (£14.95). The pork was tender and delicious, with crispy, salty crackling which was all too moreish. If I was to be picky, I would suggest a different presenation of the dish as the red onion and potato cake had been slightly squashed and made soggy by the pork which was placed on top of it, but otherwise a mouth-watering dish.

The homemade desserts should not be missed – the steamed syrup sponge pudding Anglaise and buttermilk panna cotta with Turkish delight, lemon grass and rosewater syrup sounded amazing, but we opted for the chocolate and salted caramel tart with toffee sauce and clotted cream (£5.95) and The Lodge sundae with roasted pears, caramel sauce, honeycomb and maple walnut ice-cream (£6.95). The chocolate tart was rich and dense, broken up by the saltiness of the caramel and of course the clotted cream added to the feeling of complete indulgence, but the very generous portion did beat me. While the sundae looked enormous, with large bits of crispy honeycomb on top, the flavours were wonderfully delicate and the sweet roasted pears at the bottom were full of flavour and had retained their texture.

And if all that food sounds a bit much for you – it is only a short walk to the beach and the chance to stroll of at least some of those calories!

Expect to pay:

Pizzas from £7.95

Starters from £4.95

Mains from £10.95

Desserts from £5.95, ice creams £2.

The Lodge, 46 Old Hunstanton Road, Old Hunstanton, PE36 6HX; 01485 532896; www.thelodgehunstanton.co.uk

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