Dougie and I don’t usually make a big fuss about our wedding anniversary. We’re lucky if we manage a card swap and a steak dinner. Which is why I was surprised when, two days before the day, while planning a trip to Norfolk to see the Damien Hirst exhibition, Dougie suggested we stay over and make a weekend of it at The Hoste, Burnham Market in north Norfolk.
We’ve popped into this boutique hotel for a drink before but never booked a room so I was interested to know what it was like. The hotel has increased in size considerably over the years and now boasts 62 rooms, cottages, a spa, cinema and a bar that dates back 400 years. It’s recently been rated by The Guardian as one of the 10 best country hotels in the UK, with similar plaudits from The Times.
Our room, a junior suite, was lovely. There was an African theme: a shield with spears on one wall and paintings of giraffes on another. The whirring ceiling fan added to this Out of Africa experience. It was spacious too with a comfortable leather sofa and coffee table at one end.
No sooner had we checked in than we were heading out again to do a circuit of the village. If you don’t know Burnham Market, it’s a gorgeous village with most of the independent shops and cafes surrounding the village green. Dougie was on top form, casting his eye over the clothes in each of the shops we entered. Honestly I should hire him out as a personal shopper.
We spent an inordinate amount of time in The Hat Shop. I must have tried every straw trilby and fedora in the shop, looking for the perfect summer titfer. I knew I would find the right one eventually, as this place is brimming with headwear, and thankfully I did. I’ve worn it so much this summer: it took me all the way down the Seine and back on our river cruise.
Back at the hotel, we relaxed with a pot of tea and the most exquisite-looking lemon cake. Dougie was then rewarded for his dedication to shopping by being allowed to watch the second half of the rugby on TV before dinner. I’m good to him.
Our fine dining meal in the traditional panelled restaurant was excellent. It was World Gin Day so we had a special martini to toast our anniversary. Thankfully our starters and mains were quite light – asparagus, scallops, sea bass and halibut – which left room for a sharing plate of eight puddings. Yes, eight. Mango sorbet, hot chocolate fondant, something ice-creamy, something cheesecakey and heaven knows what else was there.
After breakfast the next morning, in the large and airy brasserie, we found a small museum at the hotel dedicated to Lord Nelson and his protégé, Captain Sir William Hoste. There are many links to the Admiral in this part of Norfolk as he was born in nearby Burnham Thorpe. When Nelson was unemployed from 1788-93 he used to pick up his dispatches from The Hoste when it was a coaching inn called the Pitt Arms. He would often travel by coach from here to London. And now the people of London frequently travel to Burnham Market to sample the hospitality from that very inn. I’m not at all surprised.
The Hoste, The Green, Burnham Market, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE31 8HD
I wrote this post about The Hoste for my column in the Lincolnshire Free Press. I’ve added it to my blog with a few additions and extra photos.