by Aoife Moriarty
(This article appears courtesy of Spear’s Magazine.)
When you think of getting out of London for the weekend, your first thoughts may wander towards the south of the country. To a moment of tranquil meditation in a New Forest hot tub, or perhaps some invigorating Atlantic air on a Cornwall beach.
This weekend however, I am travelling with a pal to Norfolk’s coastline – just over 90 minutes by train – for a night’s stay at ’boutique, family-run hotel’ Titchwell Manor.
Just a half hour’s drive from Kings Lynn station, this former Victorian farmhouse is one of two accommodation choices in a village of 91 inhabitants. Although spectacularly isolated, it is mere moments from Brancaster Beach and Titchwell Marsh nature reserve, where we later find we are the only two people under 40, in heels and minus birdwatching binoculars. Rookie London errors.
As we travel from the station to the hotel, our taxi driver fills us in on some local history. He points out the royal holiday hotspot Sandringham and Heacham, a village that once played host to John Rolfe and his ill-fated wife Pocahontas (‘She died on the way back from England,’ he notes brightly).
Arriving at Titchwell, the building is admittedly less grand than the word ‘manor’ might imply. But all potential concerns fade away as we step into a lounge that could be housed in a boutique hotel in Shoreditch. The bold splashes of colour and quirky-yet-complementary furnishings come courtesy of East London designer Shaun Clarkson. It is all exceptionally modern and well thought-out. And for us, certainly makes us feel at home.
Our room is equally charming. Monochrome in theme, it features all-white Parisian style furnishings with a beautiful free-standing bath. One of eight rooms in the main house, there are eighteen more in outbuildings dotted around the hotel’s herb garden. We didn’t visit them, so can’t personally vouch for their quality, but they are billed as being ‘more neutral and understated’ by the proprietors (read: not the work of a hip East London designer).
The centre of attention at Titchwell however is not the décor, but the food. Son of owners Margaret and Ian, Head Chef Eric Snaith is clearly ambitious and has made the hotel kitchen his playground. The Conservatory Restaurant offers an adventurous eight-course tasting menu (a steal by London standards – £65 per head), which we were given the chance to sample. More straightforward dining is also available in the hotel’s Eating Rooms.
Overall the experience was a positive one. Much of the food – highlights included savoury petit fours-style canapés, Asian-inspired squid with soy and caviar and a whimsical lemon and lovage lollipop – is on a par with top London eateries, with the exception of a few well-meaning misfires (the brie mousse with gingerbread has received mixed reviews, admitted our waiter).
The difference with here and London venues, was that the staff appeared slightly shellshocked by the food. If this restaurant is to receive the Michelin star it is grasping for, then it needs members of the team who can talk fluidly about not only the dishes they are serving, but the wine list too (‘I think it’s New World influenced’ will, regrettably, not cut it with connoisseurs).
I would also advise taking the muesli-coated skate off the menu; if it’s being served at breakfast, it probably shouldn’t be served at dinner. Nonetheless, we spent a solid three hours at dinner and had a roaring good time. There is vast potential in this dining room, without a doubt.
In the morning, we enjoyed an all-inclusive breakfast that is reason alone to visit this hotel. There was a delightfully comprehensive selection of hot and cold dishes (from kippers to stewed fruits and homemade chocolate granola – you name it, they’ve got it). Just make sure to save ample room in your tummy the night before.
Perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of Titchwell Manor though, is the level of service. Want The Telegraph in the morning? They’ll deliver it to you. Specific dietary requirements? No problem. Bringing your new puppy? Fine. Directions to some of the local walks and attractions? You’ve got it. And with a smile, no less.
But the real draw of this unassuming hotel and the surrounding area can be summed up in three words: peace and quiet. If you’re looking to get away from it all, or perhaps considering an impromptu romantic break, you could do a whole lot worse than this tranquil part of Norfolk’s ‘golden coast’.