09:28 13 August 2013
Tucking into a box of chips, perched at a table inside his new business, the enthusiasm of Hugh Crossley, Lord Somerleyton, is infectious. Since opening Hot Chip in the centre of Norwich in June, he has, he laughs, become somewhat of a chip aficionado.
“We have something like 12,000 fish and chip shops in the UK, but in Holland and Belgium it is very much just about the chips with these amazing adventurous toppings and flavourings. I loved the idea of that and began doing some research. I realised there were several traditional chip salons in the UK still, and some of the best are on Great Yarmouth market,” he says. “We are surrounded by farming here in Norfolk so I like the idea of a business with a foot in local agriculture and produce and a foot firmly in the modern fast food world.”
The menu is certainly very different, turning classic flavours on their heads, such as the Arabesque, the Sunday Roast and Chip Salad. With Steve Duffield, head chef for both Hot Chip and the Somerleyton Estate, they are constantly coming up with new ideas. “I think Steve despairs sometimes,” he laughs. “We are soon going to test run our Mint Choc Hot Chip flavour, which has certainly been a fun challenge.”
He and business partner Toby Marchant are ambitious about the future of the business, but for now he is very pleased to be launching it in Norwich.
“I would be so proud if we become successful so I could say we launched here, in my home city. But,” he laughs, “I am also nervous because I am very aware that if I don’t succeed everyone will know about it. You cannot hide here like you can in London.”
Having returned to Somerleyton Hall seven years ago following the death of his father, the third Lord Somerleyton, Hugh Crossley has a renewed vigour and enthusiasm for his childhood home.
He and wife Lara are working hard to transform the grand hall, deemed one of the best examples of Tudor-Jacobean architecture, to ensure more people can enjoy its beauty and to secure its future for generations to come.
“When I arrived I was younger and more naive, and questioned focusing so much attention on the hall which needed so much time and money spent on it. So I focused on other areas of the estate and business. Now we realise the hall is essential to the future of the estate.”
As the fourth generation to live in the beautiful stately home, he is clearly very sentimental about the estate but with the help of Lara, is gradually making changes and hiring out more of the historic house for weddings, parties and events.
“We are opening up the part of the house where my family historically would have lived in the good old days and we now live in what would have been the servants’ quarters, which is perfect for family life. It is an odd thing that 100 years ago my family would have been looked after by servants but now the role has almost been reversed. But I love that, I think it would be a bad thing to live in a house like this and not share it.”
Now with two young children, John and Christabel, he says it has made him appreciate the hall even more and reminded him of the wonderful childhood he enjoyed at Somerleyton.
“I think there is part of your brain that stores all your childhood memories and keeps them safe until you have children. I love doing all the things with my children that my dad did here with me. I get very upset if I can’t find a certain old Ladybird book to read to John which I know I used to be read as a child and is somewhere in the house still.”