Archives for category: Fine dining

Just a little seasonal tour of my favourite place….


It’s that time of year again! Watchouse 2016! Four days and three nights in our own little oasis. Last week I casually mentioned it in my post about finishing the boat. What fortuitous timing! We didn’t have to use the raft again! Now, making a bit of a spectacle of ourselves on the quay is a bit of a tradition what with furiously hammering together a ramshackle driftwood raft as the tide races in. This year we had little Snipe. And thank god! On one of the biggest tides this year there was no way we could have controlled it in the currents, even once we could touch the bottom again! We loaded the boat as the tide came in, getting ready to leave at the top of the tide, when the water would not be racing. By this time, however, we were waist deep on the quay and clambouring onto the boat with a large crowd watching. Par for the course really. And we were off!


As ever the weekend was about friends, food, and fun. Mornings usually saw a big breakfast followed by sailing expeditions on Snipe. One morning we headed down to the point and anchored. The boys jumped out and swam around the boat. We girls waited to see if they could get back in. Only barely! The seals were basking as we were!


The lovely Fiona and Jackson from Oystercatcher Catering provided meal after meal of joy! Afternoons saw lunches, kubb, fishing, and yoga in the sun. We really lucked out and the weather was sunny and warm. Later in the afternoon beer and cocktails came out leading up to some fantastic dinners. I don’t know how Jackson manages to produce the quality of food we eat in that ‘kitchen’ (and I use the term loosely). Pallella, rich and creamy fish stew, and mega-BBQ followed by cheese and red wine. There is something about being out in the sun and wind all day that makes you sleep amazingly!

Now, things couldn’t go too perfectly, and on the way back our engine conked out while we were preparing to enter the cut. We threw down our anchor and came up with many possible senarios for getting all of us back to land with our belongings. But lo and behold, up comes our friend Chris who helped us get Snipe back in the water. And who then gave us a tow back…? Bless them! We arrived in style on the quay under tow and created another mild spectacle just as we would have had the raft been there. Its just fate!


Another spectacular year on Blakeney Point. Already looking forward to next year! 

 Sea Thrift or Sea Pinks


This time of year the sea thrift carpets the marsh with low pink flowers. They seem to thrive here, even in areas that flood. I love watching the incoming tide creep between them and form a pool so that only the flowering tip is tall enough to poke out from the water! 


In the verge the elder is now in full bloom and syrup seems to be the obvious choice to save this flavour for colder days. Cakes, cocktails, ice cream. We want to get a bit more adventurous than just cordial this year. 

The poppies that brought this area the name ‘Poppyland’ in Victorian times are in their prime as well. This year the field of corn behind Blakeney is full of it. Not sure how the farmer feels about it but it is beautiful! 


The avocets should be hatching and they have the cutest chicks. We haven’t spotted any yet but last year there were a few down the Cley channel so we may need to make a trip to look for them and experience the new harbour in all its opened up glory! 


The garden has exploded and the red hot pokers, Marek’s favourite, are having a good year. They thrust themselves out from the background of geranium, clematis, lavender, nasturtiums, and California poppies. In the courtyard the roses are performing well. We have four varieties, but my favourites are the lemon scented yellow rose and the sugar scented rambling magenta rose. The succulents are back out full time as the only plants that will survive on my south facing table. 


This is the first year we have made it to Sherrigham Park for the display of rhododendrons and azaleas. Definitely worth the visit!


In the allotment high winds flattened some of the artichokes but they were getting a bit too thick anyway, and they have been made into mulch. The strawberries are coming in thick and fast now after some actual sun! The ox eye daisies are rife and self seeding so may need the chop. The squash didn’t make it through the torrential rains but I have put in seeds direct and they seem to have taken. Only a minor delay! 


The cutting garden has been producing well this time of year for the first time. The verbascum have always been glorious but they are now also profuse. We have also added a cultivated red scabious and the ranunculus has come up for the first time. I have never had much luck with these until now. I almost gave up, but here they are and I now understand why florists love them so. 


On the dinner table steamed fish with a lemony asparagus risotto was a real treat! The samphire keeps coming and grilled sea bass sandwiches are now a staple, if only we had caught them ourselves! Oh well, a little longing is good. You can’t have everything. 

On evenings when high tide coincides with sunset we make a special effort to get out in the kayak. So peaceful. Takes away the cares of the day and is a perfect way to get ready to sleep. 


Marek’s birthday, on the same day as our friend George, is usually an outdoor affair. This year we had a beach BBQ with our friends from Oystercatcher Catering. A simple affair with sea bass, crab, and an oyster bar (of sorts) on Cley beach. Of course no beach party is complete without a swim!



Events this period: Marek’s birthday June 9th, Father’s Day 

Vernal Equinox
The Equinox brings with it the return of longer days, seemingly all of a sudden. The clocks go forward and the evening is extended, so much so that we are now able to take the dog out for his evening walk after work. This treat lasts only six months for me between the Equinox.

  
The boats start to return to Blakeney Quay around Easter. In fact it marks quite a few things. My birthday being this time of year we usually have a rather elaborate tea with more cake than sense. Easter brings with it Mothering Sunday and daffodil walks. The world is bursting into bloom and bud. Blakeney Quay awakens and the tourists return for the first “busy” days of the season. (It feels busy compared to February but I suppose we are never as busy as the south coast, even in August)

  
The gorse is in full bloom and just to be on the Heath above Kelling or Salthouse is to walk through a cloud of coconut fragrance. Cuckoos have arrived on the marsh, and we found frog spawn in the garden. In the hedges primrose blooms and wild garlic unfurls. 

   
 This leads to many a tasty Spring treat. This year we have made wild garlic aioli, mayonnaise, and focaccia. (Try this recipe!) we were also advised to substitute the wild garlic in for leeks in potato soup by chef friend Jackson Campbell. For Easter we had 7 Hour Lamb which was amazingly tender. 

    
In the garden the magnolias are in bloom and we all pray there are no frosts to spoil their glory. Itss fragility may make it all the sweeter. Winter jasmine adds to the yellow overtones of the floral season along with the daffs and primrose. In addition to the ipheion bulbs, our first tulips start to colour. It’s the start of a month or two of drama in the tulip beds.  

   

    

 
Finally April brings with it some truly warm days, so long as you stay out of the wind. We often have our first picnics and BBQ’s on the beach and in the garden. The dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe provide good shelter, or under the cliffs at Weybourne.

   
   
Holidays: Mothering Sunday, Easter

Events: East Ruston old vicarage- Mother’s Day; Chestnut Farm – Snow Drop Walk 

Blakeney   

    
    
 
Cley

   
    
    

  
 
   
Salthouse

   
  

   
The Dun Cow pub, yum!!

   
    
 
Now home again!

 It’s that time of year again! Last year’s visit was all summer and sunshine. This year was more autumnal. “Seasons of mist…” And all. That having been said, some things were the same. Food by the wonderful couple at Oystercatcher Catering with good friends and good  wine. 

  
The raft made another appearance. Grey, windy, and wetsuited up; we pushed and pulled quite a load. The dinner and fire were a welcome site. 

   
  
 
The next several days were grey and misty with breaks of sun. Much fun was had with games, fishing, and BBQ breakfasts! 

   
 
 
   
 
  
   
 
 

   
   
Our last day brightened and it was like summer again for a day. It all started off with freshly caught fish, followed by some rough surf swimming.  

 
   
   
Finally it was time to go home. Coasting in on the rising tide was a dream compared to the ride over.

   
  
 
  
The last leg was aided by our own personal life boat to give us a pull once the tide turned and the trip was complete.

   
 
This year proved that the Watchouse is great fun in all weather. Here’s to another great year!

As part of our ‘Winter Recaps’ we can’t wait to gush about our invitation to a fabulous tasting event by Oyster Catcher Catering. I am not food blogger (though we do seem to talk about food, and local food, a lot on here) so I will let the starters speak for themselves!

Heritage beetroot salad with grilled goats cheese and toasted nuts and seeds

Canapes: Goats cheese wrapped in cured ham with oven dried tomato and pesto, cucumber cups with Cromer crab and radish salad, polenta cakes with pickled mushrooms truffel mayo and broad bean

Polenta cakes with pickled mushrooms, truffle mayo, and broad bean

They are as delicious as they are beautiful. 

Wherever possible they provide food and ingredients from the Norfolk area. And of course living in some of the best arable farmland in the UK, great ingredients combined with Chef Jackson Campbell’s imagination and skill leads to an amazing meal. While it is pretty, this is real food. Healthy, filling, local. 

Enough of me, here’s some more…

Seared sea bass with celeriac mash, braised fennel, and prawn bisque

Sea bream ceviche with citrus, herb puree and rocket cress

  

Jerusalem artichoke ‘lasagne’ with blistered tomatoes and balsamic

   

Apple tarte Tatin, vanilla icecream

So many courses! But we had to have it all! On display at the event was a selection of things offered in their Welcome Packs. (which we may have also tried.) What a great idea! When you spend all day trying to get out of the Big Smoke, and arrive late and hungry, what better thing to have waiting for you than delicious local food? I can distinctly remember when we moved to Blakeney and by the time we unloaded the van the only thing being served at the local pub was dessert and a cheese board. If only….

  

So to summarise, catering, meals delivered, and welcome packs. Amazing. 

  

Photography by George Gould and Fiona Diamond

Having lived in Blakeney for two years and three summers we have only just made our first trip to the Watch House! (Half Way House to you Cley residents) What an oversight!! We should have done this every year, and will from here on in. Our adventure started with a vision. A raft. A swimming platform. This dream has taken us all summer. By which, I mean, we have sporadically made a token effort to build said raft. But the trip was upon us and we had no means of transporting our provisions. So a last ditch effort was made and the raft took form. Largely untested I was nervous it would even float and when high tide and sunset on an overcast day coincide, there is little margin for error. Luckily she floated! A gusty north wind and the tide against us we made quite a spectacle on the quay.
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A good while later we arrived and could not have felt more grateful or cozy anywhere else in the world after that ordeal.

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The morning was clear and bright and many adventures were had, including mud racing, skim boarding, swimming in the waves, cub, and most importantly the BBQ!

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As sunset approached our raft became a swimming platform swiftly followed by a kayak with a seal for the boys and wine on the dock for the girls. Dinner mainly consisted of cheese and wine and cards.

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Breakfast BBQ anyone? Bubble and squeak with samphire, sausages, bacon, fried and poached eggs and grilled tomatoes! I always make a point of travelling with a chef!

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All too soon it was time to go. We packed up the raft and dragged it out into the main channel. The return trip could not have been more different to the way out! We casually drifted into Blakeney and arrived in style on the quay.

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What a trip. What a place. A mile from my house we found a little paradise. Holiday is definitely a state of mind. I can only advise annexing a small spit of land like a pirate to everyone to make you forget your problems.

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The ever popular Wiveton Hall Cafe is back for a new season after some refurbishments and additions. This year, on top of the daily breakfast and lunch, a new wood fire pizza oven has been built and they will be serving from 4-6pm Monday through Thursday. This in addition to the Friday through Sunday dinners.

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Note: Some of the photos are taken from their website.

Tapas selection at Titchwell Manor

Tapas selection at Titchwell Manor

It’s delightful to holiday somewhere and stumble across a delicious one-off meal, but rather more special to find a local eatery that can be relied upon to surprise you with wonderful food time and again.

We had heard of Titchwell Manor because it has a reputation for fine dining in the evening, courtesy of chef proprietor Eric Snaith’s tasting menus. However, in a year of living on the Norfolk coast, we were yet to visit, always saving it for a particularly special occasion when we could do justice to such a multi-course extravaganza.

A couple of months ago we were walking on the beach at Holme with a friend and, as it often does, talk turned to tea and cakes. We were well past the witching hour when most cafes on the coast stop serving, but our friend suggested Titchwell, knowing from past experience that they had an all day menu, not just of cakes, but savouries too.

It was the first of what has become many visits (thank you Julia!).

That day we shared a selection of scones, tea and Titchwell’s plate of 3 little cakes. The scones were excellent, even measured against the traditional benchmark of my Mum’s homemade. Each of the 3 cakes was special in its own way, with not just a good quality base, but little embellishments in the form of unusual toppings or pieces mixed into the cakes themselves.

It was served in the ‘Eating Rooms’, the light, airy brasserie-style space on the opposite side of the building from the more formal evening dining room. This opens via a folding glass wall onto a sunny terrace and our little four legged friend (Bonzo, the Labrador you may recognise from other photos) was welcome both in the brasserie and on the terrace.

It was so refreshing to find somewhere which, post-5pm (or almost any other time of day, it seems), rustles up such a high quality of freshly prepared food in a relaxed setting with great service.

We enjoyed our afternoon tea so much that we decided we must go back soon after to sample their selection of savoury tapas, a menu of 10 or so small plates, offered at £3 each, with a special offer on 3 for the price of 2. Again, they serve it throughout the day, making it the perfect stop when you find yourself hungry after a mid-afternoon walk and local pubs have closed their kitchens.

Smoked salmon tapas at Titchwell Manor

Smoked salmon tapas at Titchwell Manor

The tapas is outstanding and consistently so. We have been back on several occasions since with various friends and family. The menu changes slightly each time, but particularly memorable were the smoked salmon, crab with pistachio and purslane, the crisped chorizo, the duck hearts with red currant and the smoked eel.

Each dish is a beautifully presented and, just like the cakes, has stylish little garnishes and twists, obviously benefitting from the talents of the house chefs who rustle up the famous evening tasting menus. On a few occasions, the two of us have shared one of every tapas dish on the menu, racking up a total bill of a princely £18, courtesy of the extremely good value 3 for 2 offer. Small though each individual plate may be, 9 or 10 of them between two of us at lunch has seen us sufficiently satiated to skip dinner entirely.

It is stunning good value for such an exceptional quality of imaginative cooking and, having now visited numerous times, we can attest that those first visits were no one-off when post-walk hunger clouded our judgement: the food really is consistently special.

Tempura oysters with chilli dip at Titchwell Manor

Tempura oysters with chilli dip at Titchwell Manor

We broadened our horizons on yesterday’s visit, ordering both the tapas selection and trying some other dishes like the tempura oysters (served on a plate of Norfolk beach cobbles) and the blondie, popcorn and chocolate ice cream dessert. We were accompanied by our most food loving friends, one of whom is a chef himself, and they too were delighted by the meal.

Peanut butter blondie with grapes, popcorn & chocolate ice cream at Titchwell Manor

Peanut butter blondie with grapes, popcorn & chocolate ice cream at Titchwell Manor

We’re looking forward to our next visit already and hope one day to sample the full evening menu too.

Google Maps link.