Review: Coastal pub's food is a great alternative to fish and chips
- Credit: Nick Richards
December always feels like an apt month to visit Wells and in particular the Golden Fleece on the town's famous seafront.
Situated on the corner of Staithe Street and The Quay, the pub was flooded in the storm surge of 2013, which saw the worst damage to the North Sea coast in 60 years.
It was so bad that then prime minister David Cameron even made a trip to Wells to survey the clear up operation.
Coincidentally, it was seven years to the day since the pub was hit by the storm that I, along with my wife and kids, popped in to the rebuilt pub for a meal. I'd actually visited before, at least a decade ago when it was a more traditional seafront boozer - back then I just had a drink sitting next to some fishermen. Seven years on from the dark days of December 2013, it feels like a whole new pub.
The Golden Fleece does have plenty going for it before you even venture inside. Lit up on a dark December mid-afternoon it looks stunning.
The fact that it's on a corner gives it extra value and the other big attraction is that apart from the two great fish and chip shops on The Quay, nothing else looks as inviting and tempting, especially at this time of year.
Inside it's very cosy with a fire pumping out the heat, festive lighting and hand sanitizer everywhere. It has been tastefully revamped with wooden floors, wooden tables, plaid curtains and free wi-fi. Pretty much everything you need for a comfy night inside sheltering from a stiff coastal breeze.
Walk past in the height of summer and the large outside dining area with wooden railway sleeper tables is normally a thriving hive of activity with diners squeezed together eating freshly cooked pizza from the pub's pizza oven, which it has become renowned for.
Normally you can take the pizza away and munch it on the quayside next to the fish and chip fans, but alas, it's not on the menu in winter.
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It doesn't really matter as inside the Golden Fleece there's plenty going on on the food menu to keep any diner interested.
There's a fairly small standard mains menu and, given its location, fish figures prominently, with beer battered cod and chips (£13.95), seafood assiette (£16.95) and a crab salad (also £16.95) accounting for three of the seven dishes.
My wife and I both considered the other two options, the chicken katsu curry (£15.95) and a delicious-sounding chickpea and squash tikka masala (£13.95).
But it didn't take my wife long to chose the star item on the menu - 28 day-aged 8oz rump steak (£19.50). It came with chunky chips, grilled tomato, mushrooms, rocket and a red onion and parmesan salad and a peppercorn sauce (£2 extra).
She said it was fantastic and, sitting opposite her with a fork poised to strike across the table, I agreed. I'm not a big steak fan but this was beautifully cooked. It was soft, tender, juicy and nicely presented. My son (eight) also couldn't keep his eyes or his fork off it.
Maybe if she'd covered it in the peppercorn sauce we'd have stayed away. I love peppery things but this sauce cranked up the heat and was pretty potent. Everything else was perfect and looked great. A real star dish.
Across the table I had the The Fleece Burger (£13.95) which came with cheddar cheese, baby gem lettuce, tomato, red onion, gherkins, burger sauce, coleslaw and seasoned fries.
No worries here, the burger was good and juicy and covered in a delicious burger sauce that had a slight sweet taste. My huge pile of fries were seasoned in what tasted like paprika but also with a hint of sweetness. I really enjoyed both the burger and the fries.
There is a nice little children's menu of five dishes - four of them are £6.95 and served with fries, peas or beans. You can your pick from ham and egg, chicken goujons, pork sausages and battered cod.
My youngest son (five) had chicken goujons which were fine. Nice big portions that would probably be enough for a child up to 10 years old. My oldest son had tomato and basil pasta (£6) which he enjoyed and said was really nicely cooked.
There is a specials menu too. On the night we visited there were pan-seared scallops, beef suet pudding, moules mariniere and pan-roasted hake.
There is a small dessert menu - vanilla panna cotta (£6.50), sticky toffee pudding (£6.50) a cheese board (£8) and a selection of ice cream and sorbets (£2 a scoop). We skipped dessert here and went to the arcades instead such is the demands of having two young kids in tow!
A team of young and friendly staff who were very attentive and made us feel very welcome.
Take your pick from everything that a pub would normally sell. Beers on tap include Stella, San Miguel, Becks, Guinness plus Old Mout and Aspalls ciders.
There's also a large gin menu an and several gin specials on offer. I had a pint of San Miguel (£4.950 and my wife had a 125ml glass of prosecco (£6.50). The boys both had a fruit juice (£1.80).
Entrance is through the side door across the dining area. You'll need to wait before being seated, such is the rule with many pubs complying with Covid-19 regulations.
There are steps up to the toilet which were very dark but clean.
Given its location you'll be unsurprised to learn it has no car park, but you can take your pick from the handful of pay and display car parks around the town or, as we did, get a free space up around The Butlands.
Price and value for money
I paid £63.45 for two main meals, two children's meals, two alcoholic drinks and two children's drinks. Prices were about what I'd expect to pay, especially in a good pub, slap bang in the centre of one of the most desirable coastal towns in Norfolk - if not in England.
The steak was brilliant and we all wished we'd ordered it. The chunky chips were great too. Those of us that chose normal fries all agreed we'd rather have paid the 50p extra and upgraded.
The best thing about The Golden Fleece is the location though. It feels like a cosy village pub and you forget that right outside is a stunning view of the quayside and a mile or so ahead is one of the best beaches in the country.
For more information see www.goldenfleecewells.co.uk
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.