Studying one of the handy guidebooks we picked up in Sheringham we decide that a trip to Cley-next-the-Sea might be in order to procure some provisions for a table picnic back in the cottage tonight.
Cley is unusual on two counts, one - it is pronounced ‘cly’ not ‘clay’ as non-local visitors often mispronounce it and two – it is no longer ‘next-the-sea’ as land reclamation has rearranged the landscape somewhat to cut it off from the coast. And there's a third thing, instead of a typical self-catering cottage you can stay in a seven roomed windmill here.
On our journey we spot a wonderful nod to the local vernacular with a couple of unique road signs around Wiverton (home of the ‘bonkers’ café) to encourage motorists to calm down their speed on the winding lanes and probably raise a smile or two in the process also!
There’s some lovely local pottery and jewellery on show but the main point of our excursion is smoked goodies and pie and other stuff.
Cley Smokehouse is packed with freshly smoked delights and soon our shopping bag is bulging with smoked Barbary duck, kiln roasted hot smoked salmon, potted shrimps, venison pâté and a new taste for us – smoked mussels. D isn’t as fond of smoked comestibles as MC and I but agrees that the mussels are very fine. The smoked haddock looks alluring also but we can’t really incorporate it tonight’s meal and it doesn’t keep particularly. But if we were planning a fish pie it would certainly find its way in there.
Next it’s across the road to Picnic Fayre, a fabulous cornucopia of a multitude of the usual deli delights plus their own unique delights. MC samples their spice paste and peruses the shelves whilst D and I complete our haul. First in the bag is a wonderful plump lavender loaf which we are assured will go with all our savoury bits, roasted broad beans, artichokes in oil, the last two of their special venison pies, herby crisps, Mrs Temple’s Binham Blue for the resident mouse and a rather scrummy soft Cheddar which sadly I cannot recall the name of.
There are some enticing deserts, syrupy treacle tarts, gooey chocolate cakes and voluptuous apple pies but we decide that should there be any room left after all this we have the standbys of chocolate truffles and rather a lot of ginger bears.
We return with our wares and lay it on glass plates on the extravagantly decorated table, I didn’t think until afterwards that it would have looked nicer on the bare wood but at least if there had been any mess, it would have been easier to deal with. You can tell we don’t live here because there is not a cheese board nor cheese knife to be found amongst the copious cupboards and drawers. Our collective kitchens back home are awash with a multitude of cheesy accoutrements but this won’t hamper the cheese consumption it is just duly noted.
As we dine in style we ponder the highlights of our ‘foraged in’ Cley banquet. MC and I agree that the smoked duck, sliced ever so finely atop the wonderful lavender bread and the venison pies win – the guide book listed these pies as one of the top ten things to do whilst in North Norfolk and they are seriously good – worth the trip alone! The venison is gloriously moist and meaty with a light pastry and adorned with a pastry ‘V’. The venison pâté from the smokery and the soft, tangy Cheddar from the deli are both very tasty also. The smoked mussels are considered a success but in small quantities. MC, our resident mouse, has no issue lavishing the local Binham Blue on his bread and we all declare it a fine spread washed down with Drove Orchards Cox’s Orange Pippin apple juice. There’s even a little left for lunch tomorrow should we want, though I suspect that fresh-from-the-sea crab sandwiches will somehow win the day.