Owing to health considerations, we decided to see what we could discover in England, rather than abroad. With this regional limitation, we looked for some alternative activities to make for new travel and food discoveries. We struck on the idea of visiting as many extant ancient pubs and coaching inns as we could reasonably get to.
With this in mind we set out to visit some in the more immediate area first (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk). Our research led us to the Green Dragon, in Wymondham in Norfolk. This was a “must visit” for on our visit list. The Green Dragon is a 14th Century tavern and is full of charm and old world character. The tiled floors, timber beams, and pre-industrial brick fireplace make a perfect backdrop in the small, cozy bar area. The bar itself wouldn’t be out of place in a 1930’s Ealing production, and adds the more to the atmosphere.
The service was very welcoming and professional, and the barmaid really had a warm smile for all the customers.
The food was cooked to order, and the use of vegetable and olive oils really fit in with our dietary requirements. We had a very well prepared jacket potato with brie and cranberry. This was accompanied by a small salad of good quality leaf and a vinaigrette type dressing. We also had cheesy chips which were chunky cut, golden fried, and topped with Stilton. All in all a really lovely lunch.
The pub garden is large, and provides loads of seating. There was no immediate parking, but it was available nearby, and even with mobility issues, it is very doable. There is a 50p charge for card payment under £10, but overall costs are reasonable, especially considering the atmosphere and quality of the food.
Green Dragon, Wymondham
We next stopped in for a light lunch at The Horseshoes in Cockfield, Suffolk. It is a lovely 14th Century building (thier own signage says circa 1350), with country and antique decoration. We sat at table 1 which has a lovely period corner seat. The bar area was bustling on a Sunday afternoon, and there seemed to be loads of reservations having been made for this popular restaurant.
The cheese ploughman’s lunch was very substantial with a creamy brie, and medium Stilton, and a rich Cheddar. It was served with a pickled onion, a sweet brown pickle, a small salad portion with balsamic, and good quality granary bread.
The serving portions of cooked meals were large, and the specials board had interesting options including several traditional pies. The frying oil has rapeseed, but there were still lovely options even with our dietary restrictions.
The prices were very reasonable, and we would happily recommend this inn, and will visit again ourselves.
The Horseshoes, Cockfield
The third discovery The Dolphin in Thetford, Norfolk was a latecomer when it comes to “ancient” pubs, being 17th Century. We stopped for a light snack and tea as part of our ancient pubs journey. The pub/inn is a 1694 built premises, with a really exceptional modern refurb which keeps many of the period features (beams, fireplaces, internal stonework) and yet has a clean, fresh up-to-date feel. We found the landlord pleasant and welcoming, and the whole atmosphere relaxing.
The tea was strong, and tasty; and the portion of chips huge (and vegetable oil is used for frying). We really enjoyed our snack, and would readily return for a more substantial meal in the future.
The background music was 1950’s classics, and on a drizzly afternoon, it was nice to sip tea, and chill for a while.
The Dolphin, Thetford
These first three stops set us up to start moving further afield. It was nice to find the varieties of local produce and recipes, and to get a feel for our region’s past. What started as a bit of a “let’s give it a try,” became a pleasant way to spend weekends without breaking the bank, or going too far from home. More of these historical finds will feature in later posts.