‘Comfort food worth travelling for’ - our reviewer samples a Norfolk Sunday roast
PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 October 2020 | UPDATED: 08:22 10 October 2020
Could this be the best Sunday roast in Norfolk?
It’s a difficult call to make. After all, there are so many bits and bobs that make up the great British weekend tradition that it’s a challenge for any chef to get them just right.
Does the meat have enough texture, while still being easy enough to cut? Is the Yorkshire pudding firm but puffy yet delightfully stodgy? Are the vegetables so fresh that they taste like they could have been uprooted from the allotment that very morning?
We went to see how well these questions were answered at the River Kitchen in Hoveton, where the Sunday roast is becoming a bit of an institution.
It was our first dining out experience after the rules around mask-wearing were firmed up in September.
Sanitiser and a contact-tracing sheet were just inside the door, and tables were socially spaced according to a grid of lines taped on the floor.
Diners wore masks except when seated and the waiting staff wore them all the time.
But given how otherworldly all this would be to someone who had just woken up from a 12-month hibernation, it all seemed totally natural and everyone took it in their stride and got on with it.
The River Kitchen is small enough to feel cosy without being cramped, and its large windows face onto a quintessentially Norfolk view of the River Bure. Cruiser boats motor quietly by on their meanderings into the Broads while swans and ducks float along.
We didn’t go for starters - it’s just not that sort of place - and ordered straight from the Sunday roast menu, to be enjoyed with a can of soft drink each.
There was a pork belly option, but I went for the beef (£14) - in this case a 48-hour marinated topside.
There were a generous few slices of nicely pink beef, which was indeed easy enough to cut with a standard knife. It was juicy and rich and almost entirely fat free. Truly an excellent piece of meat.
The Yorkshire pud - made with beef dripping - was springy but solid and quite deliciously yeasty-flavoured.
A highlight of the veg was the half a carrot cut lengthwise that really did taste as fresh as can be.
The ‘Marmite roast potatoes’ were crisp and flavoursome, although I’m not sure how much the Marmite had to do with that.
Although I’m not usually a fan of red cabbage, the serving here was refreshingly mild and gave a sweet contrast after the savouriness of the beef and gravy.
There were also a couple of braised onions which seemed slow-cooked and were very nice, and a serving of brown butter cabbage which was more-or-less neutral.
I used the pumpkin puree to help mop up the gravy on the plate, of which there was plenty.
My partner Becca went for the vegan option (£13), and the star of her show was a mushroom and beetroot terrine. They worked together in a kind of mutually-beneficial combination - the mushroom providing the bulk and the beetroot bringing the colour and flavour.
Although her dish looked much the same as mine there were a couple of other vegan differences - most importantly the Yorkshire pud, which was flavoured with rosemary and thyme and was slightly chewier.
Whereas my gravy was made with a red wine and meat reduction, hers naturally contained just the red wine.
Our bellies full, we soldiered on anyway to the sweets section of the menu, where Becca liked the sound of the vegan chocolate mousse (£7).
This was presented beautifully as two big dollops of mousse and a scoop of hazelnut milk sorbet, and finished off with a berry compote and Lotus Biscoff crumbs.
It was really a great dish - the mousse was rich and had a bit of a kick to it.
I went slightly off piste and ordered something not on the paper menu, but on a chalkboard listing brownies, and got a Double Decker brownie (£3) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (£2).
This was amazing - the Double Decker slice had been melted over the brownie and the ensemble gave me the kind of chocolatey kick in the face I’m always looking for on a Sunday afternoon.
We had a couple of coffees to finish it off - a mocha (£2.90) for me and a soy latte (£2.30) for her.
It’s a beautiful spot right on the Norfolk Broads and felt very comfortable inside, out of the rainy weather. There’s always plenty to look at out there on the river!
I’m sure it’s even more scenic in the summer when they could make use of the decking next to the water. Quite a lot of effort has gone into the decorations as well and it does all feel a bit like a country kitchen.
Very quick and friendly. We booked ahead, and didn’t have to wait to seated, and our food came out promptly from what looks like a hard-working kitchen.
There’s a full range of tea and coffee, soft drinks in cans (£1.50 each) and other cafe-style offerings.
The River Kitchen is all on one floor with no steps to navigate, and there is a ramp out the front.
There’s also plenty of space between the tables, so it’s all very accessible. There’s a single toilet near the door, it’s clean and well-kept.
There is plenty of parking right in front of the building.
Value for money
This was an excellent roast dinner made with a lot of care. Although it would definitely qualify as ‘comfort food’ - perfect for the weather of late - it was different enough to a Sunday roast you might enjoy at home to make it worth heading out for.
Our total bill for two roast dinners, two desserts, two soft drinks and two coffees came to £47.70 and I’d call it really good value for money.
Disclaimer: Our food reviews are always independent. They are the opinion of the reviewer based on their experience of the venue when they visited. The establishment is not aware of our visit, is not informed we intend to write a review and bills are paid by the reviewer. The choice of places reviewed is also independent and is not based on venues which do or do not advertise in our publications.
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