When in Cromer
Where better than Cromer to eat Cromer crab? asks Sarah Hardy as she visits The Cliftonville Hotel on the town’s seafront
The Cliftonville, a glorious feature on Cromer seafront, is all Edwardian elegance. It was designed by George Skipper who went on to create the Royal Arcade in Norwich, and the city’s noteworthy Norwich Union headquarters, so you know you’re getting something rather special.
It has a been a hotel since 1897 and now has 30 bedrooms, all looking out over the town’s most iconic landmark, that wonderful pier.
It has been owned by the same family for 23 years and there’s a new general manager, Richard Howard, with a strong pedigree that includes time at The Hoste in Burnham Market. Add the fact that he’s a qualified and in-demand international wine judge, and you can see that plans are afoot to up the hotel’s food and drink offering.
There are three restaurants, including the bright and airy Bolton’s Bistro, the fine dining Westcliff, which has a minstrels’ gallery, plus the all day Buttery Bar where we opted to have lunch.
Picking a corner seat, with terrific views out to sea, we actually chose from the more extensive Bolton’s Bistro menu and I’m sure they would be just as flexible with anyone else.The staff, including our waiter, Colin, are all super friendly and chatty. And they are clearly on great terms with several regulars, including 87-year-old Bertie who was tucking into a very good lunch as we arrived. It must be all that sea air!
Dishes change daily, depending on local producers and especially on what the town’s fishermen deliver. So at this time of year there is a lot of crab, and quite right too! Baked, in salads, or simply dressed, all options are on offer. More of that later…
I started with a light pork tenderloin dish, with the pork marinated in lime, chilli and sesame seeds. Served with leaves and a mint dressing, it was a delicate start to lunch. My friend Diane flew the flag for seasonal eating, with a big dish of asparagus (from Beechwell Farm), with lashings of creamy butter. Simple perfection and hard to better.
My main course saw me choose the aforementioned crab, baked whole and served with garlic butter, new potatoes and a crunchy mixed salad. It was achingly fresh and very tasty, indeed.
Diane went for one of her favourites, king prawns in chilli, garlic and a cherry tomato sauce, served with garlic cheese croutons. The dish had a decent kick to it and she didn’t think she would manage any of the accompanying veggies (a choice of about four, including one of my favourites, red cabbage) but we both attacked them with vigour.
Few of us can resist a sundae, and I certainly couldn’t as they are a house speciality. I opted for a salted caramel and popcorn one and wasn’t disappointed, there being oodles of cream, caramel sauce, ice cream and Lord know what else! I dread to think of the calorie count!
Diane went for the cheese selection and would have liked a couple of local ones which Richard assured her was one of his next jobs! But there was a goodly selection of three cheeses, plus grapes, celery and chutney.
Other lunchtime options included various sandwiches, a seared salmon dish, Felmingham roast leg of lamb, grilled swordfish, hot baguettes, Ploughman’s – and more. A seafood platter caught my eye as did a very good selection of Ronaldo ice creams. There’s a very decent children’s menu, too.
I love historic buildings like The Cliftonville which ooze character from every corner. There’s a ‘Gone With The Wind’ staircase – have a lookie and you’ll see what I mean. Plus all those essential fireplaces, wonderful stained glass windows and a ballroom which is a popular wedding reception choice.
And there’s that gob-smacking position, with the sea just a matter of metres away, and Cromer town centre within a couple of minutes’ walk.
Reviewed in Feast issue 27 – June 2018