16th March 2022
Sarah Hardy tucks in at The Dabbling Duck in the heart of Norfolk
Where did you go?
My husband and I ate out at The Dabbling Duck in Great Massingham, between Swaffham and Fakenham. It is set between two ponds, complete with ducks, of course, in a super pretty village.
What’s the vibe?
It’s a laid back, unpretentious sort of place, beloved by villagers and those prepared to travel a bit further for interesting food in charming surroundings. Expect beams, wood burners, bookshelves aplenty, several different dining areas and a bar with sofas. Prints from yesteryear adorn the walls; there are masses of candles, pretty floral displays, and it’s all very pleasing on the eye.
Who’s in the team?
Husband and wife Mark and Sally Dobby celebrate 10 years at the pub next year and have a loyal team which includes head chef Dale Smith. The staff are young and friendly, and smart in their black logoed t-shirts and aprons.
Tell us about the menu
Food is served from breakfast onwards, with people encouraged to come in for coffee and cake during the day, too. There’s a mixture of classics, like fish and chips and burgers, plus more ambitious offerings including stone bass. As you’d expect, much is sourced locally – look out for a map of local suppliers in the bar – and it’s seasonally based. There is a separate ducklings menu for little ones, with favourites like sausage and chips on offer, and Sunday lunch is a popular choice. Takeaways are also available.
There are starters and small plates so take your pick. We had warm and moist duck brioche with crispy skin butter (£4) and torched mackerel with roasted kohlrabi, pickled apple and lemongrass and ginger tea (£8), pictured, which was nice and sharp and refreshing, with the fish benefitting from the Oriental sauce. We could have tried the squash soup of the day or pan-fried pigeon breast.
There are classics alongside fancier mains plus three daily specials were chalked up on a board. Himself had Rendang curry with prawns (£15.75) which came with jasmine rice and a large roti flatbread to help mop up all that juicy curry. Described as having a bit of kick, it was rich and satisfying – with plenty of prawns.
I opted for something from the specials: a 10oz gammon steak with a duck’s egg and smoked pineapple salsa – and lots of beef dripping fries (£16) for extra oomph! The meat was tender and the salsa gave a sweet and sour taste to the dish.
The winter salad with pears and walnuts caught my eye as a healthy option, while the pan roasted duck on the next table looked excellent!
I went for sticky banoffee pudding, with plenty of ice cream (£7.50), pictured, which was surprisingly light and gave a lovely sweet finish to the meal while Himself, probably after all that brioche, only managed two scoops of sorbet (£2 a scoop) and declared well satisfied!
Their pizzas are a thing, aren’t they?
Yes, there is a wood-fired pizza oven and pizzas are available in the barn and garden in the warmer weather.
What about dietary requirements?
The menu is clearly marked up, and the staff are happy to offer advice.
How about drinks?
There’s a good cocktail menu and a gin menu, with the pub’s own gin, Mucky Duck, on offer. The wine list is comprehensive – I had a very pleasant glass of house white, Cintila from Portugal, and Woodforde’s and Adnams beers are available.
Anything else we should know?
The pub has eight bedrooms, some in the pub itself and the rest in the garden. There is also a self-catering cottage, The Ducking, which sleeps six and is a couple of doors away. New this year is The Barrack House, offering more rooms or self-catering.
Sum it all up then
Who wouldn’t want this place as their local? It’s got everything going for it, including its gorgeous setting. Well done all!
The Dabbling Duck, Great Massingham, 01485 520827 www.thedabblingduck.co.uk
Photography © Sally Dobby