Two and a half years of monthly visits to Lowestoft, and we have become experts on the local dining experience with all its eccentricities. Our explorations most recently led us to The Jolly Sailors in Pakefield.
Booking ahead in Lowestoft is usually a good idea although it depends on your eatery (and whether they deem it necessary to answer the phone). Otherwise, it’s back to the lovely Harvester – which has sustained us on numerous occasions. I would like to take a moment to thank The Ropeworks, an oasis, you have saved us a number of times but man cannot live on pies alone, even if they are Pieminister pies.
Thus we stepped out of the taxi at The Jolly Sailors Pakefield. This modernised pub overlooks the North Sea. An old fishing pub which has now shed the spit and sawdust, sticky carpets and tar-stained ceilings for a modern, Farrow & Ball painted, grey wood panelled, light spacious interior.
The restaurant is in one rectangular room to the side of the bar, with a picture window at one end. We were shown to our table by our smiling waitress, tap water was brought without asking along with the menu. The menu and specials, not surprisingly had a seafood bias, although I would guess that most of the seafood on the menu has never seen the aqua gleam (joking) of the North Sea. They may not have been entirely disingenuous as they did have a Catch of the Day. Alongside seafood, there was plenty of meat, from steaks to burgers and even southern fried chicken. Vegetarians have three appetising dishes – something for everyone on a well-balanced menu.
We started by ordering a bottle of Ormarine Picpoul De Pinet, a wine that we have enjoyed before and it didn’t disappoint. We decided to save space for dessert (after seeing two go past to another table). First up Nibbles, Garlic Bread with Cheese and green olives (£4 + £4.50).
This is where things started to go wrong, flavour had taken the night off. Our garlic bread had not seen any garlic and the cheese lacked enough flavour to compensate. Disappointed we moved on to our mains, thinking anyone can make a mistake. ‘A’ decided on an old favourite, classic French mussels, warm baguette and skinny fries (£12). I went for the pan roasted hake, red pepper & potato rosti, tender stem broccoli, wild mushroom & chive butter sauce (£13).
Let us start with mussels, a few basic points: in future serve them in a hot dish (preferably something which holds its heat), have an extra bowl for the shells, a finger bowl from the beginning and please, please soak and wash your mussels, this can be a pain to do but who wants to eat sand and grit. ‘A’ was not best pleased.
On to the roast hake. This looked great but once more arrived on a barely warm plate which cooled very quickly, along with the food. The rosti was delicious and a nice texture the same for the stem broccoli, however, the rest of the meal suffered from a general lack of flavour; the wild mushroom sauce being very bland.
We were still holding out hope for a stupendous dessert. Forgetting those cholesterol readings I ordered the panna cotta, compressed strawberries and white chocolate biscotti. To be honest, this dish was very Instagrammable, sitting on a dark plate. The strawberries were full of flavour which was just as well, as no flavour was to be found anywhere else. I’ve been told not to swear on this blog but believe me this is pushing my limits…
I’d love to be able to recommend the Jolly Sailors and in many ways they do a lot right, but in the end it is about the food. And here it is simply not good enough, at this price we certainly would expect better – time to catch the wind guys and change tack before it’s too late.
Loo Review (PMC Rating): ★★★☆☆ Clean and functional.
The Jolly Sailors, Pakefield St, Lowestoft NR33 0JS Saturday 22nd September 2018