A feast at the ’beest

The Wilde­beest in Stoke Holy Cross has been a fix­ture on the Nor­folk pub scene for decades - so how does it fare as a fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence? Rachel Buller found out

EDP Norfolk - - Inside -

We dine out in style at The Wilde­beest

The caramelise­d or­anges and blood or­ange sor­bet were a sen­sa­tional match with the mar­quise; it was dish you didn’t want to end

ON a Thurs­day night in the rain, the Wilde­beest is buzzing, with most ta­bles full and plenty of peo­ple prop­ping up the bar – al­ways a good sign in a lo­cal pub.

But this is a lot more than a lo­cal pub. The team here have their eyes on the prize – serv­ing top end food and maybe pick­ing up a few foodie ac­co­lades and awards on the way.

The Wilde­beest has long been a name on the Nor­folk pub and restau­rant scene and there is al­ways a fa­mil­iar nod when you men­tion it. Two years ago it was taken over by the team be­hind The Ingham Swan and the War­wick Street So­cial in the city - with award-win­ning chef pa­tron Daniel Smith at the helm.

And his in­flu­ence shows the minute you walk through the door. A glimpse at the menu tells you quite clearly that this is all about fine din­ing. There are emul­sions, crumbs, puffs and con­fit, un­usual veg­eta­bles are del­i­cately pick­led and the tem­per­a­ture at which the fish is poached is proudly stated for all to see.

But the tag here is ‘re­laxed fine din­ing’ and for all the fanci­ness of the dishes, it is still very much a pub at­mos­phere, with old wooden floors, mis-shapen hunks of pol­ished wood as its ta­bles and a bar at its cen­tre.

And you don’t have to go down the a la carte route, you can opt for the set lunch or din­ner de jour – a two or three course set menu of­fer­ing great value. The a la carte menu though is fab­u­lously var­ied and is packed with in­trigu­ing, ex­cit­ing dishes with a clear fo­cus on lo­cal, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents.

For starters we opted for the lo­cally for­aged Chanterell­e mush­rooms, crispy Wiss­ing­ton po­lenta, broad beans, puff potato, pars­ley cress and herb oil, and the duo of Din­g­ley Dell pork; glazed cheek and ba­con, ap­ple, sage and pork puff.

Both dishes looked beau­ti­ful and tasted pretty good too - the po­lenta and puff potato were de­li­cious and a great con­trast in tex­ture from the mush­rooms, which were not quite salty enough or as deep in earthy flavour as you would per­haps want. The pork was ten­der and beau­ti­fully cooked and you can’t go wrong pair­ing it with its roast din­ner bed­fel­lows, sage and ap­ple – the only com­plaint was that there could have been more!

For main course, there was only one choice for my hus­band – the char-grilled beef fil­let, truf­fled mash potato, lo­cal Swiss chard, salsa verde, Ta­cons Ro­manesque and pur­ple cau­li­flower, pine nuts and red wine jus.

And what a dish it is; the beef was mouth-wa­ter­ingly ten­der; the truf­fled mash potato rich and won­der­fully pun­gent and the Ro­manesqe and pur­ple cau­li­flower the per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment.

For me it was the poached hal­ibut – cooked at 56°C (I know this from the menu), with a crispy ba­con crumb, gar­lic and chive potato gnoc­chi, broad beans, peas, pancetta, pick­led shal­lots and tar­ragon cream.

The fish was cooked per­fectly, firm but del­i­cate and the ba­con crumb, pancetta and de­li­cious broad beans added a salty and sweet flavour. Spe­cial men­tion also goes to the fab­u­lously hearty gnoc­chi and the tar­ragon cream which brought it all to­gether.

The dessert menu at the Wilde­beest is short but sweet and matched with a fab­u­lous se­lec­tion of cheeses – you can pick and choose ac­cord­ing to your taste and cre­ate your own plate which is a nice touch.

But for us it was to be a sweet end to the meal, with the ab­so­lutely lus­cious lemon meringue hon­ey­comb, Chan­tilly cream and pis­ta­chio crumb and the ridicu­lously rich dark choco­late mar­quise, ac­com­pa­nied with crème fraiche, caramelise­d or­anges, blood or­ange sor­bet, tem­pered choco­late and choco­late soil. The caramelise­d or­anges and blood or­ange sor­bet were a sen­sa­tional match with the mar­quise; it was dish you didn’t want to end.

The food at the Wilde­beest is ex­cel­lent, the at­mos­phere is buzzing and it is hard to find fault - but oc­ca­sion­ally you can’t help won­der that when it comes to all those fancy el­e­ments, less is some­times more.Š

The Wilde­beest, Stoke Holy Cross, near Nor­wich.

Stylish in­te­rior at The Wilde­beest

Fine din­ing at The Wilde­beest

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