The A149 Coastal Road journey continues to Morston this month and you would be forgiven for thinking there really isn’t much happening in this sleepy little village, but rest assured, Morston (also known by locals as Marshtown) has a lot going on.
Morston is a quaint little village 6 miles to the east of Wells and has a tiny population of around 100. Like its neighbour Blakeney, Morston, used to be a major port 400 years ago, but is now only used by a small number of fishing boats, leisure craft and the regular seal watching trips which leave for Blakeney Point. Those of you who are following my Fabulous Norfolk journey will no doubt know that the main attraction in this neck of the woods is Morston Hall, which is home to celebrity Michelin star Chef Galton Blakiston, but there is another little gem here that is making a point of putting itself firmly on the map, The Anchor Inn.
This Inn, which was once a haven for 19th century smugglers and fishermen, is now an intimate country pub, in a perfect location serving wonderful local ales and some hearty food with a touch of class thrown in. The Anchor is run by old school friends Harry Farrow and Rowan Glennie, who have carried out a complete refurbishment since taking over the pub in June 2011. The main attraction for me is the fresh local produce which features heavily on the menus.
We booked a table for 7pm and arrived in good time to sit in the inviting bar area with a very fine pint of Adnams and a glass of (slightly overpriced) red for Louise. There was a warming atmosphere and a couple of friendly locals made us feel very welcome and accepted. The main restaurant area is located away from the main bar area and I would hazard a guess that it could comfortable manage to seat around 45 diners, although the bar staff said they only had 20 booked in for the night of our visit, but I thought that was a fair number considering it was mid week and rapidly approaching the end of the summer season and the autumn nights were upon us and the light was fast disappearing.
We spent a relaxed twenty minutes looking at the menu, ordered a bottle of decent Sauvignon Blanc (£15) and were shown to our table. A good tip is to keep an eye open for the specials board, as it might include locally caught crab and lobster. To begin, I chose the half dozen Morston Oysters, Tabasco & Lemon (£9) and Lou plumped for the Smoked Haddock Chowder with Crusty Bread (£6.50). The Chowder was sublime, the mistake that most home cooks make when cooking smoked haddock is to overcook it, this was cooked to that point when the fish is just about there and residual heat will finish the cooking process all on its own. Careful seasoning meant that the salt hit came from the smoking process and not the salt pot and the firm, but flaky texture from the fish was well defined. The textures here were as good as the flavour. This was a creamy, chunky, “warm you up” honest comfort food which was perfectly executed.
On to the Oysters then, and I am a big fan of fresh oysters and these were apparently delivered 4 hours before I ordered them, so I think it fair to say that “it don’t get much fresher than that”! Plump and tasty, but these could do with a couple of accompaniments other than lemon and Tabasco. I knew what I was getting when I ordered them so there is no complaint, but this chef is skilled, so how about some variations to the norm. What about a Mignonette Sauce or a Tomato Salsa? None the less, well presented, fresh and tasty.
For my main course I decided on Norfolk Duck Leg Confit, Local Celeriac Puree, Dauphinoise Potato, and Crisp Pancetta & Savoy Cabbage (£16). This was seriously indulgent, coronary artery damaging, hearty (excuse the pun) and comforting food at its best. A bit too rich to be honest, but a very well rounded dish. Perfect melt in the mouth Confit Duck, rich and creamy potato dauphinoise, and although the celeriac did slightly dominate, and the cabbage was perhaps a tad overdone in my humble opinion, chef once again demonstrated his understanding of seasoning with this very nice plate of food.
Now on to what was the Pièce de résistance of the culinary experience. Louise ordered Grilled whole “Day Boat” Lemon Sole, Lobster Butter, Locally picked Samphire & Buttered Norfolk Peer Potatoes (£15). This dish was a delight due to the fact that it was fresh and had not been messed about with. Simply grilled and served to be enjoyed as it should be. Beautiful fish, and Head Chef Harry Farrow certainly knows what to do with a piece of freshly caught fish! The lobster butter worked well and was very light which might suggest this was whisked well during the cooking process. The Samphire like the potatoes were cooked to perfection and once again the seasoning was spot on. A truly enjoyable plate of food.
“Norfolk Peer Potatoes are a premium variety of potato which have a creamy taste and texture and this is achieved by the attention to detail during the growing season. The potatoes are in season, from June to October, and the only other varieties that come anywhere near for taste and texture are Cheshire’s and Jersey Royals in my view”.
A selection of local cheeses, fruit crackers, chutney and grapes (£6.50) to share was all we could manage after dinner and no complaints with that choice.
Service was excellent in both the restaurant and bar, with very friendly and chatty staff. Service was attentive while still offering us the intimacy to enjoy our food and drinks. So in essence a three course meal, a bottle of wine and a couple of drinks in the bar came to £75 which is very good value for money for what was a superb dining experience. Whatever it is you are doing chaps, keep it up and we will be back very soon.