The north Norfolk town of Hunstanton may not be quite as prettified as much of this area’s “Chelsea-on-Sea” villages; Marco Pierre White hasn’t opened a restaurant here (yet). But with a slew of Victorian houses, a lovely beach and sea-dipping sunsets – unusual for the east coast – it seems only a matter of time before the gentrification inches out to The Wash. With the opening of No 33, which claims to be Hunstanton’s first boutique B&B, it may have already started.
When you pull up outside this handsome Victorian villa you can tell it’s been recently, and well, restored. Inside are five generous king-size bedrooms (one of which is wheelchair-friendly). All are designed to reflect the cool, steely waters of The Wash – the palette is white and grey, with splashes of colour added by Zoffany and Andrew Martin wallpaper. The star is Room 3, which has a four-poster bed and a large balcony terrace, from which you can glimpse a smidgen of sea. All bathrooms have monsoon showers, separate baths, robes and delicious-smelling toiletries.
The breakfast room has a steam-punk feel, with metallic walls and orange tabletops. It’s a fun space, cosied by a woodburner and divan, and stocked with some borrowable DVDs. Arrive between 3pm and 5pm and this is where you’ll be served a welcome cream tea.
It’s handy when your hostess runs the local deli (see below). Consequently, fresh-baked pastries and breads, and homemade granola and jams, are readily available. Cooked breakfasts include free-range eggs and local meats. Fair-trade coffee is delivered in rather small cafetières (barely enough for a cup), but refills are forthcoming. A simpler breakfast (croissants, smoked-salmon bagels) can be delivered to your room on request; gourmet Thornham Deli hampers can be pre-booked too.
Jeanne Whittome has previous. For more than 20 years the South African ran the highly regarded Hoste Arms in nearby Burnham Market with her husband Paul. A little after Paul’s death, she sold the Hoste but was soon looking for a new project. She bought this run-down house in October 2013, started renovating the following spring and was open by summer 2014.
Jeanne has a passion for design; and her considered touch is evident throughout the guest rooms and communal spaces. She also has a way with people – her staff sing her praises. Most have long lived in the area, which means there’s plenty of good local knowledge on tap: the team can advise on what to see, do and eat, as well as arranging activities, from cycle hire to beach photoshoots.
There’s traditional seaside fun to be had in Hunstanton. Visit the joke shop, World of Fun (01485 532016; jokes-online.co.uk), which claims to be Britain’s largest, and take a seal-spotting tour from the harbour (01485 534444; seatours.co.uk).
Hunstanton is the start-point of the Norfolk Coast Path (bit.ly/ NorfolkPath), the National Trail that runs 60 miles around the shore to Sea Palling. The Coast Hopper bus (01553 776980; coasthopper.co.uk) runs along the route, making day-walks easy; hike along Hunstanton’s red-and-white-striped cliffs, via the Holme Dunes Nature Reserve to Thornham or Brancaster Staithe – the bus stops at both.
Just two weeks before No 33 opened, Jeanne and her business partner, Janie Thompson, also took on Thornham Deli, four miles down the road (01485 512194; thornhamdeli.co.uk). “We did a quick makeover and ran it for the summer,” says Janie. “Then we built a new shop, refurbished the deli, built a new kitchen and reopened in November.”
The shop, constructed from reclaimed wood and scaffolding, sells a range of lovely things, including T-shirts designed by one of the waiters and candles made on-site. The deli is stocked with Norfolk produce, from cakes to ales and Brancaster mussels. Head chef Gemma Arnold – who worked with Jeanne at the Hoste – uses these ingredients in her simple-things-done-well menu of all-day breakfasts, mezze platters and light bites. Everything feels fresh and no-fuss – a good match for the beach-shack-style café.
No 33 Hunstanton, 33 Northgate, Hunstanton PE36 6AP (01485 524352; 33hunstanton.co.uk). Doubles start at £80, including breakfast plus cream tea on arrival.