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.

Spring Beauty Must-Haves

Restrictions are beginning to loosen and the sun is attempting to shine, the Brits are finally emerging from their winter shelters for an exciting Spring/Summer season ahead… it’s never felt more crucial to have glowing skin and bright eyes. After a cold winter of indulging and nourishing my skin, I’m now discovering beauty products that help brighten and tighten my complexion and protect my skin from the sun.

My Ultimate Spring skincare essentials

Spring beauty

Drunk Elephant – This fun and effective brand has become my go-to for skincare essentials. So far I haven’t found a product I don’t like and, better still, the products in their collection work so well when used together. The A Passioni Retinol Cream is a great addition to your Spring skincare routine, a potent retinol cream that boosts collagen production and promotes skin renewal. Initially I used it weekly and now use it every other night to ensure I wake up looking bright and refreshed. I’m just getting to know the Shaba Complex Eye Serum, a powerful serum that tightens the skin around your eyes from the first use.

Spring beauty

Wildsmith Skin – This Wildsmith Cleansing Balm comes in an indulgent jar, the packaging feels as luxurious as the nourishing product inside. After massaging the balm into my face and neck, then removing with warm water, my face felt ultra clean and refreshed but also moisturised and radiant. I’ve loved adding this cleanser to my morning and evening routine.

Spring beauty

Summer Fridays – The Summer Fridays range is a super chic collection to be proud of on your bathroom shelves. Previously I’ve enjoyed their face masks so I was excited to try the Soft Reset exfoliator. I started using this solution before bed with a cotton pad and found I woke up with tighter, clearer pores… after a week I found the concentrated solution made my skin tone more even and dewy. Definitely a new favourite in my daily routine.

DCL – This stylish skincare brand offers a cutting-edge collection of products that promote long term skin health. The C Scape range offers vitamin-rich combinations that promote smooth, radiant skin. The Enzymatic Gel Cleanser is wonderfully mild for everyday use, fights signs of ageing and sun damage, and also uses natural enzymes to help clear clogged pores. It is best used with other products in the range, I also tried the award-winning C Scape High Potency Serum 25, which has an innovative fusion of ingredients to protect skin from daily damaging factors. I found the serum particularly miraculous – boosting my skin to give a beautifully dewy complexion, plumped and with more elasticity.

Bathtime Little Luxuries

Spring beauty

ilapothecary – If I want to have a ‘spa day’ at home I turn to ilapothecary. The range smells wonderful and the effects of these wonder products on my skin alway lift my mood. I recommend running a hot bath with the Magnesium and Amethyst Bath Soak to soften your muscles and relieve your busy mind. The powerful mix of blended oils and powdered crystals ensures you will unwind and breathe deeper after a bath with these salts. Replenish your skin with generous pumps of the Feminine Happy Oil. This Oil is one of my absolute favourite products for soft and happy skin, and a balanced mood and positive energy.

Spring beauty

Skin & Tonic – The whole Skin & Tonic range is about improving your physical and mental wellbeing, “everyday tonics for the skin and soul”. For me, the ultimate destress is having a bath, so I was excited to try the Skin & Tonic bath products. The Bath Soak is inspired by the Japanese ritual of forest bathing, an invigorating blend of herbal oils with natural CBD, made from upcycled whole hemp. Often when I’m in the bath I like to do a face mask, it’s the perfect opportunity to switch off and let a mask work its magic. The Skin & Tonic Face Mask with Aloe, Kaolin Clay and Coconut Milk is a calming powdered mask that is great for even the most sensitive skin. Skin & Tonic also do a great range of products for those expecting and new mums.

Typology – I love wearing masks while in the bath for the ultimate relaxation. The Typology masks (Charcoal & Nettle and Organic Red Fruit Acid) are great for a quick refresh. They can be used twice a week to remedy clogged pores, to brighten and renew the skin. I particularly liked the Charcoal mask, which works quickly to dry out any imperfections on the skin; perfect if your skin breaks out at the start of a new season or with weather changes.

Boy Smells – A scented candle flickering away during bathtime is the ultimate luxury for me. I’m not sure if its the spa atmosphere it creates or the zen smell that lulls me into a deep state of calm. I was completely sold on the Boy Smells ‘Slow Burn’ ombre pink packaging when it arrived. The candle pairs deep flavours of incense and black pepper with fruits notes of raspberry and smoked papyrus… it is heaven. (Interestingly, Slow Burn is the name of Kacey Musgraves’ opening track from her fourth studio album, Golden Hour. To accompany the lyrics and music about living life in the slow lane, she and Boy Smells partnered on a scented candle that perfectly captures the smells and visual vibrancy that one hears in the song.) So, I’ll be playing Kacey’s song while soaking in the bath with my Slow Burn candle alight.

Summer Ready

Spring beauty

Glossier – I used the Glossier Invisible Shield every day last summer… the cute container is small enough to tuck away in your handbag and the sunscreen is clear and non-sticky, quick and easy to top up on your skin on the go. The ideal daily sunscreen to put over or under make-up, multiple times a day, whatever the weather.

Spring beauty

REN – REN products are all about results and these two products are no exception. The Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 is a lovely non-clogging sun screen solution. This vegan product is mattifying, while also giving antioxidants to the skin. For an ‘at home’ facial I’m currently using the Gycol Lactic Masque Eclat – a bio-active peel mask that eliminates dead skin cells and resurfaces the top layer of skin to give a more even skin tone.

Spring beauty

Nuxe – I’d heard great things about this Parisian beauty brand and these two products definitely lived up to expectation. The Huile Prodigieuse (a little bottle of golden liquid) is a multi-purpose oil for face, body and hair to repair and nourish dry skin. Just a few drops made my skin soft and hydrated, and most brilliantly doesn’t leave an oily texture on the surface of the skin. Then in the heat of summer I’ll be using the Nuxe 50 spf, which provides the ultimate protection without clogging up your pores with anything nasty.

Spring beauty

Vita Liberata – Every year I’m amazed by how much better tanning products become, with less of a strange biscuit smell and a more natural colour. This heavenly Elixir from Vita Liberata is a great choice, with a delicious cocoa scent and a nourishing cream that will give your skin a natural bronzed glow. Use the mitt to avoid any unwanted streaks.

Spring beauty

Chantecaille – This botanically based beauty brand can do no wrong, I adore their skincare and make-up ranges. The Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask is the perfect remedy for tight and dehydrated skin that has been exposed to too much sun. It can be used as a mask during the day but I prefer to use it overnight, letting it really soak into my skin, and wash off in the morning with warm water. I found this mask really had noticeable effects, calming redness on my cheeks and healing any blemishes. The Chantecaille Ultra Sun Protection is an incredibly high-quality, lightweight sunscreen that creates an invisible shield while also giving back to the skin with soothing botanicals.

This Works – With summer on the way it’s suddenly time to start thinking about exposing skin that has been covered up all winter! My legs are pale and dry and in need of some serious TLC so I turned to the ‘This Works’ Perfect Legs range. The Skin Miracle offers a vitamin-rich formula that evens out skin tone and adds a healthy glow to the skin, while the Skin Protector is a tinted serum with SPF 30 to protect your skin from the sun. I’m also enjoying using the In Transit Skin Defence on my face, an anti-aging moisturiser for all day use with SPF 30.

Hands and Hair

Spring beauty

Ouai – I’ve tried Ouai’s haircare and I love their sleek simple branding. This Hand Wash and Hand Lotion duo look great in my bathroom; a heavenly creamy hand wash with joboba beads that exfoliate, and avocado and rosehip oils that soothe. The Hand Lotion is perfect to use afterwards, replenishing the moisture in the skin and ensuring your hands are left ultra soft and scented with notes of apricot, rose and magnolia.

Spring beauty

Monat – It’s my first time using this premium haircare brand and I’ve been so pleased with the salon-like results. The Monat brand have different products to suit every kind of hair, the ‘Intense Repair’ range has been perfect after 6 months of no hairdressing experiences! The shampoo and conditioner are packed with plant and essential oils… after a few uses I found my hair felt stronger and thicker, but also my scalp felt better looked after.

Spring beauty

Revlon – I was in desperate need of home hair care while in lockdown but wasn’t brave enough to take on the task myself. Luckily I managed to get a hair appointment soon after the salons opened, but if you are still waiting, I suggest getting yourself Revlon nutri color cremes. Nourishing for the hair and easy to use, these semi-permanent hair dyes are often recommended by hairdressers at a great home fix.

L’Oreal Professionnel – During lockdown I found I washed my hair less, but when I did, I spent longer really giving it care and attention. The L’Oreal Professionnel Absolut Repair Gold Mask is the ideal luxury treatment for lack-lustre damaged or dry hair. Use as an intensive conditioner to transform colour treated hair, my hair looked shinier and felt softer after just one use. The Mythic Oil is the new product I can’t live without, it detangles my knotty hair after washing while also adding suppleness and elasticity. It gives protection from heat and hydrates the hair without any unwanted greasiness.

Minibreak Musts

beauty musts

Drunk Elephant – Now that we are allowed to, I’m planning UK minibreaks, just like the rest of the country! The Drunk Elephant ‘Haul Acid’ miniatures are the best getaway kit… tiny neon products that you’ll always find in your bag. The set features five of Drunk Elephant’s favourite products include the Babyfacial intense exfoliator and the C-Firma to firm and brighten the skin. The containers have a simple turn mechanism to ensure there are no leakages on route to your destination.

Spring beauty

Lixirskin – I’ve always loved vitamin c products for my skin, and at this time of year it feels particularly good to give my skin an extra dose of vitamins. The Lixirskin range feel as good as they look… use the Vitamin C paste as a quick morning mask, this active product works wonders on skin in just a few minutes before being washed off, and you’ll see the freshness immediately. I also love the ease of the Universal Emulsion, a day moisturiser / night cream and serum all in one. I keep my tube in the car for face hydration emergencies! It’s light and comforting and always makes my skin feel better when it’s dry or stressed.

Vichy – The Vichy Peptide-C Anti-Ageing Ampoules are a real treat. Tiny little daily capsules (perfect for taking away with you) that are potent and effective. A careful concoction of 10 ingredients that aim to penetrate the skin, deeply hydrating it and ensuring you look younger and healthier. Recently I’ve been careful to always use a serum at night, to help my skin retain moisture and stay hydrated. The Vichy LiftActiv HA Epidermal Filler Serum is an intense treatment for your skin, full of active ingredients that will plump the skin and help combat wrinkles and fine lines.

beauty post

l’Officine Universelle Buly – I fell in love with l’Officine Universelle Buly when I visited their original shop in Paris. You can now buy their beautiful products in London or online. This charming personalised baby comb has become a staple of my baby son’s beauty kit at home and when we travel for a night or two. All their combs are beautiful and classic, a lovely present to buy someone for them to treasure forever.

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.