Review: 'My new favourite' - excellent dishes at country coaching inn
- Credit: Stuart Anderson
I’ve eaten at a many and varied array of venues over the past few years of writing these food reviews.
It has made me realise Norfolk’s food scene is far more diverse than many people realise - there really isn't much you can’t find if you take the time to seek it out.
I’ve tried Russian blini at Rasputin in Swaffham, Austrian Kaiserschmarrn pudding at Sheringham’s Crofter’s and enough Sunday roasts, pizzas, tacos, curries and country pub menus in between to feed a small army.
But rarely has the food been so good as at my latest lunch outing to The Kings Arms at Reepham - a quintessentially Norfolk pub in one of our handsomest market towns.
I started with the deep fried salt and pepper squid (£6.75) as a starter, which looked and tasted amazing.
There were six battered rings of calamari topped with thin shards of red chili, spring onion and a bit of salad. But what made this sing was the sesame seed and coriander sauce around the plate, its mellow yet distinctive taste a perfect counter to the soft tone of the seafood.
It tasted like there was some cumin in there as well although this wasn’t listed on the menu.
My friend went for the pâté of the day, which was duck (£6.50) - a large slice with a side of salad.
This was accompanied by a couple of pieces of sourdough bread (not enough in his opinion) and a large pot of red onion marmalade. I tried some but pâté has it never been up my street.
The menu has what initially looked like a small selection of mains - six dishes and three burger options - but turning over I found they have about a dozen or so extra lunch specials running from sweet and sour tofu to club sandwiches.
I went for the pie of the day (£12.95) which was chicken, ham and leek.
I’ve had pot pies before, but when plated up this still managed to look like nothing I’d ever seen because of the oblong puff pastry lid that hung over the contents like some sort of mad pillow.
This was too dry for dunking, so I wasn’t sure what to do with it other than to wolf it down and aim the inevitable crumbs into the bowl. The pie mix itself was great: A creamy sauce with thick chunks of ham and chicken, mildly seasoned and hearty as heck.
I also got a side of fresh garden peas and hand-cut chips which nicely filled me up.
My friend went for the lamb moussaka (£14.95) which came with a Greek salad.
I tried a bit of this as well and it was delicious, the melted cheese a golden yellow over the main block. There was a good balance of minced lamb, potato, and I think, eggplant, and it wasn’t at all oily or overly fatty. It was really a treat for the taste buds.
The salad brought a splash of Mediterranean joy to the plate and was made up of a mix of sun dried tomatoes, feta, red onion, black olives and crispy lettuce.
Not content with that, my friend also ordered a side (“because I’m greedy”) of halloumi chips (£3.75). This was another great-looking dish, with six of the chips stacked up like Jenga blocks alongside a mini-salad and pot of sweet chilli sauce.
The halloumi didn’t taste as strongly as on some other occasions I’ve tried it, but it still had the salty zing that has carried this ingredient onto many dinner tables over the past decade, and was an excellent accompaniment to the moussaka.
To finish off the meal I ordered the honey sponge brownie (£7) and my friend, after enquiring about what he could get in the way of warm custardy treats, even though the kitchen had already closed, got a bit of sponge and apple crumble.
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My brownie sat stunningly half-upright on its rectangular plate, a scoop of vanilla and strawberries finishing off the ensemble with a zig-zaggy squirt of chocolate sauce. The brownie was lovely and soft and studded with bits of caramel.
After such a big meal already it was almost too much but I did my duty and cleaned the plate, grateful for every morsel.
The other dessert came with a neat beaker of custard, ready to pour over the crumble, raspberries, red berries and powdered sugar.
The Kings Arms is a family-run coaching inn built in 1667 at the bottom of Reepham’s Market Place, which is beautiful.
Step inside and you feel like you’re going back in time, surrounded by wooden-beamed ceiling and walls, exposed brick and sold country furniture.
We sat next to an open fireplace, under a couple of old maps of the county. It was reasonably busy but cosy, the perfect setting for a long, relaxed lunch.
Our total bill for two three-course meals, one extra side and a couple of drinks came to £63.90, which was excellent value considering the quality of the meal.
If you were just going for a main course and a drink you could easily get in and out without dropping much more than £15 per person.
Everything you would expect from a county town pub with beers, real ales, spirits, wines, hot drinks and soft drinks.
There was a specials board up in the dining room with a couple of featured local libations, but I stupidly forgot to inspect it further. As we'd cycled there from Norwich we just went for a couple of soft drinks which were £3 each.
Very friendly and quick. They were happy to answer our questions and everything was brought out in good time.
Toilets and accessibility
There are a couple of toilets around the corner from the bar, which is on the same level as the section of the pub where we were eating. There were a couple of steps here and there, but it’s a fairly easy pub to navigate.
Highlight and summary
As said before, I’ve been to a fair number of pubs for a meal over the past few years of doing these reviews, and the Kings Arms is without a doubt up there with the very best of them.
This is a pub I’d return to to sample more of the menu. I enjoyed the entire meal, the ambiance, service and attention to detail. The highlight would have to be my squid starter, both for how amazing it looked and and tasted.
*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.
If you like that, try these
1. The Marsham Arms, Marsham
Another country pub not far from the city, the Marsham Arms has a great range of pub classics, burgers and steaks produced from locally-reared beef.
2. The Buckinghamshire Arms, Blickling
Just next to the famous Blickling Estate, the Bucks Arms has a varied menu bosting everything from vegan burgers to stroganoff and has an excellent pub garden.
3. The Hunworth Bell at Hunworth
A popular little word-of-mouth establishment, the food here is personal and delicious and set within the stunning village on Hunworth, near Holt.