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Norfolk: space to breathe, and places to dine

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 14 May 2018
Related property: Barnham Broom
Norfolk: space to breathe, and places to dine

There are many reasons to holiday at Barnham Broom in Norfolk, and here (in no particular order) are just a few: golf, on not one but two 18-hole Championship-standard courses, plus myriad other sports and leisure facilities; and away from the site, big skies, spectacular beaches, the Norfolk Broads, lovely countryside, beautiful villages and towns, a wealth of history, friendly people, a slower pace, space to breathe...

One could go on – and, given that it is one’s home county, one often has. But to that list can be added: ‘a mecca for foodies’. The county has skirted the edges of culinary excellence for a while now – and we’re talking decades rather than years – but what was once perhaps written in pencil can now be firmly inked in: Norfolk is, if not leading the league, firmly near the top of the Premiership for lovers of all things epicurean.

Norfolk is very much an agricultural county, and its produce includes everything from honey (the lavender honey is amazing), to mustard (as is well known), to cereal crops, to livestock reared for the table... you get the idea. The county also boasts rivers whose clear streams serve up both brown and rainbow trout; and a positive surfeit of game when in season. Add to that over 100 miles of coastline, and a consequent wealth of fish and seafood... with such a plethora of provender on the doorstep, you could argue that the only real surprise is that it’s taken this long for Norfolk’s eateries to come up to speed.

Today there is an embarrassment of restaurants to choose from. Nonetheless, choices must be made. So: if you were holidaying at Barnham Broom for a week (seven nights) and fancied dining out every night, where might you go? Assuming that you’d want to stay on site one evening to eat at the hotel and country club’s own à-la-carte Brasserie restaurant or the more informal Sports Bar, here are six other options (plus a half) – three of which are in Norwich, Norfolk’s beautiful and historic county city, just 20 minutes’ drive away.

Going head to head: Roger Hickman's Restaurant and Benedicts. Top: putting the finishing touches to another culinary masterpiece. Above: Roger Hickman waits to welcome you. At top: Roger's roasted partridge, truffle mash, parsnip, sprouts and bacon.

For a small city of just 140,000 souls, Norwich plays host to a fabulous array of eateries; but arguably leading the field are Benedicts, and Roger Hickman’s Restaurant – both in the city centre and both offering the finest in fine dining. Chef-patron at Benedicts is Richard Bainbridge, winner of TV’s Great British Menu, whose bill of fare sometimes errs towards the experimental but is never less than delicious. His counterpart at Roger Hickman’s Restaurant is... er... Roger Hickman, in a previous life holder of a Michelin star (and a second can’t be too long in coming), whose menu tends more towards the classical. At both, attention has been paid to the surroundings – these are nice places to eat nice food. But they are quite clearly chasing the same clientele, and each inspires the other to strive for new heights of excellence – and it’s the diner who benefits. To visit Benedicts’ website, click here; Roger Hickman’s Restaurant can be found by clicking here.

Haggle is the place to go for a Turkish spread

Honourable mention should be given to Haggle, a new Turkish place garnering rave reviews. Easier on the pocket than either of the above, beautifully designed and decorated, with a fantastic ambience and great food; none of your common-or-garden shish kebabs here! Further information on Haggle can be found by clicking here.

And also, a mention for Figbar: heavenly cakes and pastries, and fast becoming the place to go for puddings, at any time of day. Just desserts, if you will. You can find out more about Figbar in a previous blog, by clicking here.

But if you head further afield, the north of the county is the place to be. Again there is a huge variety of eateries – this is no place for the ditherer.

Happy diners at the Gunton Arms...

But there are gastropubs, and there are outstanding gastropubs – and the Gunton Arms belongs firmly in the latter category. A traditional pub for those as wants one, the Gunton Arms lies in a 1,000-acre deer park surrounding Gunton Hall, near Cromer. Unsurprisingly, when it comes to food the emphasis is on meat: venison from the deer park and beef from the herd at nearby Blickling, all cooked over a large open fire. Though given its proximity to the seaside, the Gunton Arms also serves up a delicious selection of the freshest seafood. You can find further information on the Gunton Arms by clicking here.

...and no wonder!

Twenty miles west of the Gunton Arms and grazing the North Norfolk coast, Michelin-starred Morston Hall is Richard Bainbridge’s old stamping ground (see Benedicts, above). However his departure has done nothing to dent the quality (or the prices). Chef-patron Galton Blackiston’s emphasis is very much on the classics (which may be why Bainbridge felt compelled to move on), and what’s on offer is simply superb. But it is expensive; definitely one for a special occasion. To find out more, click here.

Morston Hall: for the classics, done to perfection

But for fine dining on a more modest budget, head back east to Cromer, and Upstairs at No 1, upstairs (as the name implies) from No 1 Cromer, arguably the town's best fish-and-chip shop. Reviewed by Jay Rayner in the Observer colour supplement of Sunday 13th May 2018 (just yesterday at the time of writing) and overlooking Cromer Pier, in addition to the finest gourmet-style fish and chips Upstairs at No 1 serves what the esteemed food critic describes as a “troubling” mélange of food from around the world, but the assured cooking, by Blackiston protégé Jimmy Preston, is plenty good enough to realise the ambition. For further information, click here.

Gourmet fish and chips - and more - await Upstairs at No 1

Jay Rayner loved it; and so will you.

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