This year we’ve kind of ‘discovered’ Norfolk. Silly really, given that it’s only a couple of hours down the road from us. Previously, our campervan trips have taken us further afield and in the other direction – mainly to Devon and Cornwall in search of coastal fun. We’d tried Norfolk once before but I think hadn’t quite spent long enough to catch the bug. Needless to say, this year we have resulting in two fairly lengthy trips in quick succession and a whole lotta food and drink.
The north Norfolk coast is quite literally packed with pubs serving above-the-bar food. Villages up and down the coast from Hunstanton down to Wells-next-the-Sea all have at least one pub and we’re yet to find one that falls below a 6/10 for food and drink. And really, most are 8s or above.
We’d tried a few and were on the lookout for somewhere for a birthday lunch for Mr M. Somewhere a bit different, dog-friendly (of course!) and possibly not fine-dining given the weather forecast’s helpful prediction that we’d most likely be sodden and muddy from walking the coast path in torrential rain.
I found it. A yurt. In Norfolk. That serves food. And wine. And has a log burner perfect for creating a toasty haven away from the rain.
Tucked inside the Droves Orchards where you can apple-pick, shop and visit the fish and chip shop, the yurt itself doesn’t look like much from the outside. When do they? But walking through the front door is a bit like stepping through the wardrobe door into Narnia. Suddenly you’re transported from rainy Norfolk to somewhere quite unlike any of the eating establishments in the area.
It’s a bit of a fusion of cosy, rustic countryside and something from far-flung climes, yet somehow works. Slightly exotic yet cosy, there is plenty of wood, low lighting, and textiles to keep you snuggly and warm.
Like the decor, the menu is a bit of a melting pot of different cuisines, with everything from burgers to seafood, Sunday roasts and their own ‘Ghurka curries’. Anywhere else it might seem confused, but here it somehow works and on the day we visit, seems perfectly tailored to inclement weather. Shucks is also licensed with a small but perfectly formed wine list to help us on our mission to warm up.
To start, we opted to share the Gressingham duck leg kiev, which stood out among the standard chicken liver parfait and smoked mackerel as just that little bit different. Served with ‘XO cabbage’, satay sauce, chilli and mango salad and crushed prawn crackers, it promised a fiesta of tastes within one dish and definitely delivered.
Piled up in a rainbow of colours, the Kiev was the main attraction, crunchy on the outside with a rich, almost gamey, flavour from the duck. But in the same way that there’s a great woman behind every great man, it was the accompanying flavours that really made this dish sing. The savoury of the satay sauce, the warmth of the chill, the sweet freshness of the mango, and the slight fishyness of the XO sauce. Not to mention the textures – soft fruit, smooth satay and crunchiness of the prawn cracker. Brilliantly executed and the kind of starter you talk about for some time afterwards.
Despite being tempted by a Sunday roast and some of the biggest Yorkshire puddings I’ve ever seen, we opted for warming curries. The menu describes them as a Nepalese style curry with tomato, onion and spices and they sounded like just what the doctor ordered.
I opted for the Tandoori buttermilk chicken on the bone version while Jamie chose spicy lamb and mint meatballs. He also went for the ‘hot’ version courtesy of Shucks’ own homemade Naga Paste.
Served alongside toasted coconut rice, a pot of burnt lemon and cucumber raita and a poppadom, they certainly looked impressive. My chicken was separate from my curry so I could enjoy the deep red of the tandoori before disassembling it and mixing it in with my sauce.
Taste-wise, both were nice. Tomatoey, slightly sweet and a filling, warming treat. I would have like a bit more depth of flavour or something to mark it out as different from a run-of-the-mill curry, but perhaps my expectations had been raised too much by such an impressive starter.
We’d been slightly skeptical of the inclusion of mint in Jamie’s lamb meatballs but it actually worked brilliantly, especially with the extra heat, which both went some way to achieving the extra dimensions of flavour that I’d hoped for.
Food finished, we kicked back and relaxed in the warm as we finished the remainder of a rather nice bottle of Malbec, watching other diners finish up and brave the downpour.
It may not have been the best curry I have ever had in my life, but given that it was in a yurt in the middle of north Norfolk, I think it would be churlish to suggest it should rival the likes of the Balti Triangle, Lasan or Opheem.
But as we all know, I’m big on hospitality being about more than just the food. Shucks is novel, it’s welcoming, it serves good food at reasonable prices and the service is as warm as it’s log burner. Our starter was to die for, the main more than tasty enough, and the setting pretty perfect. Need we ask for more…..
We paid in full for our meal at Shucks. They didn’t know I was a blogger.