Mud, mud, glorious mud

EATING OUT

Riverside, 27 King St, King's Lynn, Norfolk P30 1HA. Tel: 01553 773134. Open Monday to Saturday 12noon-2pm, 7-10pm. Average price per person pounds 25. Access and Visa cards accepted

There are those who maintain that mud-flat chic is rather last year: but pah! The pleasures of sitting, at the end of the day, overlooking beached boats and bits of polythene bags, seagulls, murky water and mud, must surely be agreed to be timeless, especially with a delicious lobster soup in front of one. I was scoffed at by a Norfolk friend when I said I was dining out in King's Lynn. He claimed there was nothing pretty there, apart from Tuesday Market, an historic square.

The Riverside, in fact, is just off Tuesday Market, which is indeed a charming, old-fashioned town square: the sort of square where you could imagine the BBC filming a costume drama, if they got rid of all the cars and cashpoints. Things get even nicer as you approach the restaurant. An archway next to a small theatre and arts centre gives way onto a courtyard with an almost Mediterranean feel, surrounded by mellow red-brick buildings and greenery, leading past a beautifully flat lawn and up a flight of wooden steps overlooking the estuarising Ouse, at its flattest, muddiest and ousiest.

It would be very nice indeed to dine on the terrace, which is open from 10am to 10 pm, on "clement" days. This, alas, was not one of them, being more of a howling wind and pouring with rain style day; so it was a relief to finish fighting the umbrella and burst into the welcoming candlelit warmth of the restaurant.

Riverside is set in a 15th-century wool warehouse, conserved by the National Trust. It is small and oblong, with one end overlooking the river: where there are three sought-after tables which are worth requesting. It's the sort of place designers would shriek and bite to get their hands on, with exposed historic brickwork and a high, pointy ceiling criss-crossed by weathered ships' timbers. The designer who did get their hands on it, however, was not into neutral-walled, wooden-floored metropolitan rustical- minimalism at all. No. Curtains with pelmets, displays of crockery, a patterned blue carpet, mock art-deco wall-lights and sturdy upholstered repro dining chairs bore witness to that. But much as my snooty metropolitan mind was thinking "Darlings, I'd kill to loose the wall-lights and put halogen over the beams," I couldn't help feeling, with rain lashing against the windows, it was bloody cosy just as it was.

It was early evening as I sat down, looking across the river to the docks and utilitarian sheds of a Del Monte canning factory, and downstream into the openness and wild Norfolk light, towards the sea. Inside, the air seemed to be filled with the tinkling of piped music. This turned out, startlingly, to be a real piano, with a real pianist soothing the diners with Richard Clayderman hits and inoffensive arrangements of the works of Elton John.

I was dining alone on a Saturday night, but was immediately made to feel comfortable rather than freakish and nobody stared - well, not too much, anyway. A canape of not particularly interesting curly cheese straws was served when the menu was brought to the table but, the ordering done, things immediately began to look up with the arrival of warm home-made brown bread buns. Riverside buys its ingredients daily from local suppliers and in Norfolk, what with the shellfish and the fields full of vegetables, that immediately sets things off to a flying start.

Lobster soup was lovely: piping hot, creamy tasty, well-judged on the brandy, generous on the lobster and somehow exactly what you felt like eating, which is more than can be said in many a fancier restaurant. By this time the dining room was full and as darkness fell, with the lights twinkling on the water and the candles twinkling on the tables, there was really quite a sense of occasion. At the same time there was the rather formal air of best behaviour which often hovers around in restaurants outside cities: fronts of cardigans and backs of hair patted into place and handbags held defensively across chests like mini-riot shields. This was enhanced by the waitresses, standing alertly to attention at the end of the room: their striped shirts, black skirts and stockings, and keys jangling at the waist, creating an impression somewhere between rather gorgeous staff nurses and prison warders.

The wine list, though, spoke of more hedonistic worlds. I thought it was great, with the vast majority of bottles under pounds 15, some generous pricing - Louis Latour Macon Lugny at pounds 14.50, for example - and a tempting selection of bin-ends such as a Louis Jadot '88 ler Cru Beaune at pounds 30. Glasses of house wine came in three sizes, ranging from pounds l.75 to pounds 2.75, and there was an impressive range of 16 malt whiskeys, plus six Irish and two Bourbons. I indulged myself with a half bottle of J Moreau et Fils '94 Chablis at pounds 8.95 which glided down a treat.

For main course I ordered monkfish tail, baked and served with a spicy oriental sauce with yoghurt and rice, which sounded an eminently happy combination. It arrived with perfectly done vegetables, tasting as much like supermarket vegetables as Louis Jadot 88 ler Cru Beaune tastes like Hirondelle. The oriental sauce was too hot and unexciting but the monkfish morsels were fresh, light, big and juicy, really perfect.

It seemed both irresponsible and lazy to only try one dessert, so I selected an apricot and almond tart - which didn't taste as apricotty as it might - a triple chocolate bavois which I enjoyed very much, thought the subtlety of the bavois was rather swamped by the chocolate sauce which tasted like the sort of delicious meltdown you might make with a bar of Bournville at home. Best - although the base was too hard and kept shooting all over the plate - was lime cheesecake, with a light, creamy texture and a wonderful taste blend of sweetness, cheesiness and tang of lime. My meal, including three desserts and wine, came to pounds 39 plus service. Excellent value.

I thought Riverside was a real find: cosy, atmospheric, friendly, with food which was fresh, wholesome, tasty, unpretentious and expertly done. The perfect place to eat after a bracing day on the mud-flats. !

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory