“ Address: Stow Bardolph / King's Lynn Norfolk PE34 3HT „
The Hare Arms is a large but pretty country pub in West Norfolk, situated just off the A10 between Downham Market and King's Lynn. It is signposted from the A10 but you will need to keep your eyes peeled. The pub is situated just up a country lane. I was advised that it was very popular and that if you wanted to eat in the restaurant (particularly on a Saturday which is when I visited) you needed to book. However, as we had been elsewhere beforehand we couldn't be sure of our timings but checked with the pub and discovered that you can order in the bar section up to 10pm.
We arrived at 9pm on a Saturday night and managed to find a place to park. The pub has a large car park but it was pretty full. We entered through the conservatory and unable to find any tables free in the pub, and the restaurant being full, we ended up sitting here. It was actually a really nice place to sit, with wooden tables and chairs and big windows. Although it was getting dark, the small conservatory still had a light, airy feel to it and you could hear the peacocks in the garden. Décor wise there were some old metal signs on the walls, and on the windowsill was a rack of leaflets for local attractions. I would guess you could seat about 16-18 people here is all tables were full to capacity. The bar is more traditional with leather banquettes, and stools, old pans, plates and clocks decorating the wall.
We ordered at the bar and you can set up a tab with your credit card or car keys. I was really impressed with the extent of the bar menu, having expected something quite simple and limited. There were a number of vegetarian options, and in the end I plumped for a vegetable wellington and my friend a steak and peppercorn pie. Other options included local sausages and pork dishes, as well as lamb, chicken or steaks. They also offered salads and sandwiches for those wanting something lighter. There was also an extensive Daily Specials menu which included local asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. It seems the pub is very keen to support local suppliers, and I think that is a great thing. Both our main courses were £11 which I think is quite expensive for pub 'bar food'. My wellington was filled with mushrooms, tomatoes and mascarpone cheese. The puff pasty casing was light and not at all greasy or overcooked. This option came with a garden salad which was a good sized, well presented and colourful salad. Lots of lettuce (admittedly not the most exciting variety) topped with cucumber, cherry tomato, red onion, peppers and grated carrot. My friend's steak pie came with new potatoes and vegetables (broccoli, green beans and something else that I have now forgotten). He really enjoyed it and commented that the meat was of a good quality.
At this point I would also like to comment on the service, the staff were always very polite and friendly, we were greeted with genuine smiles, and those that brought our food and cleared our tables also would smile and talk to you. It makes a pleasant change from some of the grumpy bar staff I seem to come across in London. As busy as it was, we didn't feel we waited a long time eiter.
Although we didn't eat in the restaurant, I understand from my friend that it is pricier that the bar menu, with a more sophisticated range of dishes. I had a quick look at the menu and this seemed to be the case with dishes such as monkfish with tiger prawns and guinea fowl (both about £17). Top price mains were steaks at £22.50. However, the vegetarian main courses were not significantly different from the bar menu. A quick peak through the door showed that the restaurant was 'smart pub' in décor, with padded seats and heavier tables.
Whilst I enjoyed my meal, I did think it quite pricey for pub grub, but it was of a good quality. As mentioned previously, the service was very good. The general atmosphere here was pleasant and the pub was clean and tidy.