Kings Head, New Buckenham – Guest Reviewer Ross Marshall
Queen Street, New Buckenham, Norfolk NR16 2AL
01953 861247 www.kingsheadnewbuckenham.co.uk
Burgers £7.00 - £9.00
Kings Head £3.50
Aunt Bessie £1.25 for 900g at Sainsbury's
(I'd vote for the Kings Head any day - Ed)
Our little country village has a long history, reaching back nearly 900 years. Regular expansion now sees it home to some 300 souls. As many as 13 pubs at one point, apparently, down to four by the time of Pigot’s Directory of 1839. Only two by last year, and now just The Kings Head. The pub itself boasts a great history (too long to tell here) and always has been fantastically popular with generations of villagers, with a series of fine landlords. One, during my time, was Jim from Glasgow, who bedecked it in tartan and served home made rabbit pies, pheasant casseroles, roast partridge and… well you get the drift. It was a smash hit.
The current landlord and lady, Dan & Jen, work tirelessly to be the centre of the village, welcoming all: young lads, farmers, families, single sprightly ladies of elderly years. Everyone is comfortable here. The food is excellent and their Sunday lunches famous (2 courses for £14.50). The beer is worthy of note by CAMRA, with locally brewed Adnams ales a favourite.
The last 10 months have been very hard on the pub, but Dan is an ex Royal Marine, so he takes adversity head on. With extraordinary Covid protection measures in place, the pub and kitchen flourished over the summer and autumn of 2020. Then the second lockdown hit. Dan made a tactical retreat over Christmas while the village had (cold?) turkey. In January, he announced the pub would provide a takeaway service of the burgers which would more normally be served in the bar on a Friday night. We’ve had the 8oz rump steak burgers before, and they are awesome. So, to support our much loved pub, JT (partner in crime), myself (original criminal), and daughter RM (proceeds of crime), decided that we needed their burgers to accompany a sturdy bottle of Friday white. We also thought we’d play the game: Pub Chips vs Oven Chips – in this case Aunt Bessie’s “Crispy & Fluffy Homestyle Chips”.
The new takeaway menu offers a wider range of burger types, so JT decided on the Whole Hog (pulled pork* & stuffing); I went for Cluck and Collect (chicken in a cajun rub) while RM chose the Classic Burger with cheese and bacon on top. We secured the last slot for pick up from the front door at 8.45pm.
RM gave 10/10 for the Classic, delighted that the burger had been cooked pink, enveloped in cheese and topped with crispy bacon as promised. The firm cos lettuce was praised, memorably with the phrase “none of that wilted nonsense.”
JT’s pork burger was 10 centimetres (4 inches in old money) high so needed some dismantling to get to the heaps of meat which had intense flavours, and slight spiciness. In the stack were 2 tasty slices of buffalo steak tomato with unfeasibly large circumferences. The homemade sausage stuffing came in mini burger shapes and was tasty, but, alas, had been left standing on the hotplate too long and had hardened to an almost impenetrable crust. Points off.
Similarly with the two extremely generous sides of chicken in my burger. The outer edges had dried out, despite the inclusion of juicy tomatoes, though the main part of the chicken was good with the cajun rub which gave it a pleasant heat.
Finally, I know you’re on tenterhooks about the chips. The Kings Head’s came with skins on and were less plump than Aunt Bessie’s, but had the unmistakeable but undefinable “taste of gastro-pub”. No, I’m not sure what that means either, but RM assured me it was true. Bessie’s chips were surprisingly very good and crisped up nicely but were a little bland. So, I’d say it was a draw, which I think is good result for frozen oven chips!
We all agreed that being the last order of the day probably had led to some ingredients being kept for too long and drying out; also that we should get our rears in gear more quickly and secure an earlier pickup slot next time. Finally, if you already have a winning combination (the Classic) then stick to it. The grass isn’t always greener no matter how exotic cajun chicken or pulled pork may seem. One good burgher of the village posted that his burger rated 20/10 **. Of course, his was the 8oz rump steak with cheese……. at 6.30pm.
* I have never been able to take this seriously since watching the episode of Scottish sitcom Still Game in which the local boozer, The Clansman, was converted into a gastropub. The character Winston left, shaking his head, muttering, I thought Pulled Pork was the name of a porn film.
**Despite malicious rumours to the contrary, I can confirm the the burgher in question is not the President of the Norfolk Mathematical Society.
It is terrifying to relate that later this year, Ross and I will have known each other for 60 years. I therefore should have plenty of material with which to slag him off; however, as he knows where the bodies are buried, he could reciprocate. I shall therefore simply describe him as broadcaster, ammunition manufacturer, international businessman, gourmet, raconteur and wit.
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