As night begins to fall, we approach Fritton House up a long, sweeping drive and glimpse its welcoming lights through the trees. Situated amid rolling parkland, the hotel is so secluded and unassuming that guests can almost be forgiven for feeling as though they are coming home.
This illusion remains intact when we park and enter the hotel through the rose pink front door, straight into a wide hall that could be in a friend’s house. There is a muted, pale blue drawing room lined with squishy sofas and antiques to the left and a formal dining room directly opposite.
It smells clean and fresh and is light and airy the only giveaway that this is a new boutique hotel is the contemporary bar at the end of the hallway. Here, stainless steel and cream leather bar stools that would not look out of place in a swanky London club sit surprisingly comfortably with the ancient timber beams of this Grade II* listed building.
Located within the grounds of the 5,000 acre Somerleyton estate, not far from Great Yarmouth, Fritton House dates from the 15th century, and is not an obvious location for another upmarket, small hotel. But Fritton House, which was named as one of The Sunday Times’ ’10 hotels on the way up’ last year, is hidden among the trees on the edge of the pretty Fritton Lake guests can bring a small sailing dinghy if they wish and is only minutes away from the Norfolk Broads.
After being led up a grand staircase to our simple, well proportioned room, we note how much care as gone into the refurbishment of the hotel, which opened in May 2006. Masterminded by Hugh Crossley who has taken over the management of the family estate from his father, Lord Somerleyton a former tearoom and private house have been brought together to create nine elegant bedrooms and cutting edge bathrooms with Villeroy & Bosh fittings. Hugh’s elder sister, Isabel Cator, is responsible for the eclectic colour schemes, which combine cool, neutral walls with sharper lime-green, sage and bubble gum pink soft furnishings.
In a previous life, Mr Crossley ran two branches of a Middle Eastern tapas restaurant in London, and the relevance is obvious at dinner. To start, we choose half a pint of smoked prawns with a spicy mayonnaise and a hot smoked salmon and king prawn salad with ginger and chilli dressing. The locally smoked fish is a triumph, and our main courses of whole grilled plaice and roasted belly of pork with chorizo and a green bean broth go down well too.
Back in our room, we enjoy a really good night’s sleep, thanks to the expensive mattress atop our king size bed, with its goose down pillows and duvet. A hearty full English breakfast further enhances our stay: with sausage, bacon, tomato, black pudding and eggs from Hugh’s chickens.
The hotel manager, Sarah Winterton, who also waits on tables, is as chatty and enthusiastic about her establishment this morning as she was last night. As well she should be, for the attention to detail with which Fritton House was first conceived and is now run, makes it a real find in what is a relatively undiscovered part of Norfolk.
Fritton House Hotel, Church Lane, Fritton, Norfolk NR31 9HA (01493 484008 www.frittonhouse.co.uk). Double rooms are available from £130 a night.