7:00 PM March 10, 2022
It’s a crisp, clear Friday and I fancy a getaway to the coast.
I imagine sniffing a North Norfolk restaurant and an invigorating seaside promenade, all blue skies and windswept beaches.
My husband on the other hand – a rare day off – wants a real traditional pub. He thinks of roaring fires and foaming pints.
So we head to the Shoulder of Mutton in Strumpshaw, a pub since revolutionary 1789, in search of the olde worlde character of Norfolk.
At noon we are the first car in the parking lot.
Opening the door, we are greeted by a burst of warmth from both the crackling fire and the antipode waitress passing by with a warm welcome.
We can sit anywhere apparently and after a bit of mooching we opt for a table next to the wood stove. We are so thrilled at this point that they could probably serve us anything and we would find a way to enjoy it.
While so many pubs have taken the contemporary re-style route, mutton shoulder has stuck to its guns.
The decor is traditional and probably unchanged for quite a while. A photo of a dog with a partridge in its mouth stares at us. There’s a guy who has a pint which also seems to be part of the furniture.
Over time, more and more people arrive who obviously know each other. The waitress — who charges in a dress and sneakers — always makes time to chat with regulars even as her tables fill up.
It’s friendly rather than cliquey – a pub oasis that briefly reminds my husband that Strumpshaw is a good place to live, close to Norwich and the trains – such is the appeal of this local.
Our drink order was taken at the table and we proceeded to look at the menu – which didn’t seem to offer mutton, shoulder or otherwise.
It’s an eclectic mix. There are traditional pub classics, beer battered fish, lasagne, pies, langoustines, chilli, burgers and steak.
But also a tapas menu and a Mexican section.
Instead of starters, we opt for two tapas dishes; baked sardines stuffed with anchovies, olives and tomatoes, and albondigas – lamb meatballs in a chipotle and tomato parmesan sauce (£5.50 each).
They arrive with two large pieces of bread.
The first one is too fishy for me and I don’t like anchovies but my husband declares it “very tasty”. Lamb meatballs have a pleasant flavor, holding their shape just long enough to break down before falling apart in your mouth.
Choosing a main dish from such a varied menu is difficult.
My husband chose the Brancaster Mussels Mariniere with chips and bread (£14.95) from the specialty board.
I’m going a little left with the chicken burrito (£11.95) stuffed with peppers, mushrooms, refried black beans, mozzarella, guacamole, sour cream and chipotle, served with homemade nachos and salsa.
The mussels are swimming in a creamy liquid – it’s a lovely bowl and a nod to my originally desired seaside stroll.
Mine is a giant of a meal. I look at him, already defeated.
Upon returning, the mussels live up to their expectations, with lots of finger licking and sounds of appreciation coming from across the table. He asks for extra bread to mop up the sauce and he arrives quickly.
My burrito is soft and floury and very generously stuffed – just like me at the end.
For dessert we share a spicy apple-pear crumble and pistachio ice cream to accompany it (£5.50).
Although we’re full and wondering if we need it, it’s the perfect palate cleanser.
We appreciate the Christmas spiciness of the fruit and the crumble is not stuffy at all.
Our bill was £53.50 which included a diet cola £1.25 and a pint of Ghostship £3.80 so really affordable for a casual lunch especially as we wouldn’t always have three dishes.
This is possibly the friendliest pub in Norfolk. Everyone was super nice and caring without being overbearing, just a lovely vibe.
In all we spent about two hours in the pub, longer than we normally would for a casual lunch, but it was a lovely experience in an authentic setting where the welcome was truly warm.
My next dish
Having enjoyed it so much that we have already returned. I ordered a Thai green curry and my husband had the steak and both were excellent again.
An absolute gem of a pub with plenty of parking and a varied menu. There’s an ever-changing promotions board offering even more reasons to keep coming back. We loved the log burner and the friendly staff, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating, which also makes it a good option for the summer.
If you like it, try these
The White Swan in Great Yarmouth where the terrific fish dishes are a bit special.
The Rose and Crown in Snettisham, another village pub which had also found a winning formula and which is never empty.
Our food opinions are always independent. They are the opinion of the reviewer based on their experience of the place during their visit. The establishment is unaware of our visit, is not informed of our intention to write a review, and the bills are paid by the reviewer. The choice of places reviewed is also independent and not based on places that do or do not advertise in our publications.