Sunday, August 16, 2009

Clockwork orange!

As we return from our steam-filled day we pull up outside the Orange Tree at Thornham as we are drawn by a banner claiming their national award for their pub food and send MC in to bag us a spot for tonight. Duly secured we return to the cottage to chill and then spruce ourselves up. We pondered taking the little Coasthopper so no-one has to stick to soft drinks but the last bus leaves a whole five minutes after we are due to sit down for dinner so cancel that idea!
Unusually they don't bring round the bread basket, not a problem but it has been many hours since our full English and the mint choc cornet in Sheringham is also distant memory. But fear not it is not long until I'm looking down at one of their specials - a bowl of steamed Brancaster cockles, Chadonnay and black pepper cream, gremolata and spiced salami. I had something similar on my last trip to these parts at Titchwell Manor, not surprisingly I feel that urge to hit the seafood when I'm this close to all that salty water and sea air. I like the addition of salami which adds a little piquancy and colours the cream. The cockles hit the spot but are a bit of a faff to deal with but hey, when at the seaside…
D in a similar frame of mind goes for the Crab Tempura which is lengthily described as soft shell crab, slow cooked belly pork, chicken satay, pinapple and chilli salsa.
MC being not so inclined plumps for the Pressed Norfolk Rabbit & Ham Hock Terrine with toasted pumpernickel bread, warm carrot pannacotta, caramel prosciutto crisp. We all feel that our week of Norfolk culinary excellence has well and truly kicked off. Bring on the mains!
I go for the Pan Fried Organic Sea Trout – Fresh Norfolk pea & our smoked salmon risotto, pea velouté, marsh samphire - continuing the fishy theme and making sure I get my first taste of the luscious samphire in.
Despite what you may have heard, samphire is worth the effort, but I’d abandon the knife and fork. Tuck your napkin in if you have a sauce and extract the scrummy green goodness by scraping the fronds on your teeth and discarding the tough core. This was worth the effort! The whole dish was very nice; I am not adverse to risotto as a one of the elements to a main dish not just the main feature.
MC stays with one of his favourite themes - Roast Rack of Sandringham Estate Lamb Petite ratatouille, roasted Piedmont pepper, lemon couscous, tomato & rosemary consommé. He assures me it was lovely but to me it is so wrong on just so many levels – tomato, peppers, did I mention tomato and couscous.
D’s still riding the seafood wave and goes for the Pan Roasted Norfolk Skate Wing - chorizo and spinach croquettes, lobster bisque, pickled wild fennel but panics slightly when realises that she has had some wine and has also been enjoying that lobster bisque. D is one of those people who suffer badly when consuming seafood and wine in the same meal, the bisque is avoided just in case.
To round off our meal I have a White and Dark Chocolate Terrine – mille feuille of Norfolk raspberries and coconut macaroons. D has the coconut macaroons for later.
I am pleased to see that the mouse is back and MC is curiously drawn to the cheese board. Cheese is apparently big in these parts and he gets frozen grapes, Binham blue, Wells Alpine, smoked poacher, crackers and gooseberry chutney.
We are all really delighted with our Orange Tree meal, a clean white welcoming place with intriguing Thai-style art and dark leather chairs. The food is undoubtedly locally sourced, flavoursome, presented well and their chef Phil Milner deserves his award and now he has another – three forks!

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