Simon and Jenny Turner own The Boars in Spooner Row and The King’s Head in New Buckenham. Both places are synonymous with a warm welcome, good vibes, great food, stunning outdoor areas, fantastic wines, chilled cocktails, a cracking breakfast, and a brilliant playlist. Samantha Mattocks headed on over to find out more.
“Can you believe I have been at The Boars for five years now,” says Simon as we sit down for an update on all that has happened in the past couple of years over sparkling water – shared – and a chocolate mousse; all mine. “It will be officially five years in February, which is when Jenny and I took over, but I have now been behind the stoves at The Boars for five years.”
Which seems like a remarkably short amount of time to have made such an impression on the Norfolk food scene. Sunday lunches are packed, their monthly breakfast morning is full to bursting, and you can only get into one of their quiz nights if a team is away, such is the demand. Whatever Simon and Jenny are doing, they have certainly got the balance right. Part of this comes from their background – Jenny has always worked Front of House, including at Gibraltar Gardens and the York Tavern in Norwich before finding that gastropubs were her passion. Simon was always into food, from helping his parents in their The Good Food Shop in Surrey as a child to opening Elm Hill Brasserie in Norwich in 2005. “People still talk about Elm Hill, which is rather wonderful really,” says Simon. “I had never worked in a kitchen before; it was quite an adventure! That time at Elm Hill instilled a deep love for hospitality within us, and our mantra since then has always been the same – our guests should always leave happier than when they arrive. If you can pay the bills by making people happy, then that is pretty special.”
In 2019, Simon and Jenny went to The Boars, first working there and then as owners. Very soon, their passion for Mediterranean flavours came to the fore, gleaned through the time Simon spent in France and Belgium when he was younger, then through shared holidays spent in Spain with their seven-year-old daughter, Isabelle. Having just visited Egypt, influences from the Middle East are also appearing on the menu, such as their delicious focaccia, now flavoured with North African influences.
With The Boars up and running the way Simon and Jenny wanted, and with a great team around them, they purchased The King’s Head lease in New Buckenham at the start of 2022, a village pub with five rooms. Offering bed and breakfast, the rooms at The King’s Head are perfect for those wanting to explore the area while having a great base.
The two venues both have several things in common: great hospitality, a regularly changing seasonal menu that is utterly delicious, a vibrant wine and cocktail list, a cheese course worthy of a king, £10 Tuesdays, and an inviting outdoor space.
“We love the garden at The Boars,” says Simon. “We have worked hard to get it how we want it. It is quite a unique pub garden. There really is nothing better than a bustling summer day and hearing people outside enjoying themselves, while we serve them the very best in local and British produce.
“Meanwhile, at The King’s Head, we are looking to landscape the back area to make more of a beautiful path leading from the pub to the beer garden. We will host at least two garden parties there this summer. We ran our first garden party at The King’s Head last summer, and it was the most successful thing I can ever remember doing, with over 200 people coming to the pub on a Bank Holiday Monday. We had a barbecue and live music, and we’re looking forward to doing the same again this year.”
Simon is rightly proud that The King’s Head is very much at the heart of the local community. “I like to work behind the bar there on Friday nights, when I can,” he explains. “It has been hard to get our front at times with the kitchen so busy, and I love to talk to our regulars in the village and hear their stories as they relax with a drink. The King’s Head really is a fantastic pub at the heart of New Buckenham, and that is something Jenny and I are very proud of.”
With both pubs flourishing and the new menus being introduced for the summer, Simon says that it is the consistency that is key. “We offer classics with a twist – such as a Mediterranean influence on British flavours. I always say that the food we offer is good, brasserie-style food – great food that is just kept simple and done well. It is also about making sure the consistency is there, and that the food that goes out to our customers is of the same standard every time. I have a great team around me. Jenny and Emily Knights lead the Front of House team. In the kitchens, Tom Martins is my Senior Sous at The Boars, and Adam Edwards is Head Chef at The King’s Head. Everyone plays their part in making the experience as good as it can be. Most of the team are local, and we spend a lot of time together – including enjoying cheese and small plates, plus wine, after a great shift!
“I want to serve our guests food that makes them happy – I’m not trying to educate them. I also want to bring a sense of nostalgia to our diners, by giving them food that reminds them of holidays, time spent with friends and family. Hospitality is all about satisfaction; you get instant gratification from seeing a plate of food leave the kitchen and seeing the guests having a good time and enjoying what you’ve made. That is why I got into hospitality.”
Speaking of nostalgia and holidays, Simon introduced Dorset snails to The Boars menu in March, something that many people will only have tried when in France. “I have changed the menu over the years,” he explains. “First, I removed starters and instead offered small plates, which are incredibly popular. This year, I have introduced Dorset snails as one of those small plates. We sold out in two days from the first moment they went on the menu! I cook them with loads of garlic butter and a pastry lid that then soaks in all the wonderful juices. They are delicious! The snails themselves are from Dorset, and they are the best we have ever tasted – so tender; it is always great when British produce is better than the imports, such as with French snails. I think this will be a dish that will stay on our menu for a long time!”
Another product that is a firm favourite on the menu is Sunday Charcuterie’s Coppa. “We were out
on The Broads and purchased some of their produce to enjoy on the boat,” explains Simon. “As soon as we tasted it, we knew we had to get it on the menu! We serve it with pecorino cheese and capers, and it is very popular.”
While The Boars is open from 12pm every day, The King’s Head is open all day, making it a prime spot for people to meet for breakfast; as Simon says, they do breakfast every day for staying guests, so why not extend it. From a takeaway special of a bacon or sausage brioche bun with coffee for £6.50 to the full Great King’s Breakfast – two each of fried eggs, pork sausages, bacon, and hash browns, plus tomatoes, mushroom, and baked beans for £13. Both eggs Benedict and royale are on offer, with Serrano ham and smoked salmon for £9 and £10 respectively, as are avocado and eggs on toast for £8.75. American pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup (£7.50), porridge cooked with almond milk and served with fruit compote and honey (£6.50) and Greek yoghurt with granola, fresh fruit and honey (£6.50) are also on offer. From having a catch up with friends after dropping off the children at school to early business meetings done in style, The King’s Head offers a convivial space – and a perfect breakfast to run alongside.
“We offer Green Farm Estate Coffee at both pubs,” says Simon. “There is nothing more disappointing than having a bad coffee for breakfast or at the end of a great meal, and we love this blend. We like to keep things as local as we can, including CH Wines, Gyre & Gimble Gins, Cleveleys Meats, and more. We also use national produce when it is better – such as the Dorset snails. We love to share the very best with our guests, and it is that which keeps them coming back.”
With over 300 covers for Sunday lunch across both pubs, plus those who take advantage of the special nights, including Thirsty Thursdays at The King’s Head – with special offers on drinks, burgers, and small plates – it seems people are definitely enjoying all that Simon and Jenny offer.
As I prepare to leave, the thing that strikes me the most is how incredibly passionate Simon is about food. This a chef who truly cares about the produce, and about making the very best of that produce for the pleasure of others. Simon is full of energy, and is so engaged with what is in season, right now, and the flavours that they bring. It is little wonder that both places have a great vibe to them, as that energy is truly infectious.
“The best place to be is around the table, having food and drinks with people,” is Simon’s parting shot. “So why not come to The Boars and The King’s Head, and let us take care of the hard work while you have a great time with those you love.”
• Simon shares his tiramisu recipe – remember to share your photos with us #eatnourishdrink when you make this delicious dessert!