North Norfolk is not an area by any means devoid of genuine quality places in which to eat but, as ever, there are graduations. Burnham Market has it all, either at this first rate 17th century coaching inn, or in the delis and wine emporia that closely surround it, exuding an atmosphere of a community in which proper food and hospitality reigns supreme.
One of the principal attractions of the Hoste Arms is its ability to present a number of different styles under one roof in a way that allows them to complement each other, without detracting from the essentially historic quality of the original building.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 34 exotic bedrooms where the decorative skills of Jeanne Whittome - widow of the late proprietor Paul, who sadly died in 2010, many people felt that they had lost both a legend and a friend - were given full rein with the evident aim to ensure that guests never want to leave. Amidst the splendour of four posters, family bedrooms, a penthouse, and junior suites no detail was overlooked and comfort is king. There are some very attractive midweek breaks available throughout the year.
The waters of Norfolk's coastline produce some of the finest seafood in Britain, but the Hoste does not neglect the great estates that are also within easy reach. With such a plenitude of locally sourced ingredients it is hardly surprising that the menu reflects a real chef's delight.
Starters and light meals join forces to offer home smoked breast of local pigeon, pancetta, white pudding, wilted baby spinach and parsnip puree, a quick flutter abroad produces a wonderful oriental Thai fish broth with rice noodles and king prawns. They have a way too with the local Brancaster oysters, which come hot, or natural and cold, with other variations on both temperatures, or stray into the salads with a dressed Cromer crab.
A legendary figure in the Norfolk food chain is Arthur Howell, butcher and grazier, who has a shop in the village. For two people looking to share a real treat, his 21 day dry aged New York rib steak with hand cut chips is recommended. Roasted rack of English lamb is served with dauphinoise potato, wilted spinach, roasted root vegetables and red current jus, or honey and soy glazed Gressingham duck breast comes with confit leg spring roll, oriental vegetable stir-fry and sesame dressing.
For those of us who are dragged to the vegetarian dishes by our consciences, they do wonderful things with their vegetables that enable you to actually enjoy them; there are crumbed goats’ cheese with semi dry tomatoes, broad beans, marinated artichoke and rocket in an apple and ginger dressing, and wild mushroom, rocket and mascarpone risotto with poached hen’s egg. Puddings range from dark chocolate fondant, candied orange and Grand Marnier ice cream, through pistachio crème brûlée, to a sticky toffee pudding.
The dining room at the Hoste is a delight, with service and surrounds well up to the mark. The needs of a well travelled clientele are looked after by their knowledgeable sommelier, with some commendable wines by the glass, and if white wine is on your agenda be sure to try the Stellenbosch, a rich mixture of vanilla and citrus characters. There are many other appealing options on a list that relentlessly extracts the best regardless of any lingering fussiness about countries of origin.
The Hoste Arms may describe itself as an Inn, and in the best sense it is. In the same sense it is also an institution, the way inns should be, this one very much the cosseted child of an inspired couple.
Learn more about it through their Website
and then book yourselves a reservation to Elysium, North Norfolk style.