What’s not to love about this traditional seaside resort, with its famous Victorian pier and golden sands. Cromer is also well known for the local brown crab, which live on a chalk shelf in shallow waters – conditions said to produce a delectable flavour and plenty of white meat. No wonder the town hosts the World Crabbing Competition on the Esplanade every August, although you can have a go at catching the critters off the sea wall at other times. Try Cromer crab at Upstairs at No1, the seafront restaurant by renowned Norfolk chef Galton Blackiston. Dishes such as free-range pork, prawn and crab ramen promise a cut-above experience and are best enjoyed at a table by the window with sea views.
2. West Runton
Stride out on the Norfolk Coast Path and you’ll find Rocky Bottoms on the clifftop between Cromer and Sheringham (although you can cheat and come the back way by car). The setting is a 19th-century kiln, once owned by the London Brick Company and restored and extended in 2015 by the present owners to provide atmospheric dining spaces. But in summer, we’re sure you’d prefer a table on the terrace to enjoy the big skies and sea air (there’s a safe area of grass for children to run around in). Weybourne king crab salad is one of the stars of the menu (bring your own alcohol for a small corkage fee). Alternatively, gather a picnic featuring dressed crab from the seafood counter.
Sand, sea and bracing air have drawn visitors to this old fishing village for many years. They also come to ride the steam train on The Poppy Line to Holt and to wander the uplands cloaked in heather and gorse for fine views from the cliffs. Another vantage point is the terrace of Whelk Coppers Tea Rooms. But before your sit down with a plate of crab sandwiches and take in the uninterrupted sea views, take a closer look at the building, former fisherman’s cottages, which has wrought-iron gates said to have been designed by Walt Disney, a friend of the original owner, and interiors clad with Indian teak panels from a Royal Navy frigate. Alternatively, eat crab on the move from family run Joyful West’s Shellfish Bar.
Joyful West’s, 23 High Street, Sheringham NR26 8RE
T 01263 825444
They used to pan salt on the wild marshes here. Today, you’re more likely to see birdwatchers roaming Salthouse’s nature reserve to spot redshank and skylark in the summer months. Among the clutch of houses set back from the seashore is Cookies Crab Shop, an established favourite of locals, who come here to stock their larders and will whisper in your ear about how the seafood is excellent and you really must try it. There’s a large menu to consult. Order one of the hearty crab sandwiches and head out into that elemental sandscape.
5. Brancaster Staithe
Once a busy port, where sailing ships decanted cargoes of coal and grain for the biggest malt house in England, now the harbour at Brancaster Staithe welcomes a fishing fleet and sailing boats. The mudflats, carved with channels by the insistent tidal waters, also offer rich pickings for birdwatchers and scenic subjects for painters and photographers. Join the orderly queue outside the jolly little shack, The Crab Hut, which serves up baguettes stuffed with crab and salad.
Pack your crab tackle – line and weight, bucket and bacon (their favourite snack) – and join the hopeful fair-weather fishermen on the quay at Wells. You’ll need to be patient, although there
are plenty of the crustaceans to go around so long as you make sure to pop them back in the sea when your fun is done. Other diversions in this seaside town include the new arts centre due to open this summer at Wells Maltings on Staithe Street. Eat in at Wells Crab House – Frary’s Wells Dressed Crab keeps it local – or snack on the quay with a sandwich made of crab fresh off the boat from The Picnic Hut.
The Picnic Hut, 73 Staithe Street, Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1AN
T 01328 710343
7. Congham Hall
We’ve rustled up something very special for diners at our 2 AA Rosette restaurant this summer to celebrate the launch of the Congham Crab Crawl. Our Executive Head Chef, James O’Connor, has brought together the finest seasonal ingredients – locally sourced where possible, even from our own garden – for this special addition to the menu, please pre book in advance of your stay: Dressed Cromer crab with plum tomato, lime, crème fraîche, dill and, for that indulgent touch, caviar. Now, that’s a taste of North Norfolk with the wow factor.