It won the ‘best restaurant’ in Norfolk award, but is it worthy of the title?
- Credit: Archant
Louisa Baldwin took a trip to the north Norfolk coast to visit the award-winning seafood restaurant that is making waves.
Since scooping two awards at the Eat Norfolk Food and Drink Awards in 2018 for Best Restaurant and Outstanding Front of House the Wells Crab House has been on my bucket list.
The setting for starters is perfect for a seafood restaurant, located just a stone's throw from the harbour, and idyllic Wells-next-to-Sea reels in visitors from Norfolk and across the UK all year round.
The restaurant opened in 2016 by couple Kelly and Scott Dougal, with Kelly running the front of house and Scott leading the kitchen team and a menu that changes monthly to keep things fresh.
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I went with my partner on a Thursday evening, as it was already fully booked for the weekend, and when we stepped inside we were greeted with a warm welcome into the cosy dining area.
Glancing over the menu it left me brimming with joy to see how much they have focused on food provenance and it is truly a celebration of Norfolk produce with everything from Black Shuck gin, based in Fakenham, to Wells lobster.
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To start we tucked into a serving of six Richard Loose Brancaster Oysters with shallot vinaigrette which cost £10 for six, which I thought was very reasonable, and breads with oil and balsamic vinegar for £3.
We squeezed lemon wedges on the tray of oysters and then drizzled with the vinaigrette and Tabasco sauce, clinked our oysters together in the middle and then slurped them down - not forgetting to chew three times which I've been told is the best way to enjoy them.
The zesty and punchy oyster exploded with flavour in my mouth and accompanied with the bread and oils whetted my appetite for what was to come.
For our main course we ordered the lobster platter which also included crevettes, cockles, crayfish tails, rollmop herring, oak smoked salmon, which we had instead of peppered salmon lollipops as my partner can't eat dairy, served with potato salad and lettuce leaves which cost £40.
The platter was stylishly presented, without compromising on portion size, and it gave the impression it had just been effortlessly lifted out the sea - despite the obvious effort that goes into preparing it.
An assortment of tools was slotted underneath the fish including a lobster cracker and skewer to scoop out the flesh.
Every element of the platter was a revelation and offered a different flavour and texture, from creamy lobster to tangy cockles which I had never eaten before and scoffed like popcorn.
The chubby prawns were moreish and the rollmop herrings, although they had a slightly too oily taste for me, were really fresh and were a hit with my fellow diner.
For dessert I had a chocolate and hazelnut semi-fredo, priced at £7, which was delicious and rich without being sickly due to the crunchy and light meringue pieces running through it.
My only criticism would be to offer a bigger selection of dairy-free desserts as my partner could only get sorbet.
However his three scoops of tequila, rhubarb and mango, which cost £1.60 each, were tasty and it even came from Ronaldo Ices in Norwich.
From the moment we stepped in the door to leaving it felt like we had been invited round to a friend's house to eat dinner in their front room and the staff were so friendly and even helped me crack my lobster open after I watched my partner catapult a shell fragment to the neighbouring table.
They are like a family and this restaurant is a perfect example that good food makes you visit a restaurant but it is good service that keeps you coming back.
It is just a short walk from the harbour and beach if you fancy a walk to burn off your meal or want to take in the sea air.
It is really cosy, with around 15 tables, and lots of personal touches including a specials board written on oars and quirky artwork on the walls.
This restaurant is really flying the flag for Norfolk and the service was the best I've ever received.
The award for Outstanding Front of House last year was hugely deserved and the passion of the owner Kelly is clear from the second you enter the restaurant.
Great to see them partnering up with local gin suppliers including Black Shuck in Fakenham which they have used to make a range of their cocktails.
I opted for the Black Shuck's I'm All Shook Up which included Black Shuck passion, orange liqueur, pineapple and grenadine bitters which was refreshing with a kick.
My partner had the Hedgerow Cooler which had Archangel Rhubarb, Hedgepig quince and wild bullace, Tiny Tipple elderflower, Whinhill Apple, made round the corner from the restaurant, soda, mint an rhubarb which was a taste of summer and they both cost £8.50.
Everything is on ground level so there would be no problem with access.
Super clean and quirky with a nautical theme include mirrors framed with bark and a giant map as the wallpaper.
Located next to the Stearmans Yard car park which costs £3 for two hours and there is also free parking after 6pm.
Although it isn't cheap you get great value for money and if you don't fancy a platter, which works out around £15 to £20 a head when shared, the mains cost between £16 and £27 with huge portions.
We spent £81.80 on six oysters, breads and oils, the lobster platter, two desserts and two gin cocktails and left very full.
The lobster platter was a real show-stopper and I can't wait to try something new on my next visit.
Brilliant food, superb service - book a table now!
This is an independent review.