Hotel Review: The Crown Hotel, Wells
PUBLISHED: 11:15 23 August 2016
Â© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2016
Immerse yourself in the wonder of Wells, from an idyllic vantage point at the atmospheric and luxurious Crown Hotel, writes Rowan Mantell
Lying back in the bubble-filled bath, glass of bubbly in hand, steam gently rising to the starry sky, the evening was pretty near perfect, and then a shooting star arced overhead.
We were in the Crown Hotel, Wells, in a ridiculously luxurious bath out on the roof terrace of our room.
The handsome inn on the village green is creating stunning new rooms from a row of cottages and outbuildings behind the original hotel. One set is complete, with front doors leading into exquisitely-decorated corridors and rooms. The Crown has a room with a Michelangelo-inspired fresco, another with a four-poster bed, huge copper baths in and outdoors, a water feature ... Ours had a shoal of silver fish sculptures swimming across the bathroom wall, a vast bed topped with sheepskin throw, comfy chairs to curl up in, and glass doors opening out on to a roof terrace, complete with potted palm and conifers, stylish al-fresco furniture, that beautiful bath and the heavenly skies of the north Norfolk coast.
By day the large room and its rooftop terrace was a peaceful retreat from the happy hubbub of summer seaside Wells, by evening it was just as idyllic, with added starlight.
The Crown is one of the Flying Kiwi Inns, run by chef Chris Coubrough alongside the Ship Hotel at Brancaster. The atmosphere is a very attractive mix of sophistication and friendly informality. There are quirky design touches, smiley staff and the kind of focus on food you would expect from one of Norfolk’s celebrity chefs. Chris, originally from New Zealand, has presented Coastal Kitchen for ITV and helps head up the county’s year-round food celebration, Norfolk Food and Drink Ltd.
With Wells quay just a couple of minutes’ walk away, the menu is rich with seafood. Crab, oysters, haddock, salmon, crayfish and prawns all feature. The breakfast apple juice (oh, that delicious breakfast, with its fruits and yoghurts and cooked-to-order treats and baskets of croissants brought to the table) was made in the town and many more of the ingredients come from within a few miles.
Sturdy wooden tables on the stone-flagged floor gave a rustic feel to the room we dined in, others opened out on to a pretty garden terrace, and the front restaurant overlooks the tree-lined green. If there is a lull in conversation there are bookcases packed with fascinating-looking old volumes – both in the restaurant itself and in the elegant corridors leading to the bedrooms.
From the moment we drove into the stone-walled and flower-fringed car park, it was obvious that the new additions to this lovely old coaching inn had been designed to delight both eye and mind.
We’d brought our bikes and first took the short ride along the coastal paths to the Holkham estate, and then back through virtually traffic-free lanes, hedges bright with cornflowers and poppies. Sunny Wells itself was bustling with families trooping back from the beach and visitors browsing the boutiques.
Arriving weary and hungry, the Nespresso machine and glass jar full of chunky home-made fruit flapjacks were a treat – and there would have been a race for the luxury bathroom and monsoon shower had we not immediately swooned over the utterly secluded terrace with its view over cottage rooftops to the church tower - and that glorious copper bath.
Then it was time for dinner and a feast, including glorious crab spring roll with chilli mayonnaise, Brancaster oysters, a Thai fish and watermelon curry with coriander yoghurt and fragrant rice, and a spring onion and pea risotto with goat’s cheese fritters. A heavenly Norfolk honey mousse, and a kiwi and passionfruit pavlova epitomised the pudding-perfect mix of Norfolk and New Zealand. Between dinner and bed (huge and dreamily comfortable) we walked down to the quay and watched the boats rocking gently on the tide, waiting for the darkess to deepen and the stars to come out.
The Crown itself is a star of north Norfolk’s already starry coast.
Our stay was courtesy of The Crown at Wells.
Prices for bed and breakfast for two from £100 in a classic room in winter to £200 in a deluxe room over a summer weekend and dinner, bed and breakfast from £140 to £205 for two people.
The Crown Hotel, The Buttlands, Wells, NR23 1EX;. 01328 710209;. www.flyingkiwiinns.co.uk