With sumptuous local food and luxurious rooms, The Victoria is a destination in itself, says Alexandra Henton
On the North Norfolk coast the night sky is vast, devoid of light pollution and rather wonderful. This quiet stretch of coastline has been a familiar destination, even before the keys to my first Fiesta gave us licence to spend summer holidays in a friend’s cottage drinking the paisley-carpeted local pub out of pastis (my best friend thought it lent us an exotic air). The Fiesta and paisley carpets are a thing of the past; a spin around a Dorset field and a gravel pit saw to the former, the inevitable coastal village gentrification the latter, but we’re still coming to North Norfolk in thrall to those open spaces, long walks and good food, with the same friends and to the same cottage.
The Victoria was always a destination. Part of the Holkham estate, it is a welcome haven rendered in brick and flint on the coast road between the hotspots of Burnham Market and Wells-next-the-Sea. The building sits at the gate of the estate, a short walk through the pinewoods that stretch along this part of the coast to the windswept expanse of Holkham sands.
After lockdown, The Victoria changed from a walk-in pub to a restaurant where hotel guests take priority (tables are still available to book for non-residents). While punctuating a long walk with a pint in the back bar is no longer an option, it does mean that guests don’t have to vie with the pints-and-burger footfall for attention. The result is an attentive front-of-house team happy to discuss the menu, no rushing to turn tables and an ambience that is more relaxed and as such relaxing.
Dogs are everywhere at The Victoria. The 10 rooms in the main building are all dog friendly (£10 per dog per night). On arrival we were checked in with pleasant efficiency and directed a few steps opposite to Ancient House, where another 10 rooms (no dogs allowed) were added in 2015. This self-contained building offers a little more privacy and can be taken for a whole party. Our room, ‘Emmerdale’, was on the first floor (each room is named after a drive on the Holkham shoot): a suite with separate sitting room and pull-out bed, sumptuous bathroom with roll-top bath and walk-in shower, and a king-sized bed. It was a sanctuary where shoes were kicked off and books read until it was time to stir our stumps for dinner.
After a quick trot along the well-lit path, we arrived at The Vic (as it is affectionately known). We made our way to the dining room where a schnauzer, a golden retriever and a brace of terriers happily took up stations at nearby tables while their owners took in the well-sourced menu. The ambience is spot-on coastal-country-estate chic; an open fire beneath a stag’s head, rich grey feature walls, carpets on wooden floors, striped blinds at the windows, with cased birds and antique firearms clustered around the bar. Artwork by renowned local painter Frank Southgate (on loan from The Guella Trust) is on display, his depiction of birds lent clarity by his experience as a wildfowler.
The menu was a blissfully brief one-pager, with six starters and six main courses to choose from alongside tempting snacks (pickled cockles), side dishes and plats du jour. Game comes from the estate shoot, beef from the saltmarshes, venison from the park and vegetables from the walled garden whenever possible. We started with a proper Old Fashioned and then pheasant terrine and venison meatballs, followed by fish with tartare cream and cockle popcorn, and honey-glazed partridge. The service was exemplary, the food well-handled and the plats du jour tempting enough to make a beeline for The Vic again (Thursday for a venison curry). Just remember to book.
As we walked back to Ancient House with the sea stirring beyond the pinewoods to the left and the expansive sky pleasingly dark, it summed up what North Norfolk means: space and serenity, sea and sand. It is a unique landscape and The Vic is the perfect palace from which to experience it.
To book a night at The Victoria hotel click here.
HOLKHAM NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE
Holkham boasts one of the most special nature reserves in England, stretching along the coast from Burnham Overy Staithe to Blakeney. Walk down Lady Anne’s Drive from The Vic and you pass Micklefleet Marsh, where lapwings bustle alongside wigeon and pink-footed geese. Director of conservation Jake Fiennes is rightly proud of the reserve and the estate’s role in managing this special landscape.
The Victoria, Park Road, Holkham, Wells-next-the-Sea NR23 1RG
Tel: 01328 711008
Standard doubles from £250