Lucy Self stays at Titchwell Manor, a well-dressed boutique hotel in the northernmost reaches of Norfolk where she finds the cuisine as beguiling as the scenery…
It’s a bright but biting Saturday morning and we’re cutting across the ruggedly resplendent Titchwell Marshes, bird-filled reed beds and lagoons to reach the vast stretches of golden sand beyond. Whilst the bucolic beauty of north Norfolk’s coastline is enough to lure us away from Titchwell Manor’s cheerful décor and even cheerier staff, it’s actually our waistlines we’re focusing on. We’ve been in Norfolk for less than 24 hours and all we’ve done is eat.
Despite its name (which suggests a sprawling building set in acres of rolling hills) Titchwell Manor is actually a thoroughly unintimidating boutique hotel a stone’s throw from the North Sea – with 27 bedrooms spread over the main house, adjacent courtyard and Potting Shed overlooking the garden.
Not to say it’s not impressive. Husband and wife team Margaret and Ian Snaith have transformed the former Victorian farmhouse into a formidable luxury retreat with style oozing from every well-dressed room. We loved the quirky design touches throughout,
from the lounge with its mad mishmash of Moorish tiles, bird-printed walls (perhaps a subtle reference to the wild life that lies on its doorstep) and sofas in Technicolor hues; to the bar – a brilliant clash of engine red cushioned-seats, cornflower blue paneling and ’70s orange.
The enthusiasm for print and colour continues to our room, a riot of emerald green walls, candy striped curtains, and vivid purple headboard framing a huge (and very comfortable) bed. Small touches, a beautiful glass and chrome chandelier, retro radio and even a wooden sailboat add a touch of interior whimsy perfectly at odds with the stark beauty of its surrounds.
Aside from looks and proximity to the coast, Titchwell Manor has another rather formidable draw – it’s food, courtesy of Head Chef Eric Snaith. His modern European cuisine has won the hotel various plaudits and the man himself the Eastern Daily Press Norfolk Food and Drink Chef of the Year in 2012. Diners can choose from two settings, the formal conservatory restaurant or more casual ‘Eating Rooms’. (The latter offers everything from small plates to pies to cuts of 50-day matured Norfolk beef from the barbeque in summer.)
We went for the ‘Conversation’ tasting menu, which comes in either four or eight courses. We’re told by our friendly waitress that Eric’s dishes are designed to show off the finest Norfolk ingredients (the fish comes from local fisherman and the award-winning venison from the nearby Houghton Hall estate), and they do just that.
Plump scallops are given the lightest stroke of heat and served alongside crisp apple. A perfect oblong of charcoal-infused cod flecked with sea buckthorn and cob nuts remind us why it’s always an excellent idea to eat fish from a place where you can spot the sea (then pink slices of Norfolk lamb make us feel the same way about proximity to a good farm).
Both the pre (a deconstructed millionaires shortbread with molten layers of just-made salted caramel, velvety dark chocolate and surprise of buttery biscuit crumbs) and actual (a pretty mess of coconut foam, dried berries and ethereal sorbet) desserts make us grin stupidly in delight.
An excellent sleep and two hour coastal walk later and we’re on a train hurtling back to London. It’s nearing lunchtime and, despite a hearty breakfast of runny poached eggs, salty tendrils of slow-boiled Norfolk ham and thick slabs of freshly made toast, we’re not only feeling hungry again but starting to regret that we didn’t stay for lunch.
For more information visit titchwellmanor.com