Titchwell Manor Click to see recipes from Titchwell Manor
Eric Snaith was a mere nine years old when his parents bought Titchwell Manor. Fast forward nearly three decades and he has ended up as the chef owner of the hotel, restaurant and bar which boasts three AA rosettes, and which attracts top chefs from all over the country to its Supper Clubs.
Margaret and Ian Snaith bought the elegant former Victorian farmhouse, with its uninterrupted views across open marshes, back in 1988, and it has certainly evolved since then. As Eric recalls: ‘When they bought it there were 10 bedrooms, and there’s 26 now. My mum and dad worked really hard at it in the early years – and they still do.’
Eric began his career in the kitchen of the family hotel at the age of 15 and returned to the family fold, as Head Chef, in 2002. ‘My original passion was the kitchen for the first 10 years and we received the three rosettes which we are really pleased about. But then it made sense for me to free myself up from some of my kitchen duties, and take over everything.’
Chris Mann is now the Head Chef with Stu Hall as Sous Chef. Eric says: ‘Chris has been with me nine years next year and Stu five years so there’s been stability in the kitchen – I’m proud of that.’ He adds: ‘Everyone works a four day week, which is still quite uncommon in the industry, so I think it’s why we’ve kept chefs for so long - we try to offer a work/life balance.
‘They both went to Norwich City College together and then to London - to Marcus Wareing’s; Chris came here and Stu followed later. It’s nice that they’re local lads.
‘We make sure we employ people who are passionate about good food,’ adds Eric, who is involved with hospitality and catering initiative A Passion to Inspire.
The food on offer at Titchwell Manor has been described as modern European, although Eric points out: ‘Over the last year we’ve simplified the dishes, concentrating on better quality and flavours - still using as much of the local produce as we can and some foraged food.’
As for local suppliers, shellfish stars Ben and Cyril Southerland get special mention. ‘We’ve been using them for the whole 30 years so it’s a nice relationship,’ says Eric. ‘I went to primary school with Ben and now he’s taken over from his dad.’
There’s a well-established Conversation menu and Classics menu in the two restaurants (the Eating Rooms and the Conservatory) and plans for the future include developing a kitchen garden and expanding on the afternoon tea offering. Titchwell Manor offers special packages, as Eric explains, including a Foodie Break complete with tasting menu. ‘I cook 80 per cent of it in front of them as they sit at the bar,’ says Eric.
Then there are the aforementioned Supper Clubs. Eric says: ‘In the last 18 months we’ve hosted more guest chefs which has been really good – it’s a great opportunity for our customers to meet top chefs from around the country.’
Next up is Adam Smith of Coworth Park, on October 19. ‘He’s going to be one of the top chefs in the country the way he’s going – and he’s only 30,’ says Eric.
It’s also worth mentioning Eric’s Fish and Chips, the restaurant and take-away in nearby Thornham - now in its third year. Eric explains the thinking behind it: ‘I like the simplicity of fish and chips and it being an absolute classless favourite - you’ve got people pulling up in Bentleys and you’ve got little old ladies coming in, midweek.’ Even the curry sauce is homemade. ‘We try to do everything simply but use our chef’s knowledge to improve them.’
Back at Titchwell Manor, weddings are increasingly popular, all year round. Eric says: ‘We offer a completely bespoke package so if people want something specific, we will cater for it. Generally it works if people take over the hotel for a couple of days - I often think the breakfast the next day is as much fun catching up on the day before.’
He adds: ‘I got married here, my sister got married here and my two sisters-in-law both got married here so it’s become a massive part of our lives.’
So what are the plans for the 30th anniversary? ‘We are going to do a series of events throughout the year starting off with a private cocktail party in February,’ says Eric.
No doubt the annual Summer Fete (essentially a food and drink festival in the garden), will be bigger and better than ever. ‘The summer fete is quite unique,’ he says. ‘The idea was for our customers to see our suppliers and see the relationships we have with them.’
Beyond that, they are planning to refurbish eight of the bedrooms and develop the outdoor eating area at Eric’s.
Eric concludes: ‘We’ve been established for so long we don’t feel like we’re trying to prove anything to anybody else - we just believe in what we’re doing.’
Copyright © 2015 Feast Norfolk Magazine