After our visit to see the Tony Cragg exhibition at Houghton Hall, we headed to the Dabbling Duck in Great Massingham for dinner. It was our second visit to the pub and it definitely won’t be our last.
Let me share my honest review of the Dabbling Duck in Great Massingham.
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About the Dabbling Duck
Located in the delightful village of Great Massingham in North Norfolk, the Dabbling Duck is a charming pub that serves tasty food and also offers accommodation for the night. If you are considering staying at the Dabbling Duck, you can read guest reviews here.
This review focuses on the Dabbling Duck as a dining establishment. We ate our dinner inside the pub. You will have a slightly different if you sit in the garden or barn as they are different settings with their own menus.
Before there was the Dabbling Duck, the building (built in the late 19th century) housed the Rose & Crown pub. It was neglected and two local farmers saved the pub from redevelopment in 2006. In 2013, they brought in Mark Dobby as the third owner because he had the experience they needed to take the pub to another level.
Food & Drink
It’s not easy to decide what to order at the Dabbling Duck as the pub menu is full of tantalising options. They also have a specials board which changes regularly. There were even several options for those that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and/or dairy-free.
The chef, Dale Smith, believes in using local ingredients whenever possible. It’s modern pub food with a bit of an Asian influence. The Dabbling Duck is known for their game dishes as their pheasant, partridge, pigeon, woodcock, rabbit and venison is prepared on site.
Of course they have traditional pub favourites like burgers, fish & chips, and curry too, but it’s not your standard fare. For example, the fish & chips came with minted mushy peas and a curry mayo.
I had the Sri Lakan curry which came with tumeric basmati rice and coconut roti bread. It was creamy with just the right amount of spice. I enjoyed the sweetness that the coconut brought to the roti bread. This curry was better than many I have had at upscale Indian restaurants.
My husband, Russell, had the duck. It was served with confit carrots and charred spring onion. The blackberry and port sauce complimented the meat perfectly. While I loved my curry, I think this duck was even better.
While the portions were generous, the dessert menu was too tempting to pass up. We didn’t want anything to heavy so we opted for the Strawberry Daiquiri Eton Mess. I enjoyed the flavour that the lime added to the dish, but I missed the larger chunks of strawberry and meringue typically in this dish.
They also have a great drink menu (including Adnam’s, Woodforde’s, wine, gin, and more), but since we had a long day and had to drive home, we stuck to soft drinks. Next time, we will have to try their own “Mighty Duck” gin.
You can check out their sample menus here.
The Dabbling Duck is a traditional pub, so it feels warm and cozy. The bar is made from a single piece of ancient Norfolk oak. The fireplace dominates the main room, and there are tables on either side, spaced out nicely. It wasn’t too noisy although all the tables were full when we visited. We had a table by the window, so we could also look out at the village. Some of the walls had books and photographs.
The staff was friendly and the service was well-paced. Most of the people working at the Dabbling Duck are locals.
I would classify the prices at Dabbling Duck as moderate, as there are many other pubs that are cheaper. Still, it’s a good value because of the high quality of the food that they serve which is comparable to many more expensive restaurants.
Overall Review of the Dabbling Duck
The Dabbling Duck is definitely something special. Not only do they have excellent food at fair prices, but the atmosphere is charming too. It’s one of my favourite pubs in North Norfolk.
You can read the reviews from other guests here.
Things to Do Near the Dabbling Duck
If you are planning to visit the Dabbling Duck, it might be worthwhile to check out some other attractions in the vicinity.
Houghton Hall was built in the early 18th century by Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. The estate passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the 18th Century and remains a family home. It has been open to the public since 1976.
The estate is known to host art exhibits, but even without a special event it’s worth a visit. The Hall is one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in the country and the grounds are lovely to walk around. You don’t want to miss the fantastic five-acre walled garden.
Sandringham is the beloved country retreat for Queen Elizabeth II. It’s typically where the royal family celebrates Christmas.
During the spring, summer, and autumn, you can tour the house and visit the gardens. It’s also nice to go for a walk in the Royal Park which includes almost 243 hectares. There is also a new Children’s Adventure Play Area inspired by the Duchess of Cambridge’s 2019 Chelsea Flower Show garden. It’s one of the best places to take kids in Norfolk. Get more information here.
With it’s stone keep and massive earthworks, Castle Rising Castle is one of the most famous 12th-century castles in England. In the 14th century was the luxurious residence of Queen Isabella, widow (and alleged murderess) of Edward II. English Heritage members can visit for free. Get more information about English Heritage membership here.
Get more information about visiting Castle Rising here.
Castle Acre is a small village where you can find the ruins of a castle and priory. The main road into the village still runs through the Bailey Gate, which is one of two stone gatehouses added to the massive earthwork defences around 1200.
The motte and bailey castle was founded soon after the Battle of Hastings by the first William de Warenne, a close associate of William the Conqueror. The Castle Acre Priory was the home of the England’s first Cluniac order of monks.
Both the Castle and Priory are English Heritage sites so free for members. Non-members can visit the Castle for free but will need to pay for parking and admission to the Priory. Get more information about English Heritage membership here.
Get more information about visiting Castle Acre Castle and Priory here.
Read about other castles in Norfolk worth visiting.
Dabbling Duck FAQs
Yes. They collected track and trace information when we arrived. Masks were required when not at your table. The tables were spaced out and the staff wore face coverings.
If you would like to sit inside the pub, you should make a reservation to avoid disappointment. Outdoor tables and those in the barn cannot be booked in advance.
The Dabbling Duck is located on Abbey Road by the village green in Great Massingham. It’s about an hour drive from Norwich or 25 minute drive from King’s Lynn.
The closest train station would be King’s Lynn. From there, you could walk to the Kettlewell Lane bus stop and catch the 49A bus to Great Massingham, which would take about 30 minutes.
There is free parking available on the street and by the village green.
Yes, but you cannot book the outdoor areas (or the barn) in advance. These tables operate on a first come, first serve basis.
Yes. They welcome children of all ages with a special child friendly menu. High chairs are available and there is a large enclosed garden with a children’s play castle.
While we didn’t see any dogs during our visit, their website says that well-behaved dogs are welcome. They even have a doggy menu.
Yes. Please ask the staff for the password.
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