Elveden Inn is a former coaching inn just off the A11, near Thetford and the Elveden forest Centre Parcs. It has rooms to stay in, but the main reason for most to visit is the food, as it is a locally renowned gastropub.
Inside there is plenty of seating, but if it is nice you can pop out to the patio which sits beside the garden and playground for children, including a parcours route which looks great fun for 10-year-olds.
The waiting staff were mainly enthusiastic and smiling young locals, who seemed a bit unused to being waiters. One lad was oddly pleased that he hadn’t ‘even looked at the specials board’ halfway through lunch, while a waitress managed to get some of her hair in one plate of food; she was suitably apologetic when replacing the dish.
I went for the mushroom ‘cottage pie’, which had button mushrooms in a white sauce of blended carrots and so much thyme, topped with chippings of new potatoes, and served with a little broccoli. The broccoli and potatoes were nice, but the sauce in the pie was just way too strong.
I’m told that the vegetables accompanying the roasts were broadly good, though the potatoes were a little dry. Pork came with crackling, cauliflower, potatoes, swede, cabbage, peas and a Yorkshire. The pork and the crackling were good.
Not so good was the turkey, which was described as too dry. It came with a smaller portion of most of the vegetables, plus some parsnip chunks and ‘pigs in blankets’. For those not used to British cuisine, the last are small sausages wrapped in bacon. Apparently pretty good.
Another British classic way of preparing and preserving food is potting. Simply cram as much of a foodstuff as you can into a pot or jar, then pour melted butter over it to fill the gaps, thus limiting spoilage and making it taste richer when you eat it. So I hear, anyway – I have never eaten anything potted, as it is normally seafood or meat. Perhaps I should make some potted veggie protein. Back to the review; this one was potted chicken with lemon and thyme, and it didn’t impress the diner as it had very little flavour, with the citrus and herb undetectable.
The kitchen was on solid ground with the final main course. Hard to get bread, olives, houmous and dipping oil/vinegar wrong and they didn’t, with good bread and reasonable portions of the rest.
Also more impressive were the desserts. We had three of the specials between us. Eton mess was the expected mash of cream, meringue and fruit, but – instead of strawberries or raspberries – it was cherries which added the colour. This seems to be a popular combination at the moment, and it is sensible; cherries offset the sweetness and richness better than the berries.
Trio of sorbet was mango (creamy), strawberry (sweet) and citrus (sharp), which combined very well and were a good end to the meal.
Brownie was served with the same cherry cream as the Eton mess, plus a scoop of standard ice cream. It went down very well.
The Elveden Inn was a mixed experience, then. A pleasant place, children friendly and bright, the quality of the food and service didn’t quite match up. Certainly not a bad lunch, but we felt it could have been better for the money. Between us we had two starters, three mains and three desserts plus a few drinks, and it came to nearly £100. If I am in the area again I will check out the Elveden Courtyard cafe, rather than return here. It is actually owned by the same people, I believe, and has the same local supplier philosophy, but seemed to have bigger portions of classic pub grub.
Address: 85 Brandon Road, Elveden