The North Norfolk coast has been a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1968 and offers a scenic rural retreat just a few hours’ drive from London. Many visitors stay just outside the AONB in the Victorian seaside town of Cromer, or slightly inland at in the quaint Georgian town of Holt. But for our short break, my dining partner and I opted to stay right on the coast in the tiny village of Weybourne, which boasts not much more than a Village Store (with a lovely apartment above, where we stayed*) and a single pub – The Ship. Since it was within stumbling distance of our apartment, The Ship was an extremely convenient option for dinner during our stay – and it turned out to be an extremely pleasant experience as well. The décor has a strong nautical theme, with pale blue clapboard cladding the lower half of the walls, framed posters of famous ships and ship-prow-shaped art-deco mirror lamps hanging on the upper half. Our first attempt to dine there was unsuccessful – on a Tuesday night The Ship was fully booked and wasn’t taking walk-ins. Undeterred, we reserved a table for a couple of nights later. On our return, we received a friendly welcome from the barman and, having got a drink at the bar, were pointed to our table in the dining room around the corner.
After an afternoon tramping the coastal path in bracing winds, my dining partner and I decided to warm up with soup to start. My dining partner enjoyed a smoked fish and corn chowder. Thick, creamy and full of smoky flavour, this was a satisfying bowlful that could almost be a meal in itself. I opted for the soup of the day – an unusual but delicious combination of courgette and basil. The soup was smooth and light, with the basil giving a very fresh flavour. Both soups were served with a warm ciabatta roll, which had a wonderfully crisp crust and springy, doughy centre. Moving on to main course, my dining partner chose the sticky ribs in barbecue sauce, served with hand cut chips and coleslaw. The ribs were fall-apart tender, generously smothered in a delightfully tangy, sticky sauce. The chips were pleasingly non-greasy, thick-cut with soft, fluffy middles. Only the coleslaw was a bit of a let-down – the crisp carrot, cabbage and onion was drowned in a sea of thick mayonnaise-y dressing. My main course of spicy meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta and garlic bread was simple but stunning. When a dish is described as spicy, I often find it anything but, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that – although the meatballs themselves were just flavoursome rather than spicy – the accompanying tomato sauce packed a real chilli punch. The pasta (a linguine) was served perfectly al dente, and the garlic bread was made from the same excellent ciabatta we’d had with our soup. Heavily buttered and garlicked it was a great addition, although given the generous portion of pasta and meatballs I found I could barely finish half of it. My only criticism relates to description – according to the menu, my dish should have been topped with “parmesan shavings”. To me, this conjures up images of a waiter standing table-side, shaving fresh parmesan over the dish until I say stop. Instead, the dish was served ready-topped with a smattering of those slightly powdery parmesan sprinkles you find in a tub in the supermarket. That said, the meatballs and sauce were so tasty that the absence of real parmesan didn’t really matter too much.
By the time we finished our mega main courses, we were both feeling fairly stuffed. But when we saw The Ship’s dessert menu, neither of us could resist something sweet. My dining partner went for a chocolate and Oreo cookie sundae, while I chose the poached pear. The menu didn’t offer much in the way of description, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with my pear – what would it be poached in? And would it be served with anything? As it turned out, the poaching liquid was something quite subtle, so while the texture of the pear was perfect – soft and yielding without being mushy – the taste was simply sweetened pear, with no added flavour. It was served with a dainty ball of vanilla ice-cream and a slightly out of place drizzle of passion fruit coulis. All combined, it was a not unpleasant dessert, but it could have been so much better. The same was true of my dining partner’s sundae – essentially just a large glass of decent chocolate ice-cream layered with crumbled Oreos, it was nice enough but lacked the usual elements (hot fudge sauce, chopped nuts, etc.) that make a Sundae special.
As a village pub, The Ship offers a decent selection of beers and ales on tap and in bottles, while approximately half of the wines on its wine list are available by the glass. My dining partner quenched his thirst with Becks Vier (£3.70 a pint), and I enjoyed a large glass of Grenache Rouge, Les Vignes D’Oc (£6.30), which was soft, fruity and eminently quaffable. Service-wise, all of the staff were friendly and our food was served promptly, but responses to specific requests – such as a spoon for my pasta, and another glass of tap water – were a bit haphazard, as our waitress had to be reminded a couple of times before bringing the relevant item. In terms of value for money, The Ship does an excellent job – three courses and a drink barely brushed £30 per head including a tip. Overall, this was a thoroughly pleasant evening of satisfying food, let down ever so slightly by a couple of quality quibbles and lacklustre desserts. The Ship is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, and scores a respectable three and a half Forks-Up.The Ship
T: 01263 588721