Nick Hammond heads to the Norfolk coast and uncovers another gem for his little black book…
THE best bit about my job is the exploring. I can’t begin to tell you the pleasure I derive from discovering new (to me) parts of the world and adding great bars, restaurants, shops and experiences to the little black book in my brain. And so it’s with a great deal of smug satisfaction that I roll up the driveway of The Grove in Cromer.
The imposing Georgian house and the delightful grounds beyond it have been in the Graveling family for generations and although there’s a welcoming feel of old fashioned tradition here (I’m served coffee in the cool, peaceful lounge on arrival) there’s also more than a nod to the contemporary traveller.
Charming ‘garden rooms’ have been created away from the main building itself, for example, and it is to one of these I repair to cast an eye over the extensive veggie garden (with early morning cabbage-raiding pigeons, I note) and answer a few emails. These new buildings are constructed of sturdy oak and reclaimed tile and while brand spanking new, look like converted stables from a century ago.
They’re perfectly equipped for the visiting businessperson or locale explorer; Wi-Fi as standard, usual tea/coffee offerings and a great big, comfortable bed. But the best bit here – and I suspect the same applies to rooms taken in the main house too – is the soul-soothing peace and quiet.
A short walk through woodland at the back of the gardens and you find yourself atop clifftops looking across the melancholic yet mesmerising expanse of the North Sea. Crocuses (crocai?) are just showing their heads above the parapet for the first time on my visit, giving a dusting of mauve to the hillocks as I stroll down towards the town and its renovated pier.
I suspect you could still find a Kiss Me Quick hat here if you really wanted to – but there’s a lot more to the area these days, rest assured, from trendy bars and antique stores to first class eateries and beyond.
After a refreshing stroll along the promenade, I wend my way home between the showers and after some due diligence on the computer once more, I repair to the hotel restaurant for an early supper. It’s early in the week as well as early in the evening and so I have the place to myself – at first, at least.
But as the evening wears on, couples come to quietly enjoy the local and seasonal fare on offer and I can report it’s worth a trip. While the broad bean and pea fricassee is perhaps a tad on the bitter side to best express the North Sea Scallops I started with, I can’t fault the Norfolk Venison that follows. Done to a tee and not ruined by a preponderance of gloopy gravy, it’s a beautiful presentation of locally sourced game.
And to top it all, I find in the wine list a bottle of Chateau Noaillac Medoc from 2009 which proves to be absolutely sensational and by no means a rip off at £26. Bravo indeed.
There’s an indoor swimming pool here, some teepees going up for the summer; tons for the kids to do and that lovely veggie garden which serves the hotel kitchens (I had a pleasant and useful chat about onion sets with the gardener – who later proved to be John Graveling who took over the place from his parents in 1978. Charming man).
But my abiding memories of The Grove are sensory; the sound of woodpigeons canoodling in the early morning and the hoot of a tawny owl from the woods; the ozone smell of fresh, sea air which gusts and eddies round the battlements, so to speak; and finally the good Havana I enjoyed sitting outside my own little ‘house’ as I polished off the last glass of Claret in the dead of the Norfolk night.
Well done to the Gravelings. Their dynasty continues apace.
For more information about The Grove, including details about the new cottages, glamping and dining, visit www.thegrovecromer.co.uk.