Kate Morfoot, food and travel writer and founder of LoveToEatToTravel.com, reviews the newest opening in Norfolk.

The word is out… The historic Sculthorpe Mill near Fakenham in Norfolk is open and what a treat it is! 

We visit on a lovely warm summer’s evening in August and feel as though we’ve been transported to Italy on a holiday as we are sipping our drinks by the river. We are pleased to be ‘out out’, after what has been a long lockdown, and it’s one of those fortunate times this summer when it’s not raining for a change. Everyone had taken advantage of the good weather, the outside tables were packed full of happy souls, pleased to be able to enjoy the pleasant surroundings as well as their food and drinks by the water at this new hip destination pub. Inside, the bar was buzzing with people and teeming with lots of bar staff, so it didn’t take long for us to get served.

Head Chef Elliot Ketley serves food that is all about taste and what I sampled was delicious. He only uses high quality ingredients, and the menu is ingredient-led and locally sourced – surely a common-sense formula for what makes food taste so good, and Elliot gets it spot on. 

Sculthorpe Mill supports local suppliers that include fisherman Henry Randall who, at only 26, is one of the youngest fishermen currently fishing off Cromer and Weybourne; Hillside Nurseries in Toftwood for their tomatoes; Dexter beef and Herdwick Lamb from Heath Farm in Great Massingham; and ethically sourced Norfolk quail and poussin from High Field Farm. 

Must-tries include smoked sea trout with shaved fennel and apple, Cromer crab and avocado salad with pickled cucumber, and wild sea bream with brown butter, samphire and capers. I chose the sea bream (£17.50) – it was beautifully fresh and cooked to perfection with crispy skin. I had a little side order of vegetables, a bowl full of fresh-tasting goodness with beautifully cooked carrots, peas, and broad beans that, in fact, made the meal more special. 

Dishes from the land feature choices such as venison tartare with smoked egg yolk and raw cacao, and grilled pork rib eye chop with broad beans. Those following a plant-based diet can opt for a golden beetroot and black bean burger with caramelised onions or charred baby cauliflower with mint, pistachios and harissa. 

My husband had the very tasty Dexter rump steak (£21.50), grilled to his liking and very much enjoyed. Steak is often hard to get right but this scored top marks in terms of flavour, how it was cooked, and presented with fresh watercress. Oh yes, I did try it, and of course his chips too, which were crisp and perfectly hand cut. All hot dishes also passed the all-important hot plate test!

Throughout the summer, the garden menu is served on the covered terrace surrounded by two crystal clear streams that run either side. I loved the three sweetcorn fritters with chipotle and lime mayo. It was quite a substantial starter for just £6. 

Other starters to try are crudites with pea hummus, ranch dressing or mixed fish fry-up with tartare sauce or mains such as either a golden beetroot and black bean burger or Dexter beef burger, both with caramelised onions, pickles and chips. 

The puddings are traditional and delicious. Choose from chocolate orange torte with crème fraiche, lemon and elderflower posset with blueberries, peach and almond tart with vanilla ice cream, and the good old summer favourite, strawberries and cream. We did!

Pudding fans take note, there’s one stand-out decadent pudding for both children and adults alike, the ever-non-fattening knickerbocker glory. Do save room for this firm favourite.

Wine consultant Zeren Wilson is responsible for the exciting and unashamedly predominantly European wine list. Putting the spotlight on lesser-known producers and boutique wineries, the result is an eclectic and characterful selection from British sparkling varietals through to robust reds and best-in-class whites as well as blush rosés and orange wines. 

There’s an East Anglian range of cask ales and craft beers from Moon Gazer and Barsham Breweries, cider from Whin Hill in Wells-next-the-Sea, and other interesting UK brews including Apple Pie and Rhubarb cider from Turners in Kent. You’ll also find a great range of locally distilled artisan spirits, house-made cordials, and freshly squeezed seasonal juices.

To give you some background, Sculthorpe Mill is a water mill built in 1757 and sits atop of the River Wensum. Now the historic building, a ‘destination pub with rooms’, has been launched by siblings Siobhan and Caitriona Peyton, Norfolk residents of twenty years. Spending a six-figure sum, they have stylishly transformed this building with ten bedrooms with the help of acclaimed interior designer Shaun Clarkson. 

It seems the Peyton family have hospitality in their blood. They have worked their whole lives in some of London’s most innovative and ground-breaking restaurants and bars. Working with their brother Oliver Peyton OBE in the Atlantic Bar and Grill – a regular London haunt of mine back in the day – Mash microbreweries and, most recently, Peyton and Byrne restaurants in London’s most prestigious art galleries and British bakery shops on the high street. 

Some fashionable looking locals were adorning the front of the mill taking drinks and bar meals overlooking the river on the new outdoor patio. To the back of the pub, there’s a charming flower covered pergola dining area, and beyond a beautiful lawn and garden with lots of tables and pretty lights by the river. 

There are two cosy snug room areas to eat or drink inside. The public bar area provides an informal and buzzy atmosphere, then there’s private dining downstairs donning Dolce and Gabbana style wallpaper. The upstairs dining, available for private parties, has lots of character – there’s some serious wooden beams to view! 

Siobhan said: “Central to our approach is a belief that a great country pub is accessible to all and that the pub itself is the soul of the building.” 

It is fabulous to know that Sculthorpe Mill is on the culinary map of Norfolk, and I’m sure it will become a firm favourite for many who enjoy a lovely pub atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and tasty food. 

Things to know: the shorter garden menu is served Monday and Tuesday (prices from £11.50) and the full restaurant menu from Wednesday to Sunday (prices from £6). Sunday roast lunches start from £14.50. A bar menu is also available (prices from £4). It’s advisable to book, however, you will be offered the bar menu if it’s very busy so you won’t go unfed!

For staycations, foodie breaks and weekend getaways, six bedrooms offer just the right degree of comfort and luxury, plus an excuse to indulge in the superb wine list. From family suites to doubles and dog-friendly rooms, all boast views of the Mill’s gorgeous gardens and of course, the River Wensum, a site of Special Scientific Interest. Rates start from £110 per night inclusive of a hearty Norfolk breakfast.



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