Din­ing out:

As a coastal county, fresh seafood is a part of our food her­itage. Wells Crab House cel­e­brates our finest in­gre­di­ents with culi­nary flair and a huge welcome

EDP Norfolk - - CONTENTS - WORDS: Rachel Buller

We try the Wells Crab House

With fish served fresh from the boats less than a hun­dred me­tres from your ta­ble, it is lit­tle won­der that Wells Crab House is be­com­ing one of the county’s best loved seafood restau­rants. Unas­sum­ing from the front, more beach café than high end din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, it hides the joy­ous culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stated coastal in­spired decor await­ing you in­side.

My dates for the night were my two sons, who love seafood and were happy to be last minute re­place­ments for their dad. The menu is ever chang­ing re­flect­ing the availabili­ty of the fish and the sea­son­al­ity of other in­gre­di­ents and there are ve­gan and dairy and gluten free op­tions.

The lob­ster and crab are main­stays though, caught from the quay, a true taste of the sea and tak­ing cen­tre stage on the menu. This isn’t your usual fish and chip restau­rant (though that is avail­able on the spe­cials menu ac­cord­ing to what­ever

the catch of the day is). Mouth­wa­ter­ing menu tempters in­clude prawn and white­bait ra­men with noo­dles, soft boiled egg, kat­suobushi and pick­led gin­ger; herb plaice schnitzel with sautéed rain­bow chard, pick­led chilli and cu­cum­ber or per­haps the tur­bot fil­let with Ver­mouth and chorizo risotto.

Huge seafood plat­ters piled high with crab and lob­ster, prawns and salmon, trout and cock­les, cray­fish and her­ring make their way to other ta­bles. The restau­rant – Nor­folk mag­a­zine Restau­rant of the Year 2018 – is full and buzzing, even on a Wednesday evening at 6pm.

The boys jump straight in, pick­ing a mix­ture of ap­pe­tis­ers (four for £10); sharp and mor­eish roll mop her­rings, de­voured in sec­onds; rich juicy olives stuffed with the salti­est of an­chovies; cray­fish tails with a kick of lime and chilli; and a bowl full of cock­les, brought to life by a gen­er­ous dous­ing of ac­com­pa­ny­ing cider vine­gar, served in a stone bot­tle.

I thought I would have my own starter – Thai spiced crab cakes with sa­tay sauce and lime zest – but ap­par­ently we were shar­ing ev­ery­thing. The crab cakes were so good, they ac­tu­ally tasted of crab – some­times you find the del­i­cate flavour is masked by too much potato. The sa­tay sauce was rich and de­li­cious, the sweet­ness per­fect with the spice in the crab cakes – in fact I would have liked more sauce.

For main course, both boys went for the Frary’s Wells crab with fries, Blak­eney dressed leaves, home­made pick­les and bloomer bread. Huge plates ar­rived, an enor­mous dressed crab tak­ing cen­tre stage with a moun­tain of salad and sliced beet­root and tomato and a lit­tle

‘In an in­stant it trans­ported you to the sea­side fun­fair’

pot of punchy pick­les. The crab tasted so fresh you could imag­ine it walked into the restau­rant from the quay just mo­ments be­fore, un­sus­pect­ing of its fate.

For me, it was the pe­can and honey-coated but­ter­flied bream with a goat’s cheese, pep­per, sweet­corn, white balsamic and chilli salad. The fish was beau­ti­ful cooked, the flesh del­i­cately flak­ing away and the skin, crisp and beau­ti­fully sea­soned. The very sweet pe­can top­ping proved an in­ter­est­ing con­trast in taste from the creamy goat’s cheese and sharp­ness of the salad, but it was also in dan­ger of mask­ing the beau­ti­ful sub­tle flavour of the bream. A lit­tle less top­ping and it would have been per­fect.

The restau­rant prides it­self on its ser­vice – it also won our out­stand­ing front of house award last year – and it cannot be faulted. No ques­tion (and there were a lot) was too much trou­ble to an­swer, they were friendly, wel­com­ing and knowl­edge­able about the food.

We couldn’t leave with­out a dessert, though we were all fit to burst, and my el­dest son had been ear­wig­ging the waiter’s con­ver­sa­tion with the next ta­ble and heard the words ‘gi­ant donut’. So a gi­ant, sweet rhubarb filled deep-fried donut par­cel, served with clot­ted cream ice­cream was or­dered, a melt-in-the-mouth, playful nod to the beach. In an in­stant it trans­ported you to the sea­side fun­fair, sticky fin­gers reach­ing into the sug­ary bag for a lit­tle bit of child­hood heaven. We ended the evening wan­der­ing along the quay, the last of the evening sun bathing the landscape in the most glo­ri­ous light – the mag­i­cal set­ting and the fab­u­lous food com­bin­ing per­fectly as a re­minder of what makes our county so spe­cial.

Starters, priced from £3 - £8; main cour­ses from £15; shar­ing plat­ters from £29; desserts, £7. Wells Crab House, Free­man Street , Wells-next-the-Sea, NR23 1BA, 01328 710456; wellscrab­house.co.uk

Our re­view vis­its are unan­nounced and we pay for our meals

ABOVE: De­li­cious seafood served at Wells Crab House Vic­to­ria Per­tusa

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