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Dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’ because of its popularity with the ‘up from London’ crowd, this stretch of the Norfolk coast from Hunstanton in the west to Sheringham and Cromer is hardly a well-kept secret, but it’s well worth exploring if you’re fond of seascapes and sailing, expanses of marshland, muddy creeks and local fish.
Restaurants large and small take full advantage of Brancaster oysters, Morston mussels, ‘Stookey blues’ (cockles from Stiffkey), herrings, sprats and, of course, Cromer crabs. North Norfolk is also one of the best foraging grounds if you fancy sampling marsh samphire at its briny best.
In fact, top-notch regional produce of every description – from fine artisan cheeses and smoked fish to rare-breed meats, home-cured charcuterie and a host of organically grown veggie pickings – finds its way into the kitchens of swanky, Michelin-starred pleasure palaces and modest village cafés alike. Eating out is an essential part of the weekend break/holiday scene in these parts, and there’s ample choice whatever you fancy.
Housed in a popular hotel not far from Hunstanton, this sprawling dining room offers a decent sampling of the region’s produce whether you’re splashing out on the tasting menu or keeping it real with seasonal carte. Venison is a good call in season.
A family-run beamed café/deli and B&B in the heart of well-to-do Holt. The all-day café’s hearty cooked breakfasts are a local legend (don’t miss kippers from the nearby Cley Smokehouse), but light lunches, afternoon tea and supper are also worth a punt.
Part serious restaurant, part local watering hole, this re-energised coaching inn on Wells’ secluded green specialises in globally inspired dishes based on Norfolk ingredients. Seafood steals the limelight on Tuesday evenings, and the food is backed by a solid worldwide wine list. Locally brewed ales too.
This grand 17th-century coaching inn helped to spur Burnham Market’s rise to foodie fame during the early 1990s. Despite serious prices, it’s a must-visit for upscale cooking, boutique accommodation and swanky surroundings. The lovely garden is a prime in-season spot.
A class act by the coast, Morston Hall is a dreamy, brick-and-flint Jacobean mansion renowned for its distinctive personal vibe, secluded surrounds and Michelin-starred food. Proprietor and TV chef Galton Blackiston matches a daily no-choice menu with an auspicious, hard-to-resist wine list.
Expect Michelin-starred dining in the casual surroundings of a former pub at this small restaurant-with-rooms in Old Hunstanton, run by chef Kevin Mangeolles and his oenophile wife. The short menu is big on Norfolk produce (lobsters from Brancaster, locally grown asparagus) and the cooking polished.
A quirky little village restaurant with a fish-and-chip takeaway attached, the Riddle takes its name from an old farming implement. As expected, the produce couldn’t be fresher: game comes straight from a local shoot, while fish from the north Norfolk boats is expertly cooked by French-born chef Hervé Stouvenel.
A grand brick-and-flint hotel/restaurant and bar on the coast road near Holkham beach, ‘The Vic’ is a local landmark. It’s one of the smarter (and pricier) places to drink and dine hereabouts, but check the place out for its kitsch colonial interiors, capably rendered food, global wines and East Anglian ales.
A greatly extended pub-with-rooms, now noted for its cool, relaxed vibe, breezy conservatory dining room (with fabulous views over the marshes) and its devotion to local seafood. Brancaster mussels, oysters and locally smoked salmon are best-sellers on a menu that does the region proud.
This colourfully decked out café sits amid the fields of a pick-your-own farm on the coast road between Blakeney and Cley-next-the-Sea. Simple dishes such as leek and Gruyère tart or coarse game pâté are capably crafted, and service comes with a smile. Teatime cakes are not to be missed.