Copyright © 2015 Feast Norfolk Magazine

A House with Heart
I harbour a bit of a soft spot for Great Yarmouth.

Having grown up further down the coast, the seaside resort symbolised the height of excitement to my teenage self, and I’ve certainly enjoyed taking my daughter to places such as the Sea Life Centre in more recent years. Yarmouth’s history as a resort dates back to 1759, when the healing sea waters started the holiday boom, and famous visitors over the years have included Charles Dickens, King Edward VII and Lily Langtry.

Despite all this, Great Yarmouth might not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to romantic staycations – although its kiss me quick vibe offers romance of a sort! Our mini-break at Andover House Hotel and Restaurant, near the seafront, was about to prove that you can be just about anywhere in Norfolk and have a truly lovely time, as long as you’ve got all the right ingredients: a stylish hotel, fabulous food and the right company.

The winter sun was shining on us the day we went so, as we were a little early for check in, we headed straight for that world-famous fish and chip franchise Harry Ramsden’s, on Marine Parade, and shared chips followed by a stroll on the sandy beach. Andover House is located in Camperdown, a tree-lined avenue which wouldn’t look out of place in Chelsea, with its imposing white-painted houses. Owners Victoria and Phil Newstead (and not forgetting Victoria’s father - and former fighter pilot – Barry who purchased the once rundown hotel in the first place!) opened Andover House 10 years ago this year, following a complete renovation and interior transformation. Then, a couple of summers ago, a further seven contemporary bedroom were added to the mix, so there are now 27 rooms in all.

We were directed up to the quirky Attic room, which was well worth the climb. Looking out of the front window from our lofty height, my partner commented that it was like being on the Mary Poppins film set. Our room had a thoroughly modern feel – I particularly liked the multifunctional workstation-cum-dressing table, which reflects the fact the hotel does a brisk business trade in the week. To my mind, Andover House is perfect for city couples looking for a night on the town with a difference - in fact, the hotel and restaurant prides itself on the fact that it is only for those aged 13-plus. Downstairs, on our way to dinner, couples were enjoying cocktails in the bar, although there were also the likes of Aspall Cyder, the very local Lacons Ales, Adnams Ghost Ship (which my partner chose) and Norfolk Cordials on the menu. From the wine list, I chose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the Yealands Estate, in Marlborough, New Zealand (£5.75 for 175ml), with its flavours of passionfruit (which somehow seemed apt as we were on a romantic break).

The Copper Kitchen restaurant, to the rear of the bar, overlooks a nice little courtyard, and Head Chef Dave Nash, formerly of The Last Wine Bar in Norwich, is known for giving classic dishes a modern twist. I loved my starter: a cheesy smoked Applewood, potato and Lacons ale soup (£5.25), and, although my partner was more than a little intrigued by blowtorched sea trout (quite frankly, who wouldn’t be?), he went for the ham hock Scotch egg, which was a novel take on a well known favourite, and came with a red onion compôte and pea salad (£6.75). Let’s just say he’s still raving about it. And, as he clearly hadn’t eaten enough pork in one sitting, he went for the honey and mustard glazed loin of bacon (£14), with buttery mash potato, red cabbage purée with thyme, baked apple and black pudding crumble. I liked the look of the pea and lemon cakes (£12.25), and particularly liked the charred pickled cucumber that came with it, along with roasted red onion, tomato compôte and herb couscous. For a vegan offering this had a really nice kick.

For pudding, we shared ice cream which was a surprisingly sophisticated affair, with quenelle shapes of banana ice cream, arranged on little beds of crushed honeycomb, and all washed down by a glass of dessert wine – a Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois (£4.70 for 75ml).

After dinner, we took quick stroll around the block to walk things off, under the Wellington Mews Arch, then it was time to ascend those stairs. Breakfast the next morning was down in the basement, and the buffet table featured enticing bowls of Greek yoghurt, mixed berry compôte and raspberry purée. My partner, fairly predictably, ordered a full English whereas I had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

There are some great heritage walks to be had around these parts, including the Great Yarmouth rows, historical home to workers in the herring industry, while Time and Tide Museum, set in a preserved Victorian herring curing works, reveals more about the town’s noble past.

So, we headed home with a far less blinkered view of what Great Yarmouth has to offer, thanks to our super stylish stay at Andover House.