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“A find in the Fens ”

Written on: 07/06/2009

Good Points
Fabulous food of unmatched quality, prepared conscientiously.
Menu that 'rings the changes' regularly.
Charming house and garden in rural location, but accessible from King's Lynn and Wisbech.
Unstuffy, warm and friendly welcome.

Bad Points
Restaurant open only Wednesdays to Saturdays

General Comments
A find in the Fens

Somerville House Restaurant, Terrington St John

A restaurant really does have to be first-rate for us to make a 240 miles round trip from Birmingham to near King ' s Lynn in Norfolk three or four times, each year since 2003 (and regretting that we don ' t live nearer so that we can visit monthly!).

Situated a few hundred yards from the A47, between Wisbech and King ' s Lynn, Somerville House is a haven of peaceful fine dining. Formerly a village doctor ' s surgery in Church Road, in the village of Terrington St John, Somerville House, where the owners provides some of the best evening meals and Sunday lunches in the Fens and the whole of north Norfolk.

The format is simple and economical: Somerville offers a two- or three-course a la carte menu, changed monthly, for under £30 (excluding wine). This choice is supplemented by special evenings, including two-course ' tummy-filler 'traditional meals (under £20) and four-course seasonal special evenings. The wine choice is extensive without being lavish, either in provenance or cost. There are always the chef ' s informed recommendations on the menu, which we usually follow.

One evening in late May, 2009, we enjoyed a special four-course ' Spring Evening special 'for £35. It began with aperitifs in the walled garden and orchard " the source of the plum chutney, to come in the autumn. The menu included an hors d ' oeuvre of broad bean and sorrel flan. A further salad course was of local salad vegetables and quails 'eggs. A fish course of line-caught sea bass and double-baked Cromer crab souffl followed.

The main course was of roast spring lamb, with Norfolk asparagus grown a few fields away, complemented by local new potatoes and minted rhubarb puree.

After a suitable interval, a strawberry and meringue slice was served accompanied by a palate-cleansing strawberry sorbet. The meal ended with freshly-made coffee and (our special request) blueberry and apple tea. Sublime!

On another evening in May, for one of the ' regular 'evening meals, we were, as usual, greeted by the front-of-house patronne. Over an aperitif and exquisitely-prepared hors d ' oeuvres, we mulled over a choice of a two- or three-course meal. No competition " it ' s the three course every time! Typically, there are four choices for each of the three courses, including one vegetarian option.

In six years, the standard has been consistently conscientious, and the menus have changed seasonally and imaginatively to avoid any hint of repetition. The unstuffy and friendly welcome has also been consistent, including end-of-evening personal farewell from the chef.

Some people arrive and leave Somerville House by taxi (easily arranged from Wisbech or King ' s Lynn). Others, like us, travel from further afield without hesitation, remembering that the Somerville House post-code extends the length of Church Rd. And we come back again and again, finding something new to savour.

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