The Harper Hotel, Norfolk

Norfolk is an area I had often heard good things about, but previously had not had a reason to visit. When an invite to stay at the new Harper Hotel popped up, I decided it was time to explore this unspoilt British county. The after-work weekday traffic meant a two and half hour car journey from London quickly turned into a four hour slog, but when we arrived the staff were relaxed and quick to check us in (something I am particularly appreciative of now I have a baby).

The Harper Hotel opened in May this year, a comfortable bolthole just outside Holt in North Norfolk. The 32 boutique rooms vary a lot in size and design, we were in one of the smaller rooms so sadly missed out on a four-poster bed, but still benefitted from a big bed topped with an award-winning Casper mattress and luxurious Buffy bedding.

There is plenty of colour everywhere at The Harper, wacky artwork and vibrant furniture means that no space is without character. The rooms all feature indulgent bathrooms, but only a few have a bathtub. I was delighted to find Irene Forte products in the bathroom, gentle products inspired by the Mediterranean, they all smelt and felt delicious.

There is a lazy feel about the hotel, guests are very much left to their own devices to explore and use the space as they wish. This unpretentious atmosphere allows all visitors to feel welcome, and I noticed quite a few young families, groups of friends, and older couples enjoying the Harper when we visited.

After months in lockdown in the confines of my own home, it was the swimming pool and spa at the Harper which made me most excited. I spent a blissful hour swimming then relaxing in the sauna, it was such a novel and lovely experience despite the spa being half shut due to Covid restrictions.

I was lucky enough to also try one of the Irene Forte signature facials, a calming treatment that used a range of these natural products to cleanse, tone and deeply moisturise my face and scalp. There was nothing ground-breaking about the facial, but it did really improve my skin’s appearance and feel for a few days afterwards.

The Harper have two food options. Stanley’s is the more upmarket restaurant, on the first floor, where they serve breakfast and dinner. The alternative is an all da- menu that’s available to enjoy anywhere in the hotel, so you can choose to dine in your room, out in the courtyard or even in the bar area.

After our unscheduled late arrival the team kindly arranged  a late-night dinner from Stanley’s. A lavish platter of local Norfolk estate ribeye steak (cooked to perfection on the Josper grill) was demolished in silence, accompanied with grilled seasonal vegetables and moreish chips.

The next day we tried a few classic dishes that came recommended from the all day menu – ‘brisket burger in a marmite bun’ and ‘Lobster mac & cheese’ sounded like the ultimate treats, but sadly this food fell a bit short. I’m hoping with a bit of fine tuning they can improve this menu, as the dishes all have a lot of promise.

There is lots to do in North Norfolk, from wandering round quaint towns to discovering independent bakeries and breweries… not to mention the expansive coastline and impressive historic National Trust properties.

The Harper is a welcome addition to the hotel scene here, and there is just about everything you need for a relaxing weekend away from the city.

I stayed as a guest of the hotel, more information about The Harper here.

London Reopens… where to eat (outside) next week!

As anticipation for next week’s reopening of shops, hairdressers and restaurant terraces rises I have put together a list of a few al fresco dining spots not to be missed. I’ve had a huge number of questions from social media followers asking where to book, and many of these suggestions below are already getting full, but hopefully, if you are flexible on dates and times, you can snag a spot at one of this Spring’s hottest (outdoor) tables! My one request… if you book and need to cancel please let the restaurant know in good time so their resources aren’t wasted, especially after the struggle they have experienced over the last year.

The Berkeley Beach Huts – The beautiful Berkeley Hotel has set the standard high for themed al fresco dining in the last year. This season they have brought their terrace to life with fun, colourful beach huts inspired by Britain’s most iconic seafronts. The menu has an array of nostalgic treats from Lobster and Chips to a ‘Gourmet 99’ (a twist on the ice-cream van favourite).

Cora Pearl – I was pretty excited to hear some of my favourite London eateries were bravely branching out with outdoor spaces for April. This cosy Covent Garden establishment serves up indulgent British fare. Their terrace on Henrietta Street will have tables for up to 6 people and will be offering seasonal delights, and the usual favourites like their unrivalled Welsh Rarebit.

Brat – Tomos Parry’s Michelin star, Basque inspired food is unbeatable on a sunny day. The restaurant will be continuing their residency at Climpson’s Arch throughout 2021, after last year’s sellout success. The courtyard is covered (for unpredictable weather) and the team will be supplying the much loved hearty food from Roasted Chicken Rice, Whole crab with hay butter and Wood Fired Breads.

The River Cafe – I can’t think of a more idyllic place to eat outside than The River Cafe. Despite the size of their expansive terrace tables are getting full fast. Enjoy the most delicious homemade pastas, finest meats and gelato and forget Covid even existed.

Petersham Nurseries – Whether you are based in West London or Central, Petersham Nurseries is a great option for relaxed delicious dining. The leafy Richmond site feels like a countryside sanctuary while the Covent Garden site has a heavenly terrace for long lunches surrounded by florals.

Llewelyns – South London dwellers are sure to flock to Llewelyns which returns this April with their jolly outdoor terrace. I can’t wait to be back at this lovely neighbourhood eatery, the service, food and atmosphere is always wonderful and I’ve missed it during lockdown.

Smokestak – Smokestak in Shoreditch has a sizeable and well-heated terrace, perfect for those hoping to get their BBQ meat fix. The Smokestak home kit was one of my favourites so I can’t wait to return to the restaurant to feast on brisket buns and fries.

Lina Stores Kings Cross – I can’t wait to spend a day out of lockdown wandering round the shops at Coal Drops Yard and eating on the expansive terrace at Lina Stores. Toast freedom with an Aperol Spritz and a plate of homemade pasta, or two.

Juliets – It may be my local brunch place, but Juliets in Tooting is truly worth the journey for those who don’t live nearby. With a makeshift outdoor space at the cocktail bar over the road, you can finally enjoy the best brunch in town (don’t miss the Vadouvan Eggs, Sweet Maria fritters and Weekend Sourdough Waffles) on a real plate.

Davies and Brook – A new Davies and Brook terrace will be welcoming guests from the 13th April (weather dependant). It is an opportunity to try much-lauded favourites like the Claridge’s Fried Chicken and the ‘Humm Dog’, while enjoying the best service and beautiful surroundings of Claridge’s Hotel. An extra special treat we all deserve right now.

For more suggestions head to my friend Luke Abrahams’s piece on London terraces opening next week here.

Lockdown 3 – Deliveries for a Special Night In

The end is in sight, but with a few months of lockdown dining still on the cards, here are a few of my recent favourites to ensure you bring the best restaurant experiences to your home.

Occasions by Hakkasan

Occasions by Hakkasan – Chinese food is one of the cuisines I have missed the most during lockdown, as it is not easy to recreate at home without specialist ingredients and extensive knowledge. So I was delighted to try the Occasions by Hakkasan box… the box contains everything you need to recreate Hakkasan’s iconic dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen, including a dim sum steamer and incense to recreate the fragrance of Hakkasan at home. (£175 for two)

Starchefs

StarChefs – As the name suggests this company brings the best, Michelin-starred chefs to your door. Recent boxes have featured menus by Robin Gill and Tom Aikens, who created four course feasts to finish in your kitchen, with minimum effort but maximum enjoyment. (around £165 for two)

Hélène Darroze at The Connaught

Hélène Darroze a la Maison – Hélène Darroze’s restaurant at The Connaught has recently been awarded the highest accolade of three Michelin stars, so never has there been a better time to try her sublime culinary creations. This changing seasonal menu for home delivery features some of her signature dishes, all packaged in concertina boxes which ensure the plating at home is just as pretty as it would be at the restaurant itself. (£195 for two, with some optional supplements).

Antona at Home

Antona at Home – Bringing the distinguished food of Andreas Antona to your home, the recipes feature the best seasonal ingredients, high welfare meat and sustainable seafood, and draw on his experiences from Michelin kitchens – Simpsons in Edgbaston and The Cross at Kenilworth. You can also order exclusive wines to pair with your meal. (£90-110 for two people)

Mr Wilde

Mr Wilde – Perhaps the most stylish box of food to arrive at my door, Mr. Wilde provide you with everything you need for a super fun and tasty night in, from playlist ideas to game suggestions, even a couple of chocolates to end your meal. Choose from a range of irresistible boxes including Indian Banquet, Roast Chicken, Tokyo Nights, or opt for the Steak Night, which I can’t recommend highly enough. (approx £47 for two).

Tramshed

Tramshed Project – The Tramshed Project Feasts are nourishing and delicious in equal measure. A generous box of appetising dishes to finish quickly at home. I absolutely loved the lamb box I tried, complete with salted caramel tart for dessert. (from £65 for two)

Dinner Ladies

Dinner Ladies – Dinner Ladies is a dynamic London-based food and events company dedicated to providing seasonal, sustainable food packed with unforgettable flavour. Their food is fresh, interesting and globally inspired, so I was delighted to hear they had started offering home deliveries. The Middle Eastern feast box has an array of flavoursome and colourful dishes to excite your tastebuds and test your cheffing skills, and is brilliant value for money. (£49 for two)

Simon Rogan at Home

Simon Rogan at Home – The Simon Rogan at Home boxes are a rare opportunity to try some of this chef’s inspired flavours from the comfort of your own home. With nationwide delivery, it’s easy to see why these beautiful boxes of food sell out so fast. The three course menu changes weekly, recently featuring Rogan classics like the caramelised apple dessert. You can also order from Simon Rogan’s Aulis delivery service.(from £90 for two)

Jamavar

Jamavar – Mayfair’s finest Indian food to be enjoyed at home… authentic, full of flavour and spice! Choose from one of the restaurant’s celebration menus to try a delicious selection of their favourite dishes. (from £50 for two)

Norma at Home

Norma at Home – Ben Tish’s Sicilian restaurant Norma offers gourmet comfort food at its very best. The feasting boxes feature plenty to feed two very generously, from fresh foccacia bread to homemade pastas, wholesome meat dishes and sweet Italian treats (like cannoli) for pudding. (£140 for two)