Review: 'The Walpole Arms is a taste of the Mediterranean on your doorstep'

The Walpole Arms, Itteringham, close to Aylsham, north Norfolk

The Walpole Arms, Itteringham, close to Aylsham, north Norfolk - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Whilst The Walpole Arms may not look like your traditional Spanish tavernas, this north Norfolk 18th century building oozes character and charm. 

Based in the picturesque village of Itteringham, this traditional country pub is about a 10-minute drive from the market town of Aylsham. 

Joined by fellow foodie Mr W, we made our way to the car park and marvelled at the endless green hues and vibrant lilac flora surrounding the stunning building. 

I was feeling brave enough to enjoy a pre-meal drink in the spacious beer garden but was informed by the less brave that it was still “a little too chilly” so we ventured inside. 

Despite being about 30 minutes early, we were welcomed enthusiastically and given a choice of places to sit. We picked a cosy corner under a blackboard adorned with a greeting of “HOLA”.

Our drinks order was taken quickly; Mr W opted for a pint of Scottish-brewed Walpole lager (£5) while I, as the designated driver, got into full señora mode with the deliciously sweet and fruity non-alcoholic cocktail, San Francisco. 

¡Hola!: An authentic greeting above a traditional country pub fireplace

¡Hola!: An authentic greeting welcomes diners above a traditional country pub fireplace at The Walpole Arms, Itteringham - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Cocktail hour: A pint of Scottish-brewed Walpole lager and a non-alcoholic cocktail, San Francisco

Cocktail hour: A pint of Scottish-brewed Walpole lager and a non-alcoholic cocktail, San Francisco - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

The menu offers “authentic Spanish tapas” and it is recommended that each person selects two, three or more dishes. I love that the dishes are prepared fresh, which means that they arrive when ready rather than all at once. 

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With so many options to choose from, including bread and cheese and meat boards, we decided to dive straight into the set menu (£24.95 per person). 

The set meal to share, which is served for a minimum of two people, offers great variety and is the perfect option for those wanting to dip their toes into the tapas experience or for the more seasoned fans who enjoy a bit of everything. 

Pan ali oli and balsamico served with toasted rustic bread, and tabla Española

A great way to start: Pan ali oli and balsamico (ali oli and balsamic vinaigrette) served with toasted rustic bread, and tabla Española (traditional Spanish cured meat and cheese with olives) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Second-helpings? A delicious tabla Española (traditional Spanish cured meat and cheese with olives)

Second-helpings? A delicious tabla Española (traditional Spanish cured meat and cheese with olives) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Our meal began with the pan ali oli and balsamico (garlic oil and balsamic vinaigrette) served with toasted rustic bread, accompanied by the tabla Española (traditional Spanish cured meat and cheese with olives). 

The ingredients were fresh and aromatic, tasting as if they had been plucked straight from the Mediterranean. The olives were a particular delight, and Mr W, who is too often a white-bread-only man, commented on how nice both in texture and taste the granary-style bread was. 

A highlight: Croquetas (croquettes filled with chicken, cheese and aromatic herbs served with a homemade cheese sauce) 

A highlight: Croquetas (croquettes filled with chicken, cheese and aromatic herbs served with a homemade cheese sauce) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Next up were the croquetas. Tasty morsels of croquettes filled with chicken, cheese and aromatic herbs served with a homemade cheese sauce. Although initially unsure of the combination, I was quickly won over, and these ended up being the showstopper of the night for Mr W who told the waitress he would have liked these for starter, main, and dessert. 

Patatas bravas cón ali oli and champiñones al ajillo

A saucy sensation: Left to right - Patatas bravas cón ali oli (homemade fried potatoes with ali oli dip and a unique spicy hot sauce) and champiñones al ajillo (freshly sautéed mushrooms in a garlic, parsley, and creamy white wine sauce) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

The champiñones al ajillo (freshly sautéed mushrooms in a garlic, parsley, and creamy white wine sauce) arrived along with the patatas bravas cón ali oli (homemade fried potatoes with ali oli dip and a unique spicy hot sauce).

The sauces were heavenly and my only criticism is that I would have liked more of that spicy hot sauce! Thankfully (as I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice) it was not too hot for me. The taste was divine and also rather a unique one to describe. It had a beautifully aromatic tang that added a welcomed twist to the traditional patatas bravas, a firm favourite of mine. 

More sauce: Pollo al ajillo (chicken thighs)

More sauce: Pollo al ajillo (chicken thighs cooked with Mediterranean herbs, garlic, lemon, and leeks in a honey white wine sauce) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Another saucy dish followed – pollo al ajillo. This was another winning sauce for me and was an effective dish of flavours absorbed by the chicken thighs that had been cooked with Mediterranean herbs, garlic, lemon, and leeks in a honey white wine sauce. 

Finally, the sizzling sounds of gambas greeted us soon after, and we watched the king prawns continue to cook in a mini cast iron skillet with garlic, lemon, chilli, honey and white wine sauce. For me, the lemon and honey really brought this dish to life.

Sizzling mini skillet: Gambas (king prawns with garlic, lemon, chilli, honey and white wine sauce)

Sizzling mini skillet: Gambas (king prawns with garlic, lemon, chilli, honey and white wine sauce) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

As usual though, I had room for pudding and picked the crema catalana (£5.95), a crème brûlée with cinnamon. It was pleasant but would have been nice with more cinnamon running through it rather than just a sprinkling on top. The tapas was so spectacular that it was always going to be a difficult task to follow up with a showstopper of a pudding. I do wish I’d been brave enough to try the tart de almendra (almond tart with crunchy almond with ice cream and custard) instead. 

Mr W tucked into a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream (£6.95), which he loved. But he then cursed me for the next few hours, claiming I had forced him to eat it and he was fit for bursting. What a drama queen. I’m sure there are worse ways to go than death by chocolate. 

Dessert time: Crema catalana (a crème brûlée with cinnamon)

Dessert time: Crema catalana (a crème brûlée with cinnamon) - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Death by chocolate: Chocolate brownie with strawberries and vanilla ice cream

Death by chocolate: Chocolate brownie with strawberries and vanilla ice cream - Credit: Donna-Louise Bishop

Setting 

Absolutely stunning. This is a quiet rural place full of character and beauty. As far as tapas restaurants go, you’d be hard pushed to find better.

Value 

The set menu in particular is really great value for money. Much of the tapas varies in price, but there is a dish for every budget, from £3.50 for bread and dips to £21.95 for entrecot de ternera (a grilled rib eye dish). It certainly isn’t the cheapest place to eat but the ingredients are fresh and beautifully cooked so it well worth the price tag. 

Drinks 

There is a good selection of wines (white, red, rose, and sparkling), starting at around £25 per bottle. There is also a selection of lager, but not a huge choice, and ales and soft drinks. 

Toilets 

Clean, functional, and easily accessible. The hand dryer was out of action but there was plenty of hand tissue to dry my hands with. I enjoyed looking at some of the quirky artwork on the walls. 

Accessibility 

Some dishes are offered as vegetarian and gluten-free and diners are asked to speak with a member of staff for more details about this. The menu also highlights which dishes are suitable for children. 

The ground is level throughout the building and there are also nice flat pathways laid throughout the beer garden. The car park is gravel though.  

Service 

The staff were exceptionally pleasant and knowledgeable about the dishes. Although there was a little bit of a wait to pay our bill, once I’d alerted them that we were ready, they were quick in bringing over the bill and card machine, pre-empting our method of payment and saving another wait. 

Highlight 

The sauces which accompanied all of the dishes are ones that will not be forgotten quickly. I forgot to pass this on after our meal, but massive compliments to the chef. It was a lovely feast. 

In summary 

To experience a taste of the Med right on your front doorstep, then The Walpole Arms is well worth the visit. 

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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Did you know...?  

Tapas is said to have originated in Andalucía, a southern province of Spain. The word “tapa” translates as “cover” and was traditionally a complementary piece of sliced ham or cheese served on top of a glass of wine. Today, there are many dishes served of varying sizes from a simple bowl of olives to hearty beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.  

The Walpole Arms produces its dishes in a completely refurbished kitchen, using locally sourced and seasonal produce, including fruit and vegetables, seafood, meat, and game, from Morston mussels, Cromer crabs and lobsters, to samphire and Wood Farm asparagus. The beef is produced by Mairi Child and supplied by Swannington Farm to Fork.