A Truly Family Friendly Pub By The Sea
Lacon Arms (Hemsby, Norfolk)
Member Name: sandemp
Lacon Arms (Hemsby, Norfolk)
Advantages: Great friendly service, great food, fantastic play area
Disadvantages: The portacabin toilets
Situated on Sea View Road, Hemsby, The Lacon Arms describes itself as "Hemsby's Family Friendly Pub Beside The Sea". Although technically one Sea View Road, The Lacon Arms is actually right at the end of Beach Road, which runs right through Hemsby's tourist area, from Kingsway, past the various holiday camps and on to the beach. It's very difficult to miss the Lacon Arms if walking down to the beach and it is somewhere that we have visited on more than one occasion, both this year and last. The following review is based on our experiences this year, as the Lacon Arms has been updated to include a new area, The LA Lounge since last year. Although The Lacon Arms is a pub, it also serves hot food daily and holds a carvery on Sundays and buffet on Saturday. We visited twice during our latest holiday, once to sample the carvery and once for a main meal, with there being three of us in the party, myself, my partner and our two year old son, Freddy.
From the road The Lacon Arms looks like your standard, traditional pub, very homely and welcoming and there are plenty of picnic-style tables out front, should you wish to people watch as you enjoy a tipple or two. You might imagine that the interior of the pub is dark, crowded and dingy, but it is decorated in such a way that it feels cosy, without being oppressive. In fact the décor is light and airy while still being in keeping with the exterior. There is an area within the pub with dedicated dining tables, but meals can also be eaten outside the front, in the garden or at one of the cosier tables. There is plenty of room between tables to wheel a buggy or wheelchair and there is step-less access between the various areas, meaning the whole establishment is child and disabled friendly. The carvery is served in the newer LA Lounge annex, which has a far more modern feel and could even be described as looking like an upmarket function room. Indeed the LA Lounge does double up as a function room and can be hired for special occasions. We loved difference between the two areas, and Freddy was particularly impressed with the wall of sparkly lights, that he delighted in telling us were stars.
==A Warm Welcome==
After being advised that we would be best booking for the Sunday carvery, we first paid a visit to The Lacon Arms on the Saturday. Unlike many pubs the staff all wear a smart uniform, which surprised me but at the same time added an air of professionalism to the establishment. This professionalism did not prevent the staff from being friendly though, because all the staff we came into contact with were extremely helpful and friendly. After booking our table for the next day we were going to stop for a drink, but the very helpful barman recommended that as we had a young child with us, it would be a better idea to visit an indoor soft play centre across the road. This play centre is part of the same group, but far more suitable as somewhere for Freddy to play.
Carvery is served on a Sunday between the hours of noon and five and as we were advised it is advisable to book in advance as it does get very busy. As it was a nice day and we had decided to have a drink in the garden before our meal, we actually arrived shortly after the Lacon Arms opened at 11am. As with the previous day the staff were extremely welcoming and our drinks order was dealt with by a friendly yet efficient barman/waiter. I cannot remember exactly how much our drinks order came to but it was on a par with other independent pubs I've visited, with me receiving change from a tenner for a pint of lager, double vodka/lime/soda and fruit shoot. As well as cash, you can also pay for your drink and food with either a debit or credit card. The choice of lagers was slightly limited but I must say that my vodka/lime/soda was perfection itself, I often find that bar staff can't manage to get the ratios of lime to vodka right, but every one I had here was perfectly balanced and not at all bitter.
As I've said we had decided to enjoy these drinks in the garden, which is fully enclosed and features a patio area (along with beautifully planted flower boxes) along with a grassed area. There are fewer tables in this garden than out the front, but still plenty of places to sit. The real attraction to this garden though, is the purpose built children's area. This is not your standard children's play area, but a huge, wooden pirate ship, featuring slides, "rock wall", netting and hidey holes. There are two slides on the ship, a large curly one for older children and a smaller one for toddlers. Freddy had the time of his life playing on the ship, practising his climbing skills, playing hide-a-boo and sliding down the slide. While I did keep a very close eye on him, I did appreciate the liberal coating of wood chips under and around the ship that would cushion a fall if it had happened. Although we didn't have the most sunny of weather while on holiday, the garden does make full use of what there is, as it really is a sun trap and felt warmer than the surrounding areas.
After enjoying our drink (and play) in the garden we made our way into the LA Lounge where we were shown to our reserved table. The carvery and drinks are paid for at a bar in the corner of the lounge with the carvery being reasonably priced at £7.95 for adults and £4.95 for children. Although the carvery does get very busy, the tables are laid out in such a way as to make it easy to manoeuvre around them when pushing a buggy, without worrying that you are going to bump into anyone. The tables and chairs were all new, clean and the chairs are comfortable. Highchairs are available, but we brought Freddy's portable highchair as this allows him to feel more part of the family meal.
Rather than waiter service, you get your meal by queuing up next to the carvery and then presenting the ticket you received when you paid. When we visited there were a choice of four different meats, turkey, pork with crackling, honey and mustard glazed ham and British or Irish Beef. There were also Yorkshire puddings, sausages, roast potatoes, new potatoes and a vast range of vegetables including peas, sweetcorn, carrots, cauliflower cheese, and swede. All of the vegetables were steaming hot, fresh rather than frozen and the aromas coming from the carvery were simply mouth watering. If a full roast is not your thing there are also a number of other options available, including such offering as Liver and Bacon and steak and onion pie along with vegetarian options such as vegetable crumb bake. As all three of us are firm lovers of our traditional Sunday roast, we all went for the meat options, with my partner choosing beef, myself pork and Freddy turkey. While filling our plates the helpfulness of the staff once more came into play as the ever-friendly barman held Freddy's plate as I filled it. While you can take as much vegetables and side dishes as you like, you can only go up to the carvery the once.
All three of the different meats we had were beautifully cooked and tender. As I cut up Freddy's turkey I sneaked a taste and it was juicy, tender and full of flavour, which Freddy definitely agreed with as the "Mmmms" testified to. My partner's beef was also beautifully cooked, unlike many carveries this was still pink and the piece I tasted was divine. My own pork as also gorgeous, cooked to perfection, tender and full of flavour, while the crackling was crisp, non-greasy, with that slight salt kick. The Yorkshire puddings were light and fluffy, the roast potatoes had a crispy skin with fluffy interior and the vegetables all tasted fresh and packed with flavour. Gravy was also available, and this certainly did not come out of a packet, it tasted wonderful and complimented the meat and veg perfectly. All three of us really enjoyed our meals and there was so much food that none of us completely cleared our plates (although Freddy had a really good try). We even ended up taking a doggy bag back with us, as we were all "meated" out and didn't want to let any of the food go to waste.
There is also a desert menu for if you have any room left, and I must admit that I did leave room for a divine piece of cheesecake and Freddy had just about enough room for a big bowl of fresh strawberries. I'm not sure if it is on all year round but there was an offer running for two desserts for £5 with two different cheesecakes on offer, along with strawberries and cream and others to suit most palates. Although the carvery area was very obviously busy and there were other reservations, at no time were we made to feel rushed and we were allowed to take our time over our meals and final drinks. Based solely on the carvery experience I would give the Lacon Arms five stars out of five and would definitely recommend that if you are in the Hemsby area on Sunday you eat here, but we enjoyed our meal so much that we decided to return on the Wednesday to eat from the main menu.
==A Second Visit==
Although the pub itself is open daily, the days and times that food are served depend on the season, so I would strongly recommend checking out the website before you visit. While the menu is not hugely expansive there is a good variety of different meals on offer, including plenty of vegetarian options and some more adventurous choices. I do not intend to run through the menu options, instead concentrating on what we ate and once more recommending that you visit the website listed at the bottom of this review to check out the full range of starters, mains, snacks and deserts.
We re-visited the Lacon Arms on a Wednesday lunchtime and on this occasion we were once more greeted by the friendly bar staff and this time seated in the main pub's dining area where we were close to the bar and had lots of natural light from the windows. Although this table had obviously seen a lot of use, it was spotlessly clean and the chairs were once more comfortable even after an extended period of sitting. After ordering our drinks we were left to peruse the menu and specials boards before ordering at the bar.
Although there were starters on offer, we decided to forgo these and start with our mains, of which there were a fair few choices. Feeling in a meaty mood I plumped for the char-grilled sirloin steak, which asked to be cooked medium-rare. Although I thought my partner would gave gone for something like lasagne, he too plumped for the steak, this time asking for it to be cooked medium-well. The children's menu covered most of the usual suspects for youngsters, including pizza, sausages and fish fingers, but also had some slightly more adventurous dishes such as vegetable cannelloni. As with the adult menu, younger vegetarians are catered for, which I felt was a nice touch, even though if you put a plate of food without meat on it in front of Freddy he would feel hard done by. We actually picked out the chicken dippers for Freddy asking that they not be served with beans.
It didn't take too long for our food to arrive, long enough for us to have a drink, make a visit to the free salad bar and for it to have been cooked from scratch, but not so long that our tummies were rumbling. Something we've come to realise about eateries in Hemsby is that the portion sizes are huge, and these were no exception. The steaks came with a huge portion of real chips (that is not frozen chips), that looked and tasted like they had come from a chip shop, along with grilled tomato, mushroom, onion rings and a small side salad. My steak was absolutely gorgeous and cooked to perfection, rather pink but not dripping with blood, cut like butter and melting in my mouth. Although I don't like my steak cooked as my partner does, he informed me that his too was perfect. It really makes a change to have proper chips as opposed to frozen in a pub restaurant, and they were lovely chips just like from a chip shop, and there were plenty of them. To be honest I found the portion size a little intimidating, but really enjoyed my meal even though I had to once more leave with a doggy bag in hand. My partner also enjoyed his meal, bravely clearing his plate.
Freddy's chicken dippers weren't like those that you'd find frozen in a bag advertised by that famous captain. These were home made, and very meaty, I did sneak a taste as I cut them up and they had so much more texture and flavour to them than their frozen counterparts, it's no wonder that Freddy cleared his plate. After he'd had his dinner, we decided to treat Freddy to an ice-cream and there were some interesting ones available sold in reusable, character pots. Freddy had the strawberry flavour that came in a monster pot, while the ice-cream was very nice, it was the only part of our meal that had been bought-in rather than made on the premises. Once the ice cream had been eaten, the very friendly barman took the container out to the kitchen and washed it out so that Freddy could take it away with him and it's now a toy he plays with regularly.
As with our previous visit, we couldn't have been made to feel more welcome and really enjoyed our meal. Once more, taking that sole meal into account I would have no hesitation recommending the Lacon Arms to all and sundry.
There are two sets of toilets within the Lacon Arms, one set indoors and another outside in a Portacabin affair. The indoor toilets were clean, well stocked with toilet paper and included a baby changing/disabled toilet. The outside toilets, I wasn't so keen on, there are steps up to the toilets themselves and there was something of a festival feel to the toilets themselves.
Although we didn't actually experience it there is regular entertainment held within The Lacon Arms including karaoke, games, guest vocalists and an Elvis tribute. Dogs are welcomed into the pub as long as they are on leads and water bowls are provided.
As a family we really enjoyed our meals at the Lacon Arms and spending time relaxing (and playing) in the garden. The staff are welcoming, friendly and helpful and while not at a gourmet standard the food far surpasses anything you would find in a well known pub chain. We left with full bellies after enjoying some tasty and filling food and didn't really spend a small fortune. So am I recommending you visit The Lacon Arms if in the Hemsby area? Well I think I can give that a resounding "yes", especially as we already have a couple of visits planned for next year when we'll once more be on holiday in the area.
Summary: A fantastic pub and restaurant beside the sea